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

Campaign 2020: Zurück zu Mozart!

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.



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