Dicapo Opera Theatre – Marrying Mozart

Marrying Mozart
Play in three acts adapted for the stage by Michael Capasso from Stephanie Cowell’s novel [performed with musical selections by Mozart; world premiere production]

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – Ian Harkins
Josepha Weber – Lauren Hoffmeier
Aloysia Weber – Adriana Lee
Constanze Weber – Christian Sineath
Sophie Weber – Christina Falco
Cecilia Weber – Roxann Kraemer
Fridolin Weber / Archbishop / Orsini-Rosenberg / Gottlieb Stephanie – Greg Horton
Leutgeb / Opera Impresario / Schantz – Matt Ebling
Theobald / Thorwart – Daniel Quintana

Julia Lima & Raquel Suarez (sopranos), Anthony Webb & Marques Hollie (tenors); Pacien Mazzagatti (keyboards)

Michael Capasso – Stage Director
John Farrell – Set Designer
Emily Rose Parman – Costume Designer
Susan Roth – Lighting Designer

Reviewed by: David M. Rice

Reviewed: 14 December, 2012
Venue: Dicapo Opera Theatre at East 76th Street & Lexington Avenue, New York City

Ensconced in its marvelous 204-seat home on New York’s Upper East Side, Dicapo Opera Theatre’s stylish productions feature talented young singers, with occasional visits by those who are firmly established. This season’s productions include two departures from the usual fare of classic and contemporary opera, both presenting operatic excerpts woven into a biographical drama about their composer. One is Puccini’s Passion, the other Marrying Mozart.

The Mozart offering, co-produced with Opera Moderne, with a plot based on a novel by Stephanie Cowell, revolves around the youthful Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and the four daughters of Fridolin and Cecilia Weber: Josepha, Aloysia, Constanze (whom Mozart ultimately marries) and Sophie. Ian Harkins portrays Mozart as a kind, thoughtful and earnest young man – not at all like the infantile character of Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus – and although the story follows the composer’s career, its focus is really on the four Weber sisters, each with her own desires, affections and disappointments. Among the themes dealt with are social and professional ambition, family loyalty, bereavement – and love.

Although most of the actors are trained singers, only two – Adriana Lee and Lauren Hoffmeier – are called upon to do so. Lee gave sparkling renditions of concert arias, Alcandro, lo confesso (K294) and Popoli di Tessaglia (K316), both written for Aloysia, as well as a fine rendition of ‘Alleluia’ from Exsultate, jubilate (K165). At the end of the first Act, Hoffmeier’s touching rendition of ‘Agnus Dei’ from the Coronation Mass was sung as Josepha mourned the death of her father. The two sisters also took the duet ‘D’Eliso in sen m’attendi’ from Lucio Silla.

Excerpts from two operas were performed by a quartet of excellent singers. Julia Lima was brilliant in ‘D’Oreste d’Ajace’ (Idomeneo) and ‘Martern aller arten’ (Die Entführung aus dem Serail), and, from the latter opera, Anthony Webb gave a thrilling rendition of ‘Konstanze, Konstanze’. They were joined by Raquel Suarez in the trio ‘Pria di partir, o Dio’ (Idomeneo) and by her and Marques Hollie in two further Entführung excerpts: ‘Ach Belmonte, ach mein Leben’, and the finale, ‘Nie werd ich deine Huld verkennen’. These ensembles, with the singers costumed as the operas’ characters, with Pacien Mazzagatti conducting and performing on keyboards from the pit, were highlights of the evening.

Of the actors, Roxann Kraemer was quite effective as Cecilia Weber, struggling to promote the marital fortunes of her daughters while protecting a secret from her past. Christian Sineath as Costanze and Christina Falco as Sophie were sympathetic siblings to their older, musically-inclined sisters. Greg Horton portrayed Fridolin Weber and three other characters, managing to create a quite distinctive persona for each. Also effective in portraying different characters were Matt Ebling and Daniel Quintana. This production was well-staged by Michael Capasso on John Farrell’s simple but attractive set, which lent itself to serving as a variety of locales. Susan Roth’s lighting served to create contrasting moods, and Emily Rose Parman’s costumes were quite beautiful, with the Entführung characters’ over-the-top attire, wigs and turbans being especially eye-catching.

Despite all of these positive elements, Marrying Mozart is ultimately dissatisfying as a drama, principally because its dialogue lacks subtlety and is often stilted and awkward, particularly in the heavily expository early scenes; nor is the spoken text principally a device for connecting successive musical selections – as in Puccini’s Passion. This is a play in which the words are primary and the music secondary, the latter insufficient to offset fully the weaknesses of the former. Marrying Mozart has an interesting book but is in need of a better script.

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