Mozart & Salieri: A Requiem for Mozart #ClassicalCalgary (Mozart in the City)

Mozart & Salieri
A Requiem for Mozart

On Saturday October 30th, my wife and I went to the Epcor Centre for Performing Arts to watch the Opera “Mozart & Salieri”, with tickets courtesy of Visit Calgary and the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra. Little did I know when I picked this date that the Opera was actually the work of Rimsky-Korsakov (of Flight of the Bumblebee fame – if you like this song you should watch the movie “Shine” with Geoffrey Rush. Total classic, but I digress).

So, we left our son with some friends, and took off on our date to the Opera. When we arrived, our tickets were waiting at the call table and we proceeded to have a quick drink before going into the seating area. I have to say that, not having been to the Jack Singer Concert Hall before, I was impressed with the quality of the finishes and the acoustics of the place. The structure supporting the lights and the projection screen were set up in a non-invasive, non-ugly way, contrary to how lighting structures and equipment usually are. That was a definitely a plus. The chairs were simple, but comfortable, as it should be.

The arrangement of the stage was interesting and different as well: the Orchestra was set up on the main stage to showcase the talent of all the musicians. The mini-stage for the actors was set up in front of it, slightly lower but with excellent care taken to not ruin the sight lines of the spectators. A table with writing papers, ink and a feather, two chairs, and a harpsichord with its bench were all that was necessary. As I am minimalistic in almost all things, I saw the restrained setting also as a plus.

Now, on to the performance itself: Maestro Roberto Minczuk conducted a splendid overture prior to the appearance on scene of the actors. Maestro Minczuk is obviously a man who is comfortable in his own skin. He takes a relaxed, yet fully professional approach to conducting. More than anything, his best skill is that he obviously enjoys good music, which is something hard to come by in these days when showmanship and pyrotechnics are all that many performers care about (I’m thinking of a certain pianist from China who’s all show and no substance, but won’t get too carried away here).

I was mesmerized by the opening scene with the baritone (John Avey) who plays Salieri. Maestro Salieri happens to be lamenting the musical talent that God has given such a lowly creature like Herr Mozart. Salieri then thinks of some of his own tunes, at which time Rosana Lamosa appears on scene to sing one of them in the most delightful soprano. Mozart (Fernando Portari) then joins the scene, more singing happens between them, until Salieri proceeds to poison Mozart. Salieri is then left contemplating the meaning of Mozart’s words, that “villainy and genius are incompatible…”

The cast has been well put together. It is obvious that all the actors are professionals and put a lot of work into their performances. As a side note, one thing that has always annoyed me somewhat is that the public usually cheers more loudly the performances of the tenor and the soprano, who are usually the leads, regardless of who actually happened to have the best performance. In this case, I would attribute such best performance to the baritone: Mr. Avey’s Salieri. What surprised me the most was how much I enjoyed Mr. Avey’s performance both in terms of his singing, as well as his animated expressions on scene. It was fantastic to see how his Salieri character truly enjoyed the highest emotions while thinking of his own music, as well as his tears and sorrow when listening to Herr Mozart’s divine melodies and harmonies. Of course it doesn’t hurt that the Russian language happens to be rather guttural, and it suits lower voice registers quite well (I’m thinking here of some Rachmaninoff’s choral works). I even managed to catch a few “Das vidanye’s”, “Ja’s” and “Nyet’s”.

I will go on the assumption that the very long silence during the transition to the Requiem was fully planned to enhance the eerie, spooky atmosphere that we were left with when Mozart leaves after being poisoned by his rival (Beethoven used silence as one of the most powerful elements in his music. His use of silence has always been unmatched). Then, of course, we were led to the Requiem…

The power of the drums, the way the strings support the harmony and the careful execution leave you shivering, overwhelmed with emotion. The bassoons, horns, trumpets and trombones round up a well-crafted ensemble that delivers on the powers of music for the dead. From the opening of the Requiem and the Kyrie, to the Confutatis and the Lacrimosa, Maestro Minczuk and the Orchestra were fantastic. The Choir delivered quite well on what is a difficult piece with multiple voice lines and tempos going at the same time. The atmosphere was electric.

When, sadly, the end came with the Amen subtly woven into the unfinished piece (let’s remember that according to history, the Requiem was actually left unfinished) everyone was left expectant in their seats for just a second before the applauses rained.

I’m very much looking forward to seeing what will be in store for tonight’s performance. The last one was a delight. Kudos to everyone in the production crew.

This guest review was contributed by my brother Sigfrido Pacheco covering Mozart in the City (Classical Calgary) for Hummingbird604.com. Read all posts on Classical Calgary here. To purchase tickets to any of the event series, visit the Classical Calgary website.


Disclosure: The tickets to attend the concert for my guest blogger and his Plus One were sponsored very generously by Tourism Calgary and the Calgary Philarmonic Orchestra. This post hasn’t been paid for, and I am not required to post a review either. In any review I write or publish on my site, I retain editorial control at all times, and producers and publicists are well aware of this. Should you have any questions/concern feel free to contact me via e-mail through my contact form.

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