The Chronicles Launches on Patreon

It's Patreon launch day! Since my authorship began with The Chronicles of a Modern-Day Mozartian , I've never monetized it thro...

It's Patreon launch day! Since my authorship began with The Chronicles of a Modern-Day Mozartian, I've never monetized it through subscription fees, paywalls, ads or affiliate marketing. Since 2006, readers have had access to what I've created for public consumption at no cost, but now I'm asking that my readership arrive at this content in a financially supporting role through Patreon, a membership platform that empowers creators to earn recurring, sustainable income.

For only $5/month, you can become an active subscriber and join a private community where you'll enjoy exclusive content like early access updates and have the opportunity to engage in discussions with me about the future of The Chronicles. Learn more about membership and how your support will advance my work for our mutual passion!

For those of you who are new to The Chronicles, welcome! I invite you to look through my site to learn more about my career highlights and recent achievements. You'll find that it's more than a blog. It's a platform that represents my fieldwork, fan projects and other preservation initiatives for Mozart. The Chronicles is a catalyst for action. Over the years, I've fondly referred to the community I've built as "The WolfGANG," which is the name of my Patreon membership.

My emphasis on community in addressing the needs of music heritage preservation on a holistic level is the essence of my concept for Musicopolis. Preservation success depends on our relationships with each other and our environments. Music, memories, artifacts, architecture. Music fans, musicians, professionals, educators, civic leaders. We are interconnected, comprising a dynamic and diverse city with a single mission: to see our music history and heritage thrive, inspire and sustain.

Professionals and general audiences alike play a vital role as guardians and advocates, but we tend to operate independently in a vacuum, not through a more concerted effort for greater effect. We're storytellers who provide context, socio-cultural perspective and human interest. We're agents of this living and ever-evolving history of which we are a part. Our collective voice is one of immense power and beauty, giving rise to the meaning and potential of community.

My new membership initiative with Patreon is Musicopolis in practice. It is a public funding model (crowdfunding/sourcing/networking) that brings stakeholders from all sectors together in equal discourse while creating funds to further a shared vision.

In a world of saturated entertainment landscapes, our musical past is endangered, and business as usual isn't the solution. I invite you to join me in this exciting step towards realizing a new approach to the preservation of our music history and heritage!


Building Recognition for Lorenzo Da Ponte's American Legacy

CeCe, Martha Lee and Clay with Da Ponte's portrait at Columbia University. Photo: Nayo Titzin. In the United States, W.A....

CeCe, Martha Lee and Clay with Da Ponte's portrait at Columbia University. Photo: Nayo Titzin.

In the United States, W.A. Mozart's librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte is our only tangible connection to the composer and to late 18th Century Europe which witnessed the height of their combined artistic powers in Le nozze di Figaro, Don Giovanni and Cosi fan tutte. After the deaths of Mozart and his patron Emperor Joseph II along with a series of unfortunate events, Da Ponte moved to New York City by way of Philadelphia in 1805, lived in Sunbury, Pennsylvania for seven years (1811-1818) and returned to the city where he remained until his death in 1838.

While largely remembered for his life and achievements in the old country, Da Ponte had a noteworthy Atto Secondo in the New World. He introduced Americans to the Italian language, literature and opera. He was the first Professor of Italian at Columbia College (now Columbia University). He welcomed the first Italian opera troupe to the United States and founded the country's first opera house, the New York Opera Company, a predecessor of the Metropolitan Opera.

Like Mozart, Da Ponte's exact burial place is unknown. He died at 91 Spring Street in Manhattan and was interred at a Catholic cemetery near St. Patrick's Old Cathedralthe location of his funeral. But it was later discovered that this cemetery was demolished in 1909 and the remains were moved without headstones to Calvary Cemetery in Queens. The Native New Yorkers Association determined the approximate location of his grave and held small memorial services there in 1967, 1981 and 1985.

Lorenzo Da Ponte's memorial in Calvary Cemetery. Photo: Marcial,

In October 1987, during Italian Heritage and Culture Month, a granite monument was dedicated to Da Ponte in Calvary Cemetery. It was a response to the negligence of an icon, perhaps compounded by his absence in the Academy award-winning Amadeus, released three years earlier. It was a missed opportunity for Hollywood to not at least give a mention to a central character in Mozart's life who lived his last three decades in the United States and whose libretti feature in the film via Axur, re d'Ormus (Salieri) and Le nozze di Figaro and Don Giovanni (Mozart).

''He is never mentioned in the play or film Amadeus. Yet, his librettos and connections were integral to Mozart's successes," stated Forest Hills Councilman Morton Povman at the monument dedication. The event was given some publicity in the October 21, 1987 New York Times article, "For Mozart's Librettist, a Queens Fanfare."

Da Ponte's resting place connects Americans to Da Ponte and Mozart in a way that performances at Lincoln Center or any other opera house or concert hall in the country cannot. Also sacred to that physical bond are Da Ponte's descendants and the historical sites associated with his life.

While Da Ponte had successes in the United States, he also lived in relative obscurity and grappled with finding his place just like any other newcomer. He navigated poverty and hardship through enterprise, working as a grocer, bookseller, distiller and teacher. As grandiose as Da Ponte's life was at times in Europe, it was grounded here. His is a relatable story, one whose ambitions and vulnerabilities bring us closer to the history and heritage.

Historical marker for Lorenzo Da Ponte in Sunbury, Pennsylvania. Photo: Joseph A., Flickr.

When I was the North American theatrical release manager for In Search of Mozart, Director Phil Grabsky introduced me to Clay Alder, a great-great-great-great grandson of Da Ponte. I then met his wife CeCe Gable, a jazz singer and music educator who, like myself, was from Ohio.

Among the events and activities I organized surrounding the film was an interview for Clay and CeCe on the regional NBC-affiliate WTAP-TV. I scheduled it during Mozartwoche (Mozart Week), an annual festival held to celebrate Mozart's birthday in his native Salzburg, Austria.

Clay offered family anecdotes and encouraged audiences to indulge in a screening of In Search of Mozart as well as one of his favorite books, The Librettist of Venice: The Remarkable Life of Lorenzo Da Ponte, Mozart's Poet, Casanova's Friend, and Italian Opera's Impresario in America, to learn more about his famed forefather.

When Clay and Phil met at the Gene Siskel Film Center for In Search of Mozart's Chicago premiere where it had a record-breaking run, they signed a DVD in gratitude for my work. It's among my most prized possessions as a preservationist!

The cover of my In Search of Mozart DVD signed by Clay and Phil.

Through my partnership with Fathom Events and the Metropolitan Opera's Live in HD series, I've led a campaign to promote Mozart's operas, including his trilogy with Da Ponte, awarding over 100 free tickets to fans in 14 states to enjoy the art form at their local cinemas. And throughout it all, I've had the support of Clay and his family:

"After our meeting through Phil Grabsky's In Search of Mozart, Sherry organized a regional television program for Mozart Week where I was given the opportunity to speak directly to viewers about my ancestor. In her passion for the Mozart/Da Ponte operas, Sherry has promoted Le nozze di Figaro, Cosi fan tutte and Don Giovanni in cinemas and works to save this precious musical history. Lorenzo Da Ponte's 21st Century American descendants would like to express our heartfelt thanks to Sherry who has done so much to keep alive a remarkable relationship cut so abruptly short by Mozart's untimely death." -Clay Alder

Clay invited me to the Austrian Cultural Forum's inaugural Da Ponte Day as a guest of the family. It was during this event when I met his Aunt Martha Lee, an accomplished professor, lecturer, author, feminist and widow of the late Durant Da Ponte.

My view from the front row at ACFNY's Da Ponte Day event!

It was a full schedule. We attended the symposium, enjoyed dinner together with others from the event and attended an evening concert presented in partnership with the Don Juan Archive Vienna and the Mozarteum University Salzburg.

The next day, I met the family at the Casa Italiana which houses Columbia University's Italian Academy for Advanced Studies in America for interviews with Bulgarian filmmaker Nayo Titzin. Appointed in 1825, Da Ponte was their first Professor of Italian. I learned more about the man whose portrait gazed curiously at us from above by observing Clay and Martha Lee's interviews.

Nayo has directed and produced documentaries about Mozart's operas, including Idomeneo, A Message of Humanity and Looking for Don Giovanni.

My photo of the Casa Italiana before venturing inside.
I captured a moment of levity as Nayo filmed Clay and Martha Lee for a documentary.
Clay's photo of myself, Martha Lee and CeCe with Da Ponte's portrait!

After dinner, we attended a performance of Le nozze di Figaro at the Metropolitan Opera. While we chatted and the orchestra warmed up, those seated around us overheard our conversation and soon discovered the special guest in their section. 

Clay, friendly and unassuming, was amused by the attention he received from Da Ponte's admirers (I think he may have signed a program or two!). It was surreal to be sitting in the Grand Tier with him, watching and cheering on arguably one of the greatest collaborations in operatic history between his ancestor and Mozart.

With the last known direct descendant of the Mozart family passing away in 1965 (Karoline Grau, née Mozart), there was never an opportunity for me to connect with the composer's family. So, I feel all the more fortunate to enjoy such a connection with the family of his poetic counterpart!

Following the performance, Nayo took us backstage to meet Swedish baritone Peter Mattei and German soprano Marlis Petersen who performed the roles of Count Almaviva and Susanna. Note: Peter will be singing the title role of Don Giovanni in a new production at the Met which will be in cinemas nationwide on March 27, 2021!

CeCe, Nayo, Martha Lee, myself and Clay at the Metropolitan Opera for Figaro!

The singers joined us on a short walk from the opera house to P.J. Clarke's where we remained well into the morning. Our round-table of singers, Da Ponte family members and music professionals was icing on the cake. I was energized and inspired. We discussed ideas and planned to meet again. I sat next to Martha Lee, who enjoyed a good martini, and referred to me as an "Honorary Da Ponte."

Martha Lee left such an impression. She was worldly, charming and shrewd. We didn't stay in touch regularly after our meeting, but Clay sent updates. I did call her once to chat about a friend she knew in Knoxville who attended high school with The Everly Brothers for my popular music work and to offer tickets to see Don Giovanni at her local cinema through my collaboration with Fathom Events. We kept an eye on the future, but little did we know that the future we anticipated was all but lost.

In a December email, Clay informed me that Martha Lee had passed away. I was shocked and saddened. She was such a life force. We had work to do, an unrealized collaboration. It was a harsh reminder of the limitations of time as it pertains to our own mortality and to that of preserving our musical past.

A Da Ponte by marriage, Martha Lee enjoyed a long life worthy of the name through grand adventure, intellectual fulfillment and perseverance in the face of tremendous challenge. Read her obituary.

I'm on the right between Martha Lee and CeCe enjoying our afterglow at P.J. Clarke's!

Martha Lee's loss has strengthened my resolve to do more to move the dialogue forward about creating greater recognition for this heritage that is unique to Da Ponte's American story, an immigrant's story, which will in turn reinforce our stateside relationship with Mozart. I hope to someday be worthy of the designation she gave me as an "Honorary Da Ponte."

I've written this article in her loving memory to create awareness and a prelude to my future request for support when the opportunity arises. I have passion, a platform, no shortage of ideas and a community of Mozartians I've nurtured over the years who I hope will reward me with action for the cause. Any initiative given serious consideration will be done so in direct consultation with the family per their endorsement.

In a preface to the 1959 edition of Da Ponte's memoirs, Thomas G. Bergin wrote: "By tradition, education, and experience, this European sophisticate would seem to be far removed from the American Psyche; but his deeper nature -- eager, adventurous and basically evangelical -- was well-adapted to the New World."

Let us be eager, adventurous and evangelical in our endeavor.


Campaign 2020: Zurück zu Mozart!

Happy Birthday, Mozart! Herzlichen Glückwunsch zum Geburtstag, Mozart! The Maestro's January 27th birthday is a gift to all Moz...

Happy Birthday, Mozart! Herzlichen Glückwunsch zum Geburtstag, Mozart! The Maestro's January 27th birthday is a gift to all Mozartians at the start of a new year. And there's no better time to find inspiration for the present than taking a page from the past, the Mozart bicentenary edition (1956) of The Opera Annual, to be exact!

My friend Del Tamborini from Vancouver surprised me with this rare and exciting gift, a worthy addition to my library! With 1955-56 being its second year of publication, The Opera Annual was edited by Harold Rosenthal, an English opera critic, writer, lecturer and broadcaster who worked to eradicate the elitist image of the art form.

The first chapter, "The Modern Cult of Mozart," was written by Yorkshire musicologist Edward Dent. He's known for his critical studies of Mozart's operas and re-introducing these stage works to audiences in Great Britain through English translations to create greater accessibility. He translated The Magic Flute for its first-ever English performance at Cambridge in 1911 where he was also a stage manager and contributed program notes. In short, he's my kind of Mozartian!

Being involved in projects that combine fieldwork, scholarship and performance are the ideal for anyone identifying as a scholar-practitioner. One of my favorite experiences was assisting the stage manager and writing program notes for a performance of The Beggar's Opera, an opera arranged by Dent, during my apprenticeship at the Castleton Festival conducted by the late Lorin Maazel.

It's not often that I encounter Mozart specialists concerned with audience reception and retention, so it was one of the great delights of this publication to be in good company with Rosenthal and Dent. In "The Modern Cult of Mozart," Dent describes a division within the Mozart community manifesting itself in the institutions of Glyndebourne and Sadler's Wells. Dent disagreed with the Grove Dictionary's "assertion that Glyndebourne is not a luxury for the rich only."

I'm sure this statement was somewhat radical during a time when "the cult" was still comfortable with its affluent exclusivity, yet wanted to be perceived as accessible. It's essentially the same class division that influenced opera during Mozart's lifetime: the patron-artist model, aristocracy vs. an emerging middle class (bourgeoisie).

The history of opera's elitist stigma remains today in public consciousness amidst the heightened classism of our own time. My M.A. thesis, At the Nexus of the Aristocratic Concert Society & the Classical Genre, examined the historical and prevailing influences of the genre’s founding patronage on audiences. The intention of my thesis was to blend scholarly research with practical application to address the disconnect between the esoteric nature of academia and the one-dimensional and short-sighted consumer model of music industry marketing.

The void produced by this disconnect presents us with the vital question of Mozart's perceived relevance upon which everything depends: namely, support for music education and curricula, concert and opera programming and other initiatives impacting audience development. There's a necessity for Mozart to transcend the inherited barriers of language, mythology and stigma to reach the public and achieve relevance.

The results of a November 2019 Primephonic survey finding three-quarters of young people without any knowledge of Mozart is evidence that this isn't happening on a broader, perhaps generational, scale. I'm concerned about the trend. We need more research to better understand what's happening, so that we can work together to find solutions. Only an alliance of fans, musicians, industry professionals, educators and other stakeholders can collectively do the work necessary to place Mozart on a path to secure sustainable audiences.

See: "Hats and Ideas: The Mozartian Collective and the Power of Preservation."

Just as The Opera Manual held a mirror to Mozart opera on the 200th anniversary of his birth, addressing triumphs and failings, so do we need to evaluate our current efforts. We face many challenges: competition from a burgeoning entertainment landscape, a lack of funding, the graying of a core demographic.

With chapters surveying the current state of Mozart opera throughout the world in 1956 and the preceding decades, the words Zurück zu Mozart! (Back to Mozart!) spoke to me from The Opera Manual as an appropriate communication for our own time.

In 2012, I began creating an annual event page on Facebook so that Mozart's worldwide fan community (aka "The WolfGANG") would have a place to gather and share on this special occasion. I'm asking Mozartians to join me today in the spirit of Zurück zu Mozart! to help create awareness of Mozart's importance in our saturated social media landscape. How? By sharing the portraits below and inviting others to join our celebration on the birthday event page!

The idea is to use the momentum from this celebration as a starting point from which to build throughout the year and I have some ideas that I'm excited to share with you. Let Mozart's birthday be the beginning of our call to action, our Zurück zu Mozart! campaign. And as we gladly set to work, let's happily observe the signs that our birthday boy is already doing well in 2020. As Marketing Manager for the film's original North American theatrical release, it's especially rewarding for me that there's enough demand for an encore of In Search of Mozart in cinemas to have screenings in select theaters around the world on Mozart's birthday!

Thank you for joining me on this special day, a day on which we set our sights ever higher for the Maestro.


Illuminating Mozart's Eternal Flame

This day commemorates the anniversary of Mozart's death on 5 December, 1791. Although a solemn occasion, it's nonetheless worthy ...

This day commemorates the anniversary of Mozart's death on 5 December, 1791. Although a solemn occasion, it's nonetheless worthy of recognition and celebratory regard for the man and his music. Adorned in black dress, Mozart's body was placed in the study of his home in close proximity to the keyboard where friends and family could give their final adieu.
What a startling image. A young man of 35 years, arguably the world's greatest musical genius, no longer remained. On the brink of promising heights after enduring a plateau of sorts with the fickle Viennese, his prospects once again flourished, but death took him sooner than anyone had anticipated. It's easy for us to say it was nothing short of miraculous that he existed to this mere duration upon examining his medical history, but what a dark deception it must have been for his contemporaries. Imagine. His music embodied beauty, vitality, health. The spirit of humanity and the Age of Enlightenment.

How could this be? HOW could this be?

The Wiener Zeitung reported in December 1791: "The I. & R. court chamber composer Wolfgang Mozart died here during the night of the 4th and 5th of this month. Known from childhood as the possessor of the rarest musical talent in all Europe, he ranked alongside the greatest composers thanks to the happiest development of his outstanding natural gifts and the most persistent application of those gifts; his works, loved and admired by all, bear witness to this and are the measure of the irreplaceable loss that the noble art of music has suffered through his death."

The Rauhensteingasse residence where Mozart died no longer exists. The building was demolished in 1847 and now in its place is the Steffl Department Store. Like Mozart himself, whose exact resting place in St. Marx Cemetery is unknown, this is also an extraordinary loss. A watercolor by J. Wohlmuth gives us a glimpse into this lost heritage. It's where Mozart spent his last days with the Requiem, but also where he had good life experiences including the birth of his son Franz Xaver Wolfgang and the writing of his final piano concerto and clarinet concerto.

I'd like to thank those who joined my candlelight vigil today, an event that I've been hosting annually since 2012. With the exception of 2018, for which I didn't create an event page, the history of the vigil, including posts and interactions for each year, can be seen in the events section of my Facebook page.

I've also written blogs with vigil content produced by an international family of Mozartians I warmly refer to as "The WolfGANG." For instance, "Dear Mozart: Remembrance in Light and Letters" features 24 photos from Mozart admirers in 15 countries. Note: I'm currently restoring these photos to the blog as they were temporarily lost after a storage transition. Other blogs include:

Through the Prism of Film: A Candlelight Vigil in Joy and Remembrance 
The Efficacy of Social Media and the Mozart Anniversary 
Videography of Mozart's Last Days: The Requiem Playlist 

Anna Leticia De Domenico Laso, who has joined me every year since 2012 from her home in São Paulo, Brazil, participated in the vigil again today, sharing an image on the event page. "Listening to your amazing music on the day you left us... You will shine forever, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart!"

As for my own individual experience, I try to do a different activity every year during the vigil. Yesterday, I decided to activate my 7-day ticket for the Berlin Philharmonic's Digital Concert Hall. Enjoying Mozart's music on a platform dedicated to furthering his legacy at the highest artistic level seemed more than appropriate. I'm grateful to the Berlin Philharmonic for creating this on-demand service that elevates the genre's accessibility in our over-saturated entertainment landscape!

I started with "A Mozart Evening with Daniel Harding" and then ventured to "Simon Rattle Conducts Mozart's Magic Flute." Fantastic! I became so enthralled in the music that, unlike years past, I'd forgotten to extinguish my candle at 12:55 am. I was watching the clock. The last time I checked, it was 12:54 am. The next time? It was after 1am! I was initially disappointed, but then I realized that it meant something more. It was symbolic. The flame endured.

While it's important to remember Mozart's light on this somber day, it's equally important to remember our role in illuminating his eternal flame. We have a shared responsibility to ensure that it isn't extinguished. I believe that our understanding of and appreciation for Mozart is far greater when supplemented by the experiences of others. It strengthens our resolve.