The Efficacy of Social Media and the Mozart Anniversary

Taking a social approach to music heritage preservation, I subscribe to the idea that audiences be...

Taking a social approach to music heritage preservation, I subscribe to the idea that audiences benefit exponentially through shared experiences. In 2012, I began creating event pages on Facebook so that Mozart's worldwide fan community (aka "The WolfGANG") would have a place to gather for two of his most significant anniversaries. With the dates of December 5th and January 27th quickly approaching, it's that time of year again!

To commemorate the anniversary of Mozart's passing on December 5th, I've hosted an annual candlelight vigil, asking participants to light a candle at 12:20 am (local time) and extinguish it at 12:55 am (local time). This 35 minute duration represents Mozart's 35 years of life and 12:55 am represents the time his light left our world in 1791. I've also encouraged fans to listen to his Requiem, write letters and share photos and sentiments on the event page. For my first vigil in 2012, I was joined by approximately 70 individuals. This experience inspired me to write, Videography of Mozart's Last Days: The Requiem Playlist. The following year, I penned the article, Dear Mozart: Remembrance in Light and Lettersfeaturing 24 photos from fans in 15 countries. The event has continued to evolve and gain reach in the Mozart fan community. 

To celebrate his birthday on January 27th, I've invited Mozartians to indulge in party activities inspired by the man himself such as jokes and pranks, billiards and dancing! I've encouraged them to share favorite quotes, recordings and other media along with their party photos and birthday wishes on the event page. In 2015, I realized a new celebratory idea through a collection of sentiments from fans around the world to present Mozart's first global birthday greeting at the Mozarthaus Vienna, his former residence. Submissions utilized various mediums and were created by a range of individuals, from professional artists and novelists to impassioned children! 

The joy and humanity of Mozart's music and the universal messages of love, unity and enlightenment conveyed within its measures remain relevant and necessary today. Its authenticity is beautifully captured by Mozart's fans in the many photos, comments and artworks they've shared on my event pages. Take a lookI hope that you'll join me on December 5th and January 27th so that our efforts will continue to inspire hearts everywhere as we celebrate Salzburg's native son.


Between Heaven and Earth: Mozart's Salzburg Sacred Music

The Salzburg Cathedral. Photo: LaLa Betty. September 25th marked the anniversary of the...

The Salzburg Cathedral. Photo: LaLa Betty.

September 25th marked the anniversary of the consecration of the first cathedral on the site of the Salzburg Cathedral (Salzburger Dom) in the year 774. Breaking ground in 1614, the current structure was completed in 1628. Since the founding of the Salzburg Cantorey in 1393, this historical site has been home to Salzburg's sacred music tradition for over 600 years. As a preservationist, it's a privilege for me to visit any historical location or venue, but I feel especially fortunate to have had the opportunity to visit this sacred place (twice and counting!).

Watch a tour video of the DomQuartier, the stunning Baroque palace and cathedral complex. For hundreds of years, it was the epicenter of all religious and political power held by Salzburg's ruling Prince-Archbishops.

The Salzburg Cathedral was at the center of Mozart family life. As members of the congregation, it was the location of Leopold and Anna Maria Mozart's wedding ceremony as well as the baptism of their children. The original baptismal font is still in a beautiful pristine-like condition given that it dates from 1321. Imagine! It was already 435 years old when the infant Mozart was baptized on January 28, 1756, a day after his birth.

Mozart's father Leopold was a composer, teacher and violinist employed by the Prince-Archbishop as Vice-Kapellmeister. Mozart soon joined and worked alongside his father, eventually gaining appointments as Konzertmeister and Court Organist. Some of his duties included composing, instructing the choirboys and performing (organ and violin) at the cathedral as well as at court. Mozart wrote many sacred works for the cathedral including masses, litanies, vespers and church sonatas.

Can you imagine attending church services with music composed and performed regularly by Mozart himself? Although it's no substitute, you can listen to live broadcasts from the cathedral on Sundays and holidays which often feature Mozart's music. Watch this short video from Rick Steves featuring Mozart at Sunday morning mass. "The organ loft fills the church with glorious sounds as Mozart, 250 years after his birth, is still powering worship with his musical genius."
The "Hoforgel" ("halo organ") in Salzburg Cathedral was often Mozart's instrument of choice. Photo: Kelsey O'Brien.

There are four smaller organs and one grand organ in the cathedral. The south-eastern organ to the left of the alter, known as the "Hoforgel" ("halo organ"), is said to have been the instrument primarily used by Mozart during his tenure. The Hoforgel can be seen from the perspective of the grand organ loft in my photo below. To be able to look up and imagine the virtuoso in action is another invaluable gift from the enduring act of preservation. Sadly, the original dome was destroyed in 1944 during WWII, but was reconstructed by 1959 (see photos). As you can imagine, the acoustics are best in the pews directly under the dome!

To say that father and son had a difficult relationship with their employer, Prince-Archbishop Colloredo, would be an understatement. It eventually led to Mozart's break to Vienna in 1781 with Leopold remaining in Salzburg. Although unfulfilled and longing for a career in opera and secular music expanding far beyond the reaches of the myopic Salzburg court, Mozart penned some exquisite music for the cathedral during his time there including the "Coronation" mass KV. 317, Missa solemnis KV. 337, vespers KV. 321 and KV. 339 and the Regina coeli KV. 276.

The pinnacle of the music heritage experience is listening to live performances at the venue where the music was originally composed, performed and/or otherwise enveloped in a biographical relationship with the artist. There's no greater sonic aura than when these elements come together. To envisage and hear a work as the artist did in within the same environment forges an unparalleled connectivity between listener and artist.

Globetrotting to landmarks aside, listeners can achieve a similar closeness with the music through seeking out recordings from historical venues and videos capturing live performances at those locations. Whether we experience it in person or from afar, how unique and awe-inspiring it is that we have the opportunity today to hear the sacred music that Mozart wrote for Salzburg in the same setting where he worked and performed!
Posing for a photo from the grand organ loft overlooking the nave in Salzburg Cathedral. Photo: Sherry Davis.

One of my favorite recordings of Mozart's Salzburg sacred music is by Peter Neumann and the Koelner Kammerchor and Collegium Cartusianum (listen to sample tracks).

Watch a performance of the Kyrie from Mozart's Missa brevis (KV. 220) at the Salzburg Cathedral. Written in 1775 or 1776, it was likely performed on Easter in April 1776. Watch a performance of the operatic Laudate Dominum from Mozart's Vesperae solennes de confessore (KV. 339) at Herbert von Karajan's memorial concert (the most recorded conductor of the 20th Century). Written in 1780, this was one of the last pieces Mozart wrote for the cathedral.

During my last visit, I wandered through the exhibition, Zwischen Himmel und Erde: Mozarts Geistlische Musik (Between Heaven and Earth: Mozart's Sacred Music). When words escape me, which they often do when asked how I feel about this music, I defer to the exhibition title which applies to the whole of Mozart's oeuvre. With a sweep of the quill, he masterfully balances light and dark, refinement and earthiness, the popular and cerebral. While Mozart's music is wildly joyful with a Utopian sensibility, he always reminds us of our human vulnerabilities. Whether his music reveals autobiographical sentiment or holds a mirror to our own, he keeps us grounded in that sense, but otherwise gives us the grandest of wings through his art.


Figaro230 Provides Pictorial Narrative On Mozart Reception

The entrance of the Mozarthaus Vienna located at Domgasse 5 in Vienna. Design: Sherry Davis.   ...

The entrance of the Mozarthaus Vienna located at Domgasse 5 in Vienna. Design: Sherry Davis. 

To celebrate the 230th anniversary year of Mozart's opera Le nozze di Figaro, I created the Figaro230 initiative to collect and display celebratory regards from Mozart's fans all over the world at the Mozarthaus Vienna. The Mozarthaus, now a museum, was Mozart's largest and most opulent apartment. Although he had several addresses in Vienna, Mozart lived at Domgasse 5 longer than he did at any other residence, and it's the only one that survives today. Mozart composed Figaro in 1786 while living there, a time period (1784-1787) representing some of his most productive, popular and prosperous years in the city.

By the August 14th deadline, I received submissions from Mozartians in the UK, Italy, France, Brazil and the USA. The project elicited creativity capturing an admirer's own talents to express his or her personal appreciation and sentiment for the opera. Figaro often has a special place in the hearts of Mozart's fans as a catalyst for their admiration, and it was certainly evident in the project outcome! Today, the Mozarthaus published Figaro230 submissions on their Facebook page.

The Figaro230 collection will be displayed on screens at the entrance of the Mozarthaus museum and at the box office on October 13th and 14th, 2016. In addition to inspiring Mozart's fans as they walk through the historic residence, the collection will provide a pictorial narrative on contemporary Mozart fandom as it coincides with a symposium the Mozarthaus is hosting about Mozart's reception in our world today, entitled Mozart heute: Zum aktuellen Stand der Mozart-Rezeption (Mozart Today: The Current Status of Mozart Reception). There's no better way to demonstrate how beloved and popular Mozart remains in 2016 than by displaying creative expressions from devoted and appreciative admirers!

Figaro230 not only celebrates the opera's anniversary. It also recognizes a shared decennial anniversary. In 2006, after a full restoration, the Mozarthaus opened its doors. That same year, my own journey began with The Chronicles of a Modern-Day Mozartian. I'm thrilled to be working with the Mozarthaus team again following the success of our Mozart birthday greeting exhibition in January 2015. I'm grateful for their support of my ideas to engage Mozart's fans and give them the opportunity to connect with the composer and other individuals who share their passion in such a unique and unprecedented way.


Figaro230 project submissions were published on the Mozarthaus Vienna Facebook page. August 17, 2016.

Popcorn and Powdered Wigs: Celebrating a Cinematic Partnership

Montage by David Garland.  Mozart at the Movies. November 2013. WQXR New York. The Metropolitan ...

Montage by David Garland. Mozart at the Movies. November 2013. WQXR New York.
The Metropolitan Opera and Fathom Events are celebrating 10 years together with this season of the Emmy and Peabody award-winning series, The Met: Live in HD. The first opera of the 2016-2017 season will be the 100th live transmission. A well-deserved "Congratulations!" and hearty "Bravo!" to all!

Summer 2016 represents my fourth anniversary working with Fathom Events and The Met: Live in HD in our shared mission to take Mozart's operas to a broader public by advancing accessibility, excitement and relevance for the art form. Since 2012, I've created and facilitated an outreach initiative using trivia contests on Facebook as a vehicle to give Mozart fans the opportunity to win tickets to see their favorite composer's operas at neighborhood cinemas nationwide. In my four year campaign, I've held five contests offering a total of 80 tickets with 60 tickets for encore performances and 20 tickets for live performances to four Mozart opera productions by The Metropolitan Opera:

Don Giovanni - 2012 (encore of 2011 production) Watch Promo / Watch Highlights / Watch Cast Interview
Cosi fan tutte - 2014 (live) Watch Promo / Watch Maestro Interview Watch Act I Finale (Dress Rehearsal)
Le nozze di Figaro - 2014 (live) Watch Promo / Watch Production Interview Watch Aria (Dress Rehearsal)
The Magic Flute - 2015 (encore of 2006 production) Watch Promo / Watch Director Interview / Watch Aria
Cosi fan tutte - 2016 (encore of 2014 production) Watch Promo / Watch Overture / Watch Singer Interview

Although The Met: Live in HD is shown in several countries, Fathom Events operates within the U.S. market. Since I have readers/followers from around the world, I always note the geography in my contest guidelines. I've had to enlist a few apologies to my Canadian friends who discover this only after the fact! My contest winners represent Mozartians from 13 states: Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Iowa, Illinois, Nevada, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin. And they characterize a variety of individuals from teenagers to seniors and uninitiated opera-goers to professional musicians!

After the success and excitement of my first contest in Summer 2012 (See: The Cinematic Fathoming of Don Giovanni), I inquired about tickets for the December 2012 production of La clemenza di Tito, but none were available for either the live broadcast or encore. And it was disappointing to discover that there weren't any Mozart operas scheduled for cinemas in 2013, but what came along a year later more than compensated for this hiatus!

In 2014, I was given the opportunity to promote two very special live broadcasts of Cosi and Figaro! The fact that it was Cosi's series premiere combined with Maestro Levine's return to the Met that September to conduct the opera after being on medical leave for two years made it all the more significant. Meanwhile, Figaro had a brand new production design influenced by the 1920s and was broadcast to record number of cinemas in 69 countries. It was especially fun for me to watch, given that I had just attended a performance at the Met with the Da Ponte family, afterwards meeting two of the opera's leading artists!
Marlis Petersen (Susanna) and Peter Mattei (Count Almaviva) in Le nozze di Figaro,.October 2014. The Metropolitan Opera.

In celebration of Lorenzo Da Ponte's life and work, the Austrian Cultural Forum in New York organized a symposium and concert. As librettist, Da Ponte collaborated with Mozart to pen the words to Le nozze di Figaro, Don Giovanni and Cosi fan tutte. I attended the Da Ponte Day celebration with Clay Alder, a great-great-great-great grandson of Da Ponte, his wife Cece and his aunt Martha Lee Da Ponte. We also attended a performance of Figaro at the Met. To be sitting in the Grand Tier with Clay (clad in a Beatles bow tie!) and his family, watching and cheering on the greatest collaboration in operatic history between his ancestor and Mozart, well, I simply have no words! (Our photo) Clay and his family have been wonderfully supportive. Read his testimonial about my advocacy of the Mozart/Da Ponte operas.

After the opera, we went backstage to meet German soprano Marlis Petersen (Watch Marlis perform as Susanna in this production!) and Swedish baritone Peter Mattei (Count Almaviva). We were introduced by Bulgarian filmmaker Nayo Titzin who had also attended the opera with us, He was filming Clay's family for his upcoming documentary, Being Da Ponte. Our entourage took a short walk from the opera house down the street to P.J. Clarke's where we remained into the early morning hours! (Our photo)

Attempting a departure from my trivia contest tradition for Figaro, I announced that I'd be hosting a costume contest instead with my friends at Fathom Events serving as guest judges. It was October, and with All Hallows' Eve around the corner, I thought for sure the idea would be popular. Since I didn't receive enough entries, I returned to the familiar trivia format for the sake of timing. Note: Be ready for new ideas in the future with advance notice!
This musical doll was a gift from my twin sister Sheryl at the beginning of my Mozartian journey, so he's sentimental and tends to tag along on my adventures as a reminder of the love and support I have from friends and family. He's a big fan of The Met: Live in HD series!

My contest for the encore of The Magic Flute in 2015 was held a few days before Thanksgiving. Since the encore was in December, it had some extra holiday sparkle! This production by Julie Taymor was the inaugural broadcast for The Met: Live in HD series in 2006, so there was sentiment attached to it as well for those familiar with the series. This was the first contest where tickets for my trivia winners were issued electronically instead of vouchers by mail.

I hosted my most recent trivia contest this month for a summer encore of Cosi fan tutte, marking my fourth anniversary from the time I started with the summer encore of Don Giovanni in 2012. It all started with an idea, an email to Fathom Events, and it developed into a fulfilling, original adventure. Since the beginning, Fathom's support for my outreach campaigns has been tremendous. Read these encouraging words from Katie Sawyer-Stachler, Programming Manager. I can't express my gratitude enough for the gift they've given me!

Since Don Giovanni was the first Mozart opera I advocated through this partnership, I hope to have the opportunity to revisit it during the upcoming 2016-2017 season. The opera's live broadcast and encore are scheduled for October 2016. Also in the realm of possibility this season is a rare revival of Mozart's Idomeneo for which a live broadcast has been scheduled for March 2017. It will feature Jean-Pierre Ponnelle's production design, one of my favorites, so I also hope to join my friends at Fathom to promote this production as well. Exciting!

I'd like to think that Mozart, being a man of the theater amused and inspired operatically by the likes of Anton Mesmer with his "mesmerism" and Emanuel Schikaneder with his operatic fairy-tales, would have loved the idea of his operas receiving the cinematic treatment. Why? To quote Francis Ford Coppola: "I think cinema, movies and magic have always been closely associated. The very earliest people who made film were magicians."