Sunbury, Pennsylvania Looks to Celebrate Former Resident, Lorenzo Da Ponte

Happy New Year! In hopes that 2021 will be far more promising than its predecessor, I thought it would be a great idea to start the year by ...

Happy New Year! In hopes that 2021 will be far more promising than its predecessor, I thought it would be a great idea to start the year by announcing an anticipated project.  

In September, I made inquiries to Sunbury, Pennsylvania concerning former resident Lorenzo Da Ponte. Between 1805 and 1838, he lived in Sunbury for seven years (1811-1818) and in New York City the remaining years. Too few realize that the Italian poet and librettist, best known for collaborating with Mozart on three of his greatest operas (Le nozze di Figaro, Don Giovanni and Cosi fan tutte) traversed the Atlantic to live the last three decades of his life in the United States. 

Read my 2020 article: Building Recognition for Lorenzo Da Ponte's American Legacy.

Working alongside Da Ponte's great-great-great-great grandson Clay Alder and family has been one of my most treasured professional honors. And this is a part of that continuing effort. With New York City being the primary focus of Da Ponte's stateside biography, I've been keen to gauge Sunbury's interest in creating more awareness of his local story. On a personal note, Da Ponte's connection to the Keystone State is all the more special to me given that I'm a native of the neighboring state of Ohio. You can't imagine my reaction when I discovered that Mozart's librettist once lived across the border! 

In addition to receiving locally sourced material from Northumberland County Historical Society's President Cindy Inkrote, I couldn't have imagined a better response from City Administrator Jody Ocker: "So very pleased to hear from you! The timing couldn't be more serendipitous..." She said that they were in the early stages of planning Sunbury's 250th anniversary celebration in 2022 and thought it would be a wonderful idea to include Da Ponte in the festivities. We corresponded earlier this month and the planning committee will meet again soon.

And perhaps as another fortuitous sign, last month I was invited by my friend and colleague Greta Di Raimondo to join the Associazione Mozart Italia - Sede di Venezia (Mozart Italy Association - Venice) as a member of their international team! Greta was recently installed as their President and represents the exciting future of the organization. Indeed, this is a timely gift from the city of Da Ponte's birth. To have AMI's partnership and support will most certainly strengthen future initiatives concerning their native son in his adopted country. 


Piano and Place: Remembering Mozart Through His Art and Travels

Detail of a watercolor by Thomas Sandby, c. 1760. As we approach the anniversary of Mozart's passing on December 5th, I'm inviting M...

Detail of a watercolor by Thomas Sandby, c. 1760.

As we approach the anniversary of Mozart's passing on December 5th, I'm inviting Mozartians to commemorate the day by joining my annual candlelight vigil on Facebook (read Illuminating Mozart's Eternal Flame to learn about last year's event).

To reflect on loss is to celebrate life. So, beyond hosting the vigil, I wanted to find a way to create some meaningful proximity to Mozart's biography. The social isolation and disconnect we've felt so acutely during the pandemic has affected our relationships with everything, including music. Because the last several months have lacked opportunity for audiences to more directly connect with performance art and its history through traditional avenues (ie. concerts, operas, tours, exhibits, cinema screenings), lethargy has replaced enthusiasm. And not only amongst audiences, but music professionals, including myself, who now face a collapsed industry at year's end. 

With the weight of this in mind, I'm even more committed to ensuring that December 5th isn't only about remembrance, but remembrance with a purpose to nurture and restore connection. Mozart spent one-third of his short life on the road, visiting 10 countries and over 200 cities. During an extraordinary year like 2020 when travel is almost unimaginable, what better way to reconnect with Mozart than through a virtual journey to experience his environs in musical context? 

Mozart on Tour is the order of the day! This television series (1984-1990) was reissued on Blu-ray by EuroArts, but is currently unavailable. Fortunately, I did some research and discovered that the Canadian television channel Stingray Classica scheduled the series for its 2020-2021 programming, and made all 13 episodes available on demand. The good news? You can take advantage of their free trial to access this content and more via their website or Prime Video. Please note that this is not an endorsement, affiliate marketing or brand ambassadorship. I'm sharing this series with you on my own accord for the benefit of audiences and music heritage preservation. 

Featuring a Mozart piano concerto at the heart of each episode, Mozart on Tour transports us to the cities and landmarks that were central to his life when this music was written and performed. The late André Previn hosts with a narrative accompanied by re-enactments, performances and tours of locations relevant to the history. Previn performs himself in two episodes and is joined by a cast of renowned musicians throughout the series. I've watched Episode 9: Vienna and Prague and a few excerpts from other episodes to become better acquainted with the material. Otherwise, this series is new to me and I look forward to exploring it with you!

A preview of the first episode...

Episode 1: London focuses on the family's journey to London when Mozart was just eight years old. Vladimir Ashkenazy and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra perform Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 12,  KV. 414 at Hampton Court Palace, where the family appeared for King George III and Queen Charlotte soon after their arrival in April 1764. This concerto was written in Vienna in 1782, so why is it relevant to London? Because its second movement contains a theme written by J.C. Bach who was Mozart's mentor during his 15 months in London. Bach died in early 1782, so Mozart's gesture is generally considered an homage.

Mozart on Tour spotlights some of the places where my work has been focused including the Villa Bertramka in Prague and the Mozarthaus Vienna. I organized the Mozart in Italia 250 project earlier this year to celebrate the 250the anniversary of Mozart's journey to Italy, but it was canceled due to the pandemic. It would be a dream for me to acquire the funding and resources to reimagine the concept of this series for contemporary audiences. Preservation isn't only about artifacts, manuscripts and musical performances. It's also about architectural heritage, our physical bond to traces of an artist's bygone existence in our world that endures beyond death.


The Mayrische Musikalienhandlung in Salzburg Announces Autumn Closure

Earlier this week, the Mayrische Musikalienhandlung , a Salzburg institution and one of the oldest music shops in the world, sadly announced...

Earlier this week, the Mayrische Musikalienhandlung, a Salzburg institution and one of the oldest music shops in the world, sadly announced its closure. I initially discovered the news via Bärenreiter on social media in which they cited Constanze Mozart's diary entry: "... I also wanted one of the first prints of the biography (Mozart biography by Nissen) to be sent to me through the Mayrische Buchhandlung as soon as possible," Mozart's widow wrote on September 27, 1828.

Having sold books, scores, sheet music and more since 1592, this is, needless to say, a devastating loss for the city, for the industry and for music history and heritage. The company's announcement, which concluded with a congratulatory remark for the centenary of the Salzburger Festspiele (Salzburg Festival), stated the following:

"It is with great regret that the Mayrische Musikalienhandlung in Salzburg announces that the operation will be closed at 30.11.2020 (November 30th). The sale of the sheet music editions starts from 01.10.2020 (October 1st). The reasons behind the closure lie, on the one hand, in the ever increasing pressure of competition from the internet. On the other hand, there is an increased volume of copies in the teaching sector, which has made the sales of sheet music more and more smaller. Unfortunately, restructuring measures, as well as the introduction of their own web shop, have not stopped this development either. The decline in sales due to COVID-19 since mid-March 2020 has increased economic pressure once again. This means that the continuation of the music shop is no longer economically possible. The owner, Universal Edition AG, Vienna, has already financially supported the musical business in recent years. Ultimately, however, the company has to face the economic reality and therefore closes this branch. The music shop Musik Müller, which belongs to the company, continues in Vienna. The music shop Mayrische thanks its long-standing customers and its long-standing employees for their long-standing cooperation and loyalty."

ORF Salzburg's August 25th headline is one of heartbreak: "Music bookstore closes after 430 years." The article emphasizes the shock of local musicians as they lament the loss of Mayrische's specialist knowledge curated over centuries that cannot be found anywhere else. On August 27th, Der Standard ventured further into the details of its closure with an article disclosing reasons for the shop's economic predicament, including its vulnerability as an unsubsidized cultural enterprise. 

I decided to place an order online as a respectful adieu and act of support for this historical landmark. But unfortunately the store isn't currently shipping to the U.S. due to the pandemic. They're only shipping within Europe. So, if you meet this geographical requirement, I invite you to shop in my stead! Their offerings are endless, so allow ample time for browsing. One of the items I did have in my virtual cart was the Mozart KlangArt 2021 Calendar. I wanted to purchase it for my home office space because, well, 2021 can't arrive soon enough. And at this point, I think we all need a reminder that 2020 will, in all of its madness, eventually end. The 2021 calendar marks the 230th anniversary year of Mozart's untimely departure in 1791 and includes a CD with sacred works performed by some of the most gifted interpreters of his music (listen to samples).

My first visit to Salzburg was a solo adventure, and since I tend to explore and navigate unfamiliar places using locations as visual markers, the Mayrische Musikalienhandlung was indeed a fixture of remembrance with its historical renown and signature red flag with customers browsing bins on the ancient street. When I returned two years later, it was a welcome sight. I'm deeply saddened, both personally and professionally, that its presence and working expertise will soon be lost to us. 

The fact that such an establishment cannot survive in one of the few music metropolises in Europe is a frightening reality as we look to the future. Some will resurface successfully from the pandemic and others will not. And we must take note. When our oldest and most treasured exponents begin to falter, this marks the beginning of a collapse in our ecosystem. 

Yes, I'm pensive these days. A feeling of powerlessness has become a regular sensation as my contracts have been canceled and guardianship efforts for music history and heritage have all but ceased. Preservation initiatives, concerts, tourism, museum operations, events, etc. Not one aspect of our sector has gone unscathed. And while other industries begin to recover, our march towards recovery is arduously complicated in the face of financial dependence on the fickle generosity of donors and non-profit organizations whose funding availability is never certain, nor guaranteed. 

How can we continue to operate in such a fragile and compromised manner? A "return to normal" would be devastating when "normal" was something we could never afford in the first place. The pandemic has revealed a great deal about what's wrong with society and how its wealth is immorally and unethically distributed, including the negligence of refusing to properly subsidize the arts. 

With an abundance of new research demonstrating public and private benefits from the driving economic force of a billion-dollar arts industry, there's no excuse for governments to refuse support any longer. My hope is that out of this darkness promising solutions will emerge that leave us in a better place than we were before. In the words of my colleague David Bahlman: "I think we need to speak about finance, remuneration and value loud and often as primary issues in order to retain the integrity of heritage projects and the dignity of those who make them happen."


Mozart in Italia Project Celebrates 250th Anniversary of Mozart's Journey

UPDATE // July 19, 2020  Today, I'm announcing the cancellation of Mozart in Italia 250 due to COVID-19. The pandemic is a fo...

UPDATE // July 19, 2020 

Today, I'm announcing the cancellation of Mozart in Italia 250 due to COVID-19. The pandemic is a formidable enemy. Current circumstances have reduced many of us to prioritize daily survival (financial, medical, etc.) over everything else in our lives and this new reality has impacted the trajectory of this project in terms of its anticipated scope and participation. 

Please note that the cancellation of this project does not effect the ongoing programming of the Associazione Mozart Italia and European Mozart Ways which is expected to continue. I hope that, one day soon, we'll be able to celebrate Mozart together again in a manner we all deserve. Thank you for your support and understanding during this difficult time. 



I'm honored to announce a new initiative, Mozart in Italia 250, in partnership with Associazione Mozart Italia (AMI) and European Mozart Ways (EMW). Since 1770 is such a significant year in the Mozart biography as it pertains to his travels to Italy, I wanted to create a way to bring recognition to this history through a shared experience while inspiring morale amidst the pandemic. Mozart in Italia 250 celebrates this anniversary and more broadly recognizes the composer's relationship with Italy that began 250 years ago and continues today.

The call of fandom is an approach I've used successfully in past projects, including those exhibited at the Mozarthaus Vienna. And this time, I'm asking Italian fans to share a celebratory photo or video from their home, garden, balcony, or any other location convenient for social distancing. And whether or not they live in a particular location Mozart visited in 1770, or during his three tours (1769-1773), this collective effort to capture the here and now will result in a "living map" or "living history" that's symbolic of his journey.

Last month, I presented the idea to my friend Greta Di Raimondo, Interim President of AMI Parma. She embraced the project with enthusiasm and immediately contacted AMI Founder Arnaldo Volani, whose support I also received that same day. Following their approval, I contacted my Salzburg colleague Gerhard Spitz, EMW Secretary General, who was keen to promote it through his organization's network representing all of the countries Mozart ever traversed.

While Mozart in Italia 250 focuses on Mozart and Italy, this project is intended for everyone because it is our shared heritage. Now through the August 1st deadline (and beyond!), we can join our Italian friends by following Mozart's 1770 travels through an interactive map, travel letters and other resources on European Mozart Ways. We can listen to the music Mozart composed during this time period. We can utilize and stay attuned to the #MozartInItalia250 hashtag across social media. And we can party like it's carnival season in Venice on the Facebook event page where we can share, interact and celebrate the journey together!

Greta studies at the Università Iuav di Venezia and is a gifted filmmaker, so I asked if she'd be willing to weave a tapestry of the project's media submissions into a video. She has committed to the task, so we have much to look forward to in the culmination of this material through her work! To get an idea of Greta's passion and ability, watch her documentary from Mozartwoche 2017 (Mozart Week 2017) in collaboration with AMI and the Stiftung Mozarteum Salzburg.

This video will be a compliment to the other objectives previously mentioned. Mozart in Italia 250 aspires to reimagine Mozart's travels through crowdsourced media from Italian fans, build recognition for this history and heritage and elevate esprit de corps among audiences internationally. And all of this will be achieved through our ongoing web-based campaign powered by activity on the event page and respective partner pages (see the Facebook pages for AMI and EMW).

My December article, The Mozart Verona Portrait and the Question of Cultural Heritageabout the January auctioning of the 1770 Mozart portrait, in many ways prefaces this newly realized effort, but it was the pandemic's brutal toll on Italy that ultimately influenced the creation of Mozart in Italia 250 and its people-centric approach to acknowledging the anniversary and its milestone events, including:

January 1770 - The 13-year old Mozart is painted from life in what is now known as the Verona portrait, one of few authenticated portraits of the composer. 
July 1770 - Mozart is awarded the Order of the Golden Spur by Pope Clement XIV for transcribing Allegri's Miserere from memory upon hearing its performance in the Sistine Chapel in April.
October 1770 - After studying with Padre Martini, Mozart takes the entrance exam and is admitted into the prestigious Accademia Filarmonica di Bologna.
December 1770 -  The premiere of Mitridate, re di Ponto (Mithridates, King of Pontus) represents Mozart's debut in Milan and initiation into the world of Italian opera. It is a critical and popular success with 22 performances, the first three conducted by Mozart at the harpsichord. He receives two additional commissions.
Mozart in Italia 250 is a campaign that, during an extraordinary moment in our own history, pauses to celebrate that of another: the enduring artist who continues to bring us together in harmony, all around the world.