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Opera 21 Richard Wagner Bicentennial

Soprano Heidi Melton: Wagner on her mind

May 2013

Opera21 magazine

Collaborative, submission based magazine for the 21st Century Opera Enthusiast

Editor-in-chief Jennifer Choi Editor Kim Feltkamp

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All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or part is prohibited without written permission. The opinions expressed in Opera21 do not necessarily reflect those of the editor or publisher


Table of Contents Volume 1 No. 6

3 Enjoying Wagner as a Jew Ilana Walder-Biesanz 5 The Wagner Geek: Interview with Heidi Melton Jennifer Choi 11 Viva la Libertà Don Giovanni review Kimberly Feltkamp 13 Risky Regie: Musings on the Nazi Tannhäuser Harry Rose 15 Come Scoglio* Kimberly Feltkamp *Featured novella, in parts

Enjoying Wagner as a Jew Ilana Walder-Biesanz and symbolic, between Wagner and Hitler, Wagner’s music has been unofficially banned in Israel for the entirety of the country’s existence. (Occasionally, this ban has been broken, as in 2001 when David Barenboim conducted the Tristan und Isolde overture as an unplanned encore in a concert, but performances of Wagner’s music have been rare and controversial.) Some people question whether Wagner’s anti-Semitism can be detected in his operas. He may have had reprehensible opinions, these aficionados argue, but that doesn’t mean they affected his artistic output. I do not think this is a fruitful line of argument. Wagner’s opinions on racial purity and supremacy in general, and Judaism in particular, are apparent in his works. The hierarchy of races in the Ring Cycle (with gold-loving dwarves at the bottom, one of whom is responsible for the chain of events that causes the destruction of the higher races), the emphasis on purity (both sexual and racial) in Parsifal, and Kundry’s role as the seductive “wandering Jew” and corrupter of men are all uncomfortably present in the works themselves, regardless of the listener’s background knowledge of Wagner’s views. Instead of questioning the presence of Wagner’s racist and anti-Semitic ideas in his operas, we ought to ask whether those repugnant ideas are what a modern audience has to see in his operas. In postmodern literary theory, there is an idea called the “Fallacy of Intention,” which purports that anything external to a text itself—including the author’s intention in writing the text—is irrelevant to a proper critical examination of the text. The reader

“I don’t listen to, or like, Wagner, because I am a Jew.” That was my grandmother’s response when I asked her what she thought of Wagner’s music. She recognized that as a younger Jewish opera lover, I might not have the same response as she did. She didn’t have a problem with this, but she was adamant about her own determination to avoid Wagner. Wagner’s anti-Semitic views are wellknown; he wrote about them explicitly. His 1850 article “Judaism in Music” was written, in his own words, to “explain to ourselves the involuntary repellence possessed for us by the nature and personality of the Jews, so as to vindicate that instinctive dislike which we plainly recognize as stronger and more overpowering than our conscious zeal to rid ourselves thereof.” The essay repeats unoriginal, anti-Semitic claims—that Jews cannot speak European languages properly and that their own speech is incapable of expressing passion, and that Jews are therefore incapable of creating music that is truly art. Wagner encourages Jews to renounce their religion for the sake of Germany. He does not propose violence against Jews, but his anti-Semitic prejudices are clear. The issue is further complicated by Hitler’s preference for Wagner. Hitler first saw Lohengrin at the age of twelve and remained an ardent lover of opera in general, and Wagner in particular, for the remainder of his life. Scholars have speculated that the ideas contained in Wagner’s writings and operas partially inspired Hitler’s theories of racial purity. Because of the connection, both historical 3

works directly. Herheim’s 2011 Parsifal in Bayreuth alluded to anti-Semitic stereotypes by having Kundry (as a maid) threaten to steal Herzeleide’s baby. Warner’s 2006 staging of Das Rheingold made Alberich’s identity as a Jew explicit: Wellgrunde even opened his fly before her “Pfui!” which was presumably in response to his circumcision. All of these are choices that can be valuable and enlightening for audiences, and they are all valid regardless of what Wagner intended his operas to convey. What Wagner wanted does not matter; what we can take from his operas today does. For many people, including my grandmother, Wagner’s music symbolizes a great evil. If they do not want to listen to Wagner as a result, that is a personal decision I respect, but it is not one that I share. Wagner’s personal opinions do not taint my enjoyment of his music. Wagner was an anti-Semite, and it did affect his artistic output. That is no reason for me to stop listening to (or maybe, one day, singing or directing) his operas. His despicable opinions are there, but they’re for us to ignore, criticize, mock, or even embrace. Wagner left a legacy of beautiful music and we may do with it what we will.

is the sole arbiter of meaning. This idea can be applied to Wagner’s operas. His political and religious goals in writing them do not matter; what matters are the inherent meanings directors and audiences can find. This does not eliminate racist and antiSemitic readings of Wagner’s operas, as they are certainly possible even without considering Wagner’s personal history, but it allows us to choose how to engage with them. Directors have found various ways to deal with the racist and anti-Semitic themes in Wagner’s operas. Many productions ignore sensitive issues entirely, preferring to focus on other themes (and there is no shortage of those in Wagner’s work). Girard’s recent production of Parsifal at the Met emphasized, among other things, sexual purity and gender relations rather than racial or religious purity. Other productions re-interpret the questionable themes. Chereau’s Ring Cycle took the hierarchy of races to be indicative of social class in a world on the brink of the Industrial Revolution, with the workingclass dwarves struggling against the aristocratic gods. Some brave directors address the anti-Semitism in Wagner’s

Ilana Walder-Biesanz is an engineer, actress, and mezzo-soprano who adores philosophy, opera, theater, literature, historical fashions, and vintage dance. She can most frequently be found singing in the hallways of Olin College, where she is a senior Systems Engineering major and the president of the school's theater and opera organizations. After graduation and a relaxing summer of working for Microsoft, she will pursue a graduate degree in European Literature at the University of Cambridge on a Gates-Cambridge fellowship. She tweets about opera (and occasionally other topics) as @ilana_wb.


Heidi Melton interview Jennifer Choi Originally from Spokane Washington, soprano Heidi Melton (left) is one of the rising stars of opera. She has been praised for not just her beautiful voice but also her intelligent performances, and many have marked her as the next great Wagnerian soprano. This summer, she will be singing the role of Ellen in Peter Grimes at the Badisches Staatstheater Karlsruhe. Over coffee, well actually tea and a health drink, we talked about everything from being a Wagner geek to advice she had for aspiring opera singers.

How were you introduced to opera? I was in a children’s choir in Spokane, Washington, and they were asking for people to audition for the children’s choir in La Bohème. However, when I was 12, I was about as tall and as big as I am now, and they looked at me and said, “You’re not really a child.” So I ended up singing the mother/prostitute as a 12 year old in the Spokane Opera’s production of La Bohème. What made you realize that this was something you wanted to do as a career? I used to think that I was going to be a professional soccer player, and then I would become an OBGYN and deliver babies. This was my plan. When I was 14, I tried out for a really selective soccer thing. I didn’t get in, and I was devastated. I locked myself in the bathroom, and I was bawling my eyes out. My older sister picked the lock and basically said, “Heidi, quit crying, it wasn’t meant to be. You’ve got to figure out something else.” And I said, “Well, what am I supposed to do? “ I didn’t understand what else my life could possibly have for me, and my sister said, “Try something else. Try singing. You’re always singing – we can’t shut you up. Try taking lessons or something.” So we talked to the head of my church choir. She taught lessons, and she agreed to take me on. And seriously, my very first lesson, I was like, I kind of need to do this for the rest of my life. For a while, I didn’t realize it was going to be opera. I thought maybe I’ll teach, but I fell in love with opera. Nobody else in my family understood, but I couldn’t stop listening. Opera career is a tough one. What kept you going when things got tough? It IS tough. It’s interesting because when you tell people what you do, a lot of people think it’s this big glamorous thing – you’re being chauffeured and it’s all diamonds and roses. And it’s not. Thankfully, for me, one of my favorite parts of the career is the rehearsal process. I love getting into the nitty-gritty of the characters, the music, getting all of the notes and figuring things out. What gets me going when it’s tough is that I can’t quit it. It’s basically an addiction. There should be an ‘opera singers anonymous.’ It really is an addiction. It’s something that heals me, soothes me, and completes me, and I don’t think that I am capable of giving that up. Who are the people in your support group who get you through the rough patches? How crucial are they to your success as an artist? They’re everything. I’m incredibly lucky in my group – my family, which includes my friends. It’s a handful of people. I’m very blessed with the friends that I have in my life and their abilities to bring me back and ground me when things are insane or when I get wrapped up in the tiny details. One of my best friends will say, “Heidi, you’re singing opera, you’re not curing cancer. You can do this. This is an


ok thing.” You need grounding and you need the ability to be centered and find a way to find reality. In Baltimore [performance with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra], my niece came. My nieces are incredible sources of inspiration to me. I had just sung my first “Liebestod” and then Die Walküre Act I, and my niece said, “Let’s go to the aquarium. Let’s go see some dolphins.” My close-knit group of friends, my sister, and my nieces, these are the people I could not do it without, and their support, their help, their love, and basically their bitch slapping (I don’t know if you can say that in your magazine). We all need people who can bitch slap us from time to time. How do you deal with loneliness on the road? It is really difficult, and this year has been especially hard. In November, my grandma passed away, and I was in Germany. I couldn’t get home for the funeral, and my grandma is one of the closest people to me – she is the person who originally gave me music. When I was four, I started studying piano with her. She is a huge part of my fabric, and to not be able to be home and to have to Facetime through the funeral was insane. Everybody gets their own survival mechanisms. The biggest one is to not feel sorry for yourself. Everybody will have a day in bed, every once in a while, where they do nothing but watch trash TV and just decompress. That’s needed and mandatory, but you have to get out. You have to meet people, and you have to be open to forming these weird, six week families with your cast members. You have to be open to going for walks and exploring the city and maybe finding a café that makes you feel not alone or at home. The biggest way to deal with loneliness is to not feel sorry for yourself. And then Skype, Facetime, etc. These are beautiful, beautiful things. Me and my smartphones. What was your undergraduate and graduate experiences like? When I auditioned for undergrad, I was auditioning for music education and voice performance. Mostly, I auditioned in Washington State, where I’m from. But they have this festival in Washington, and one of the adjudicators was from the Eastman school of music in Rochester, New York. My grandma and I discussed where I should audition, and she said, “I think you should audition for one pie in the sky school. You need to have a school where you don’t think you have a chance in hell of getting into.” So I did the regional audition for Eastman in Seattle, and the whole thing was messed up. I ended up getting accepted. So then there was this big drama – I’d never been away from my family for more than a week for summer camp, but I decided to go. The funny part is that they said I wasn’t good enough to be a vocal performance major. They said they would accept me for just music education, and I can choose to jury in later. One thing I can’t handle is being told no, so it became my mission to jury and be accepted. So I did jury, and I got into vocal performance. I ended up dropping music education and focused on just vocal performance. Eastman was a crazy place. I met one of my best friends there, which is one of the best things that came out of it. I had a very loud voice, shockingly, and they didn’t really know what to do. I don’t blame them. When you’re 20 or 21, and your voice is really loud but not cooked at all, there really isn’t much that can be done. So there was the question of, ‘is she a soprano, is she a mezzo, is she a contralto, let’s have her sing first tenor in choir.’ So I sang with the boys. That was fine – it’s character developing. Then when I auditioned for grad school, I auditioned in Eastman, Curtis, Julliard, forget where else, but those were my three. I ended up getting into all of them, and I chose Curtis. That was one of my better life choices. Curtis was an amazing place. To go from having had one solo bit in the opera at Eastman, my senior year, and it was Mrs.Ott in Susannah. So I had “It’s a hot night for dancing, ain’t no breeze a-stirrin, them trees ain’t moved all day.” That was my solo career at Eastman. And then to go to Curtis where it is so concentrated – I was thrown into two leading roles my very first year. It was incredible. Curtis has all of my allegiance and loyalty. That’s not to say Eastman wasn’t a great place, but Curtis has my heart. It was an amazing place.


Any advice for students who are looking at schools or going through schools? This is easy for me to say, having come from places like Eastman and Curtis, but don’t let the name of the school affect your decision. I have so many friends who have gone to big name schools and haven’t gotten where they wanted to get and are hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. Really be conscious of the fact that when you are 18-22, it’s the teacher that matters. It is about getting your voice in line, and if you’ve got a good relationship with a teacher who works at middle of nowhere university, go to middle of nowhere university. Get all of the scholarships; try and stay as debt free as you possibly can. Nobody has to live in NYC when they’re 18 in order to make it work. You don’t. How do you know when it’s the right time to start a role? Who gives you the direction? At the end of the day, you are your best advocate and decision maker, but you have to have a few people around you that you can trust. I call them my board of directors, and I have four people on that board. They’re all very much involved with music. Some are coaches, some are agents, one is a conductor. You have to have people who know your voice and really have your best interest at heart. In this business, you will get people who will try and push you too far, too fast. At the same token, it is just as harmful to do things that aren’t far enough. People might say to me, “Heidi, I really want you to do this role,” and it might even be a great vocal fit, but if it’s not a great emotional fit, I can’t do it. I’ve done it; I did that once, and it about ended me. I’m the kind of person who has to be emotionally invested in the role to do it. You have to take your time, go over your roles, know what house you’re singing it in, with which conductor, who your cast is. When those things are all working together, then it’s the right time to take a role, and if they’re not working together, you don’t do it. Tannhäuser, Badisches (2012)

What sort of physical activities do you do to get your body ready to sing huge roles like Wagner and Verdi? One of my dearest friends got me into yoga a couple of years ago, especially vinyassa and power flow yoga. When I was in San Francisco doing my first Siegliende was when I really got into that, and it became a big part of my life. Now that I’m in Europe, it’s hard to find the same studios and practices. A wife of a conductor I worked with a lot is a ballet and pilates teacher, and she does bar method classes and Pilates classes, which I found are amazing. One of the funniest things you’ll ever see in your life is ballet for opera singers. You have to get your sleep, and you have to take care of yourself. Sleep, rest, and surrounding yourself with good energy and good people – it makes a difference. There are times when you have to get off a plane and go right to rehearsal, have a coffee and push through. However, in a perfect day, those are things you want to do. What do you think is the most crucial, either physically or mentally, to achieve and maintain that stamina? It’s about pacing yourself. For example, with Siegliende, she has three crazy acts. In act 1, it’s all about love. In act 2, she’s basically having a mad scene. In act 3, she wants to kill herself, but they say the


most memorable moment of the Ring Cycle for her is at the very end of her role. So when I started the role, I knew that I had to be as fresh at the end as I was in the beginning. It’s finding where you can give more and where you can bring back. It’s all a balancing game, and it’s finding the best way to bring forth the parts of the music that you feel you need to bring forth without detriment. My biggest issue with stamina is pacing. If you get overexcited and give it all in the first act, you’re not doing yourself or the audience any favors. You’ve talked about being a Wagner geek. What specifically about his music touches you? It just gets to me. It gets inside of me. I’m a mess whenever I’m doing the Ring Cycle or Tannhäuser, or anything I’ve done of his, but I’m a mess in the most wonderful way. It’s when all of your senses are firing; you’re alive, you’re feeling everything, you’re noticing everything. Flowers are more beautiful, the smells are more beautiful, you hear things more beautifully. It’s so odd. The closest I can describe it is, for any True Blood fans out there (this shows how much of a nerd I am), when a human drinks vampire blood and suddenly everything becomes brighter and better – that is basically what Wagner’s music does to me. Being in the middle of it, and creating it in that moment, and being part of this big machine. It’s not the singer and the orchestra; in Wagner, it’s this one big beast. It can go horribly wrong, but when it goes horribly right, it’s a living, breathing organism onto its own. Are you looking forward to working with director Alden? I’m so looking forward to it. I love pushing the boundaries on stage. A lot of times, you don’t get the opportunity to do that. A lot of times, you are told to just park and bark, and they want you to be beautiful and elegant at all times. But that’s not life. His Peter Grimes is going to be controversial. I didn’t know that you could make the character of Ellen unlikable, and I’m really happy to do that. I know it might be uncomfortable for the audience, but as long as it’s not uncomfortable for the sake of being uncomfortable. I’m not a fan of the concepty operas that push boundaries just to push boundaries and make people feel uncomfortable just to be ugly. I love when something is provocative. One of the most exciting things I’ve ever been a part of was an Ariadne I did in Bordeaux. At the very end of the first night, at bows, half the audience erupted in cheers and the other half was booing, from the bottom of their souls. I was like, “Yes! This is exactly what it should be like!” It should be provocative and it should make people think. There is nothing that is more boring than a vanilla opera, where the audience claps politely and it hasn’t changed them in any way. That’s the same way for all art. Sometimes, beautiful things can stir and provoke and I’m not saying I’m one of those people who wants to do just crazy things at all, it’s not, but as long as it touches something deeper than the surface level, I’m glad to be a part of it, and I think we’ll really do that with the Grimes. Do you have a favorite character, and why is that character your favorite? I know it’s a stock answer, but really, any character I’m doing in that moment is my favorite. It has to be. The characters that have stayed with me the longest and have made the biggest impact on me are the ones that I think are real women. It’s somebody like Sieglinde. For me, she is real – she’s hurt, and she lets you know that she is hurt. She is alive, and she is a fighter. In a lot of ways, Ariadne is the same way. From this huge pain comes a great love and willingness to fight out of it. In the same token, Alcina, who is another one of my favorite women, is amazing because of her fall from power and the way that she goes from being an all-powerful, all-knowing woman to nothing at the end. Every woman in opera can be more than one-dimensional if you have the right director the right cast. A lot of times, you’ll get people who want to do Wagner characters in a one dimensional way, and they are not one dimensional at all. Someone like Elisabeth is a strong woman; she is willing to stand up to everybody and defy convention.


Has your interpretation of Sieglinde changed over time? How has the character developed with you? Life influences my art, which influences my life. Sieglinde has grown with me. My first Sieglinde was with Maestro Runnicles with the BBC orchestra 2010, which doesn’t seem that long time ago, but my career not been that long. So it’s been a while. She’s grown. When I first started looking at her, she wasn’t as much of a woman as I am now because back then, I wasn’t as much of a woman as I am now. She was more innocent, more naïve, more in wonder of everything around her. Then I did her a couple of weeks ago, and she was a scared, abused dog who is willing to fight but so willing to love. The character does change. It’s a living, breathing thing, and when a person does the character the same way over and over again, that kills the art. I hope I’m with her for a while. Eventually, the Brünnhildes are going to come; we’ve had offers, and I’m not ready yet. How exciting it will be to sing Brünnhilde, but then I will have to give up Sieglinde, and that thought is so painful, so awful. They become part of you. Maybe that’s me not being able to separate myself well enough from the character, but she is a part of me. Having to say goodbye to her is going to be really hard.

Die Walküre, San Francisco Opera; with Brandon Jovanovich (2011, Photo: Cory Weaver)

Do you have a dream role? I have a few: Brünnhilde, Isolde, Elektra, Färberin. Someday, way down the road, Mrs.Lovett from Sweeney Todd.

What are some of the great things about the opera industry right now, and what do you think needs to be improved? One of the great things is the people. This career, no matter what people say, and of course there are crazy people in any career, has some of the most amazing people you can ever imagine. You will find loving, kind, wonderful, warm, incredible people. In some ways, it’s awful to have to leave after two months, but I think how lucky I am to know them and have worked with them. It becomes your weird, dysfunctional family, and it’s amazing. I think it’s really exciting that some of these composers are being brought back from the brink of nothingness. Fifteen years ago, no one did Berlioz. And Meyerbeer. It’s beautiful and exciting. I’m really excited by the boundaries that are being pushed. And at least in the houses I’m working at, it’s not about just Puccini, Boheme, Traviata, and marriage of Figaro, not that there is anything wrong with any of those (what I wouldn’t give to Musetta), but it’s about more than that. It’s about pushing boundaries, and working with directors like Alden and having those barriers pushed. It’s really important and it keeps the art form evolving and interesting. Doing things like the HD broadcast. That’s very important in a lot of ways, and that is allowing people who might never have considered going before to attend and getting them interested. What could be improved? I think for a while, there was more of a focus on looks and less of a focus on singing. I want that to be evened out, and I think it’s getting there. I think the pendulum is swinging. There is some really exciting talent out there that isn’t getting displayed. At the end of the day, ten years from now, I want the talent that deserves to be displayed to be displayed.


What do you jam to? My iPod is so crazy. One would look at my iPod and think I have multiple personality disorder. I have everything on there. I have rap, 80’s metal bands, hardcore metal, pop, country music, gospel. I really don’t think there is a genre I don’t have on my iPod, and it just depends on the mood that I’m in. I was litening to Otis Redding on the way over here, and you can’t beat him. Have you ever had people who don’t understand how a dramatic voice works and tried to make you sing lighter roles? There are many people who don’t understand the big voices. They are beasts. I always say it’s like driving a Mack Truck down a country lane. You’ve got this huge thing, and you’re trying to get it to fit in a rather narrow spot. I was singing Beethoven 9, and the conductor was saying, “Heidi, I need you to be piano. I need you to be piano. Do you understand what piano means?” And I said, “Maestro, this is my piano. Would you like to hear what my forte?” And that shut him up. At the end of the day, you have to know your voice. If you lose jobs because you can’t fit roles that doesn’t fit your voice, then you lose that job. It wouldn’t be a good job for you anyway. You have to be your own best teacher and advocate, and you have to know your voice and what it’s capable of doing. That’s not saying I won’t try things. I will always try something. If someone says, “Heidi, can you do it this way?” I will always try. Always. Sometimes it is a miserable crash and burn, and it is ugly and we all have a good laugh. And sometimes I surprise myself. To the readers who asked this question, hit me up with a private message on Twitter. We could talk through it. It’s a process. All I can say is the older you get, the more you start to be able to drive that Mack Truck with more authority and a little more knowledge. What is your advice to young performers who are looking to enrich their artistry? Live life. Don’t shut yourself off. Don’t be afraid of being hurt. You’re going to be hurt no matter if you shut yourself off or not. We’re not made of glass, and each one of these experiences we go through, each beautiful painting we allow ourselves to see, each walk we take in the forest, these all make us better artists. It’s not about sitting in your room and going over the text for hours and thinking about what each word could possible mean. Yes, that is part of the job and part of what we do, but it’s about living. Your hurt is going to be different from someone else’s hurt, and your love is going to be different from someone else’s love. At the end of the day, it’s about being naked, absolutely utterly baring all of yourself on stage, in the hopes that somebody out in the audience would be freed from something, or will allow themselves to feel something. It’s not about you on that stage. In order to make your artistry better, you have to live a private life. Fight for your private life. Fight for being with people that make you happy and doing things that make you happy. It does come down to a fight sometimes, but it is worth it. Do you have any last comments or advice to aspiring singers? To all of the young people who are considering this career, I once had a person say to me, “if you can think of anything else you can do and love as much, do it.” I don’t necessarily want to give that same advice because it is so harsh, but I want to say to those people who are embarking on this career to allow yourselves to enjoy it. It is hard. It is lonely. There are setbacks and you will fell like you are being beaten down a lot. But you have to let yourself have the little moments of love, light, joy, and music, and it does make it all worth it. That and keep your receipts, because taxes are a bitch. Taxes are hard. No one ever talks about them when you are a young artists. When you are performing in 4 or 5 different countries in a year, and in 9 different opera and concert venues, taxes are hard and they hurt. Keep those receipts and make those deductions.


Kim Feltkamp

Company Overview New York Opera Exchange began in the Spring of 2011 when a small group of singers collaborated with Maestro Nick Armstrong of the Brooklyn Symphony Orchestra to put on a few concerts of opera scenes. In the Fall of 2012, they expanded and formed the New York Opera Exchange Orchestra, a 35-piece community orchestra that focuses solely on operatic repertoire. They fill a niche in the New York operatic world by providing a space for emerging artists to perform and grow. Their mission is to create performance opportunities with orchestra for young emerging artists who are on the cusp of a professional breakthrough. They strive to make opera accessible for the diverse New York population, cultivating a supportive environment for both the artists and the audience. New York Opera Exchange places its focus on complete preparation of standard repertoire: the music, dramatics, and language necessary to produce relevant, full operatic productions without corrupting the integrity of the original score. They create a quality theatrical experience by utilizing the talents of theatre directors, dramaturges, and designers. The company’s Board of Directors includes Artistic Director Justin Werner, Musical Director Alden Gatt, Associate Artist Director Rebecca Marie Stump, and General Manager Francesca Reindel.


Review New York Opera Exchange, a relatively new opera company based in New York City, presented Don Giovanni as their full production of the 2012-2013 season. The brutally alluring set, comprised simply of a black wall with a bleeding red “VIVA la LIBERTÀ” in the upper left corner, worked well for this down-to-earth 1960s version of Mozart’s classic opera. Director Jennifer Shorstein used her limited space well, moving furniture into and out of the space as needed. She also highlighted the stark red text by creating poignant tableaus with her singers in front of it. A strong cast and a full-bodied orchestra drove the piece and gave Mozart’s work the power it deserves. Maestro David Leibowitz conducted the New York Opera Exchange Orchestra with gusto and style. The strings and winds were especially expressive and the keyboardists did well to simulate the harpsichord in the secco recitative. The recitative was, at times, a bit fast, but it always served to move the story. Production-appropriate supertitles helped to further transmit the story to the audience in real-time. A well-cast Don Giovanni, Leporello, Donna Anna, and Zerlina effectively drew the audience into the story. Nicholas A. Wiggins used the power and allure of his baritone voice to bring Don Giovanni to life onstage. His ease of movement and acting complimented his compelling and beautiful instrument. He sang equally well in the commanding, fast-paced “Finch’han dal vino” and the seductive “Deh, vieni, alla finestra.” Andrew Hiers’ comic and richly resonant Leporello played well against Wiggins’ Don Giovanni. Kaley Lynn Söderquist’s Donna Anna remained

captivating from beginning to end. Her intense and intimate use of Da Ponte’s text brought a much-needed vitality to Donna Anna’s character. Ms. Söderquist’s commendable stage presence was enhanced by her unique, metallic voice that unfailingly bloomed expressively at the top. Sydnee Waggoner brought a new warmth and charm to Zerlina with her pretty, multilayered voice. An exquisite actress, Ms. Waggoner won the empathy and interest of the audience immediately. Rebecca Shorstein committed to the role of Donna Elvira, but her voice may have been miscast. Its brilliance would have been displayed better in a higher role. Brian Michael Moore sang a dependable Don Ottavio, expertly navigating the treacherously difficult “Il mio tesoro.” He showed an ease in the high tessitura of the role and sang with a lovely resonance. As Masetto, Jacob S. Louchheim looked and acted the part well, bringing a vast amount of sexuality and magnetism to Jennifer Shorstein’s superb staging of “Batti, batti.” Unfortunately, his voice was sometimes covered by the orchestra. Paul Khuri Yakub provided the necessary strong presence needed for the Commendatore and the chorus members sang solidly, supplying excitement to the scene whenever present. The production worked well overall, adding subtle, rather than overbearing, adjustments to the story. The characterizations were strong and welldefined throughout and the motif of patriotism brought a nice coherency to the production. New York Opera Exchange supplied Manhattan with a well-executed and well-cast Don Giovanni. It served to showcase new talent and bring New Yorkers out for a great night of opera.


Note from the editor: This article contains emotionally sensitive material, including details in connection with the Holocaust. It should also be noted that views published in the magazine do not necessarily reflect those of the editor or publisher.

Risky Regie: Musings on the Nazi Tannhäuser Harry Rose days ago that the remainder of the production’s run would be cancelled and, instead, the rest of the performances would be in concert form without. Comparatively speaking, the online opera community knows next to nothing about this production. We know some of the more offensive things and the negative reception of the director, but we don’t know much more than that. There’s no way to know if the staging was effective or not, and since it was cancelled after opening night, we probably never will. So working from what we do know, there are quite a few ways to feel about this cancellation. Many people were thrilled that something so offensive was cancelled. The Holocaust was a recent event in our history and a black mark on humanity’s report card. It’s hard for me to fathom the extreme dedication to evil that would prompt the violent genocide of so many millions of people. I have many classmates who can trace a family member to a concentration camp and some of those people are survivors. To put something that would be such a trigger for anyone whose life was impacted by an event as graphic and horrendous as the Holocaust seems egregious. Humanity isn’t far enough away from the event. Hundreds of generations have not passed to “distance ourselves” from the material. One could argue that this type of production doesn’t belong onstage, especially in Germany. In fact, one of my biggest questions is: how did this production even make it to opening night in

There’s one thing that never fails to bring the global community of opera lovers to butt heads: Regietheater. It is a German operatic artistic movement where the performance is dominated by the choices of the director. Everything else, including staging directions or intentions indicated in the score or libretto, takes the back seat. Some Regie productions are thoughtprovoking and intense, but others are blurry and seem like an excuse for the director to put a load of random junk on the stage. Regie is edgy. Most Regie productions consistently push the envelope of what is appropriate to stage. Some Americans cringe at the mere mention of the word, but in Germany, it is commonplace. Its slow diffusion into the United States is a prevalent and immediate example of the swiftly changing landscape of opera in the Unites States. However, a recent incident at the Oper am Rhein in Dusseldorf has tested the boundaries of just how edgy opera can be. Over the past few weeks, Oper am Rhein presented a Regie production of Richard Wagner’s opera, Tannhäuser. The production, by Burkhard Kosminski, was set in a concentration camp in Nazi Germany. Certain directorial “nuances” included the shooting of a presumably Jewish family and the killing of many people onstage with gas chambers during the overture. The director was booed extensively on the opening night and there were reports of people who needed psychological help after watching the performance. It was announced a few


day society. If companies like the Met aren’t doing so well, imagine how companies that you’ve never heard of are doing. It’s wise for Oper am Rhein to give in to public demand and cancel a production that most people are firmly against. With that in mind, isn’t all press good press? Wouldn’t people flock from all over to see a production of an opera that put people in the hospital? Isn’t it human nature to want to see what all the fuss is about? While I can’t pick a certain side or viewpoint in this debate, I think it’s important that we don’t condemn certain productions, or even Regietheater in general, before we see it. The only people who saw this Tannhäuser were those in the opening night audience. There were only a select few to give opinions from an objective standpoint. It is productions like this that are defining future opera productions. What is and isn’t meant for the stage? These boundaries are being pushed every second of every day. Without a doubt, there could well be productions of Tosca set during China’s Cultural Revolution or The Marriage of Figaro in Berlusconi’s Italy. Opera will become more and more of a place for social commentary. But isn’t that why an opera like Nabucco was written? “Va Pensiero” was seen as an anthem for Italian liberation. When opera stands for something that’s bigger than all of us and represents the ideas and honesties of modern society, that is when we can be assured that opera will not die. But until then, there’s no way of knowing what will happen.

a country this is so sensitive to its recent history? Someone deep in the heart of Oper an Rhein agreed with Kosminski and thought that this was a good idea. There were people who signed the paperwork and told people to design the sets and sew the costumes. Those people probably had a say in the functioning of the company as well. Just as easily as a company can contract a director, they can drop them. What happened to artistic integrity and the underlying belief in what you produce? The producer refused to tone down some of the graphic imagery after people complained, but why should he have? Who is running the opera companies these days anyway, the actual administrative staff or the public? As huge a disaster as Robert Lepage’s Ring Cycle production at the Met was, I gained a lot of respect for Gelb when he stood by Lepage and his production when the public was firmly against it. There is no defense for Kosminski. It’s not Oper am Rhein that is going to be receiving death threats, it’s going to be Burkhard Kosminski. He was, in true operatic style, seduced and abandoned by an opera company that once supported him. I hope that Kosminski takes this to court, since the company obviously shut down something that was contractually agreed upon in advance. At the same time, have you ever heard of Oper am Rhein in a global setting? It’s definitely not an international house and it stands somewhere between a national house and a regional company. This was the first time I had heard of the company making any type of international news. Opera is a struggling art form in our modern

Harry Rose ( is a 15 year old opera fanatic. When he's not at the opera, he can usually be found Tweeting or browsing the Met archives. He aspires to run the Met one day, but is content with blogging… For now. 14

Come Scoglio A drama giocoso in three acts* K. A. Feltkamp

About the Author Kim Feltkamp is a mezzo-soprano currently pursuing her MM at Bard College in Dawn Upshaw’s Vocal Arts Program. She has been part of the online opera community as OperaRox, providing interactive opera liveshows and contests to educate and unite the opera community. She is also a published writer. You can find her at OperaRox, Kimozart, and her professional website.

Note from the Author I wrote this story to depict, as closely as possible, the people and events in Mozart’s life when he was at the height of his compositional success. The people in this novella all really lived and had personalities close to the characters portrayed here. This is a work of fiction, but the goal was to remain as close to history as possible. I took the time to read countless letters, journal entries, autobiographies, and the like, not only to capture the true essence of the people in the story, but also to get all the facts and dates straight. Many of the things said or alluded to by the characters are directly from these sources. The one exception to this is the narrator, Louise Villeneuve. History tells us what and where she sang, but not who she was. Therefore, I have taken some license in regard to the narrator and her connection to the composer, especially in ways which strengthen the plot. In short, everything relating to Ms. Villeneuve is completely from my imagination. I have made educated guesses from what others said about her, which is very little, and from the music that Mozart wrote for her, which tells us a bit more. Therefore, this story is a conglomerate of sorts, as all fiction tends to be, but there is a great deal of truth in it. I hope you enjoy the ride and learn a little of who Mozart truly was and what he experienced as a composer and a man. *continued series. Previous chapters can be found in earlier issues of Opera21. 15

October 1789 The premiere of I due baroni finished splendidly. I soon found myself in my favorite state of being: drowning in new music. I’ve never learned music so quickly. While I was performing I due baroni, I was preparing for my run of Martin y Soler’s Il burbero di buon core. Mozart surprised me with not one but two new arias for that opera. He sent them in the mail with a letter apologizing for their existence. Apologizing! Apparently he “couldn’t help but write them.” He is a very strange man at times. I sent him a letter relaying my elation. They are the dearest things I could ever receive. Music for the new opera, Cosi fan tutte, also started coming in the mail. Mozart would send an aria one day, an ensemble piece another. There were already duets and a trio and a sextet. I couldn’t believe how fast he was writing this music! And it was all sparkled with that life that I could only associate with Mozart. However, music was not the only thing coming in the mail. I received my usual letters from my mother in September, but with the start of October, her letters stopped. Instead, a good friend of the family was writing them, updating me on my mother’s condition. She had become too sick to write herself. The letters urged me to leave Vienna and return home. The doctors weren’t giving my mother much time to live. I still had rehearsals and performances to attend. I had a living to make. But my mother, my last living parent, was dying. Suddenly my career didn’t seem so important. I had to go home.


November 19, 1789 I gathered my shawl about me. The stark cold of the Stephansdom bit into my ankles. The huge, reaching walls didn’t comfort me as I’d hoped they would. They were intimidating, overbearing. How friendly the Stephansdom had seemed only a month before. I looked up at the tall windows. Were they pointing to Heaven? Were they pointing to Mother? Grieving had been easier with my family and friends around me. But here, back in Vienna, mourning was a lonely business. My insides withered within me. At any moment, I could just fall over and disappear into nothing. Where is my strength? I wondered. I’d had it when I left home to pursue my career. I’d had it when I lived all alone for so long, making new friends and then leaving them when my work called me to another city. I should have broken long ago. But something always kept me together, kept me going forward. Where was that now? I shuffled in the pew of the empty church. Perhaps there was someone around somewhere. Right behind the baptistery door, there could be someone going about their daily work, content and satisfied and ready to listen to me. But, no. There was only silence and emptiness and the loss that ate away at my heart. My gaze moved to the cross that hung at the front—the cross that Mozart had stared at so desperately, pleading soundlessly for the life of his wife. Constanze! How could I have forgotten her? I wondered how she was doing. Surely, she must have recovered. She couldn’t be cut off so young. And the baby she carried. Mozart’s baby… There was a sound at the back of the church. The great doors opened, and then closed. Lowheeled shoes clicked and echoed, the sound flying to the top of the high ceiling and then returning to the ground from whence it came. I gathered my shawl closer, but curiosity and a deep loneliness turned my gaze toward the back of the church. And who but Mozart! His expression was drawn and he looked worse than ever. His sorrow sent pangs of sympathetic pain through my heart. I imagined the worst. He seemed lost, not noticing anything except the door to the stairs that led to the organ. He pushed through the door and I heard his steps as he raced up the stairs. Music engulfed me. It filled the church, touching every part, pushing into every crevice. Its palpability stunned me. I felt as though I were witnessing that account from the Old Testament when God’s presence filled the temple like smoke. The music seeped into me, flowing in through my skin and wrapping itself around my heart. Tears came effortlessly and continued even after the music ended. I have no idea how much time passed before he stopped and my sob escaped into the silence. Mozart stood at the edge of the balcony, looking down and seeing me for the first time. “Madame Villeneuve?” he asked. I didn’t answer. He rushed down the stairs, and the steps were so fast that I could imagine that he was constantly a hairbreadth away from tripping and breaking his neck. He was suddenly beside me and his presence felt intensely real because I’d been alone for so long. “Louise,” he murmured, taking my hand. The sound of my Christian name was surprising yet comforting. I didn’t object. I tried to stop crying but found that I could not.


“What are you doing here?” he asked. “When did you get here? What’s happened?” “I was here when you came in,” I said, my words broken from all the crying. “You should have called out for me,” he said. “You don’t have to sit here alone. And you’re upset, dear one. What’s happened?” I hesitated. His affection was unexpected but welcome. I decided to open up to him. “I’ve just returned from France,” I said. “My mother passed away a little over a week ago.” “I’m sorry,” he said. The sincerity in his voice touched me. “And what of you?” I asked. “Why are you here?” Mozart dropped his gaze, staring at my hand instead of my face. “Unfortunately we are in the same situation. I have lost someone as well.” The huge cathedral suddenly seemed very small. I thought I’d suffocate from the pressure. “Constanze!?” “No. Thanks be to God, no. We lost Anna, our baby.” “I’m sorry.” “I just received the letter today,” he said. “But Constanze…” “Is still ill in Baden,” he said. “I can only hope for her recovery.” He looked up to the front of the church. He said in a whisper, “Would God do that to me? I have already lost my mother and father. Would He take my wife as well? Who then would I have in all the world?” Silence fell in the great cathedral. His question hung in the air, threatening to tear his world apart. I didn’t know what to say. “It’s amazing how everything can change,” he said. “I once thought that music was the most important thing in my life. But when I think of losing Constanze… Will music be able to save me? Will it matter to me anymore when she’s gone? What is the use of talent if you’re all alone in the universe?” He looked at me and the intensity in his eyes shocked me. There was a great depth there and I wasn’t sure how to handle it. I couldn’t hold his gaze. He looked at me for a long time. “It seems that we are in the same place,” he said. “At least God has given us one another.” There was a touch of dry lips on my cheek, a nose pressed against my cheekbone. Then Mozart withdrew his hand from mine and slipped away like some mythological creature returning to its proper realm. And I was alone in the church once more, feeling different from when I had first walked in.


December 31, 1789 I stepped carefully from the carriage, picking straw from the bottom of my skirt as I made my way towards Mozart’s place. The bricks in the carriage had been sufficiently warm for my cold feet and the straw clinging to my skirt was a small price to pay for the comfort it had helped to provide. Snow also caught on the bottom of my dress as I made my way for the door. There was a soft dusting, decorating the town for New Year’s Eve. Twilight was just beginning, combining with the snow to create a truly romantic view. I heard gay clavier music from the second-floor apartment and smiled. I knocked on the door and was shown in. Mozart greeted me with a bright smile and quickly apologized for Constanze’s absence. I’d visited her since she’d come home so I wasn’t so pressed to see her at the moment. The doctors were certain that she’d recover. Mozart’s usual joviality had reappeared at her return and I saw it as he stood there, smiling at me and babbling about the rehearsal to come. This was to be the first full musical run-through of his Cosi and he was nearly bursting with excitement. Only Signor da Ponte and La Ferrarese arrived before me. They both greeted me pleasantly, although I’m sure the soprano’s smile was more patronizing than sincere. The others straggled in over the next twenty minutes: there was Pietro and Vincenzo and, fashionably late as usual, the Bussanis. When all the coats and gloves and hats had been collected and everyone had dug up their music, we all stood around Mozart’s clavier. Signor da Ponte sat a little ways off in one of the parlor chairs. Mozart took out his score and arranged it carefully on his stand. “I’ll speed through the overture for you so you can hear it,” he said. He started to play in a frolicsome C major. “These opening chords are full orchestra and then there’s a solo oboe,” he explained. “These little runs are pianissimo strings and here we have an exchange between the strings and the oboe.” His fingers flew over the instrument, playing many different parts simultaneously. He was arranging it as he went, simply picking out lines from the orchestral score. I was amazed by all this, but most of all by the fact that the orchestral score was pristine. It didn’t have one scribble or cross-out. It looked as though he had simply copied it from elsewhere. I almost couldn’t believe it. I focused on the music. The overture seemed a bit heartless to me. This began to cast a different light on my concept of the opera. The music was more complex than the plot required. There was something going on under the surface. I couldn’t describe what it was exactly, but I could feel it and I just knew that something, something deep, was creeping under the surface of a seemingly superficial opera. “Listen to this little motive here,” the composer said as he neared the end of the overture. “Signor Bussani, do you recognize it?” “It’s one of my lines,” Francesco Bussani replied. “And what are the words there?” Mozart pressed. “’Cosi fan tutte.’” “Exactly!” Mozart nearly shouted. “Isn’t that marvelous? Here’s this five-note motive in the overture and the audience won’t know its significance until the very end of the opera when Signor Bussani here sings it to our poor lovers.” “Let’s get on with it,” La Ferrarese whined. I knew that she didn’t come in, and neither did I,


until the fourth number of the opera. That was enough to make her impatient. Mozart ignored her. The overture finished and he moved on. The opera started with a trio between the three men. Vincenzo’s voice filled the small room, singing of Dorabella’s faithfulness. I smiled at the mention of my character’s name. Pietro joined in, followed by Signor Bussani. Vincenzo was definitely my favorite voice among the three, although Pietro was incredible as well. I listened to the blend of the men’s voices and pleasure glowed in me. The men continued, alternating between recitative and trio for the first three numbers. I was hearing all of this music for the first time and I found that I liked it. The melodies were fun and beautiful, even when the men were in disagreement. Then Mozart began to play music that I recognized. There was a long introduction to my first duet with La Ferrarese. La Ferrarese sang the part of Fiordiligi, my slightly nobler sister. I mused on how the casting had turned out. Had our parts been switched, they would have been much more accustomed to our true natures. La Ferrarese is much more of a Dorabella than I’ll ever be. “This is all swishing strings,” Mozart said as he played the elaborate introduction. “Very pretty music. But that’s all it is.” La Ferrarese started first, singing in her usual braggart way. I’ve never been impressed by her voice. I really don’t understand what everyone sees in her. We sang the difficult duet, the music showing off our personal strengths. The string of parallel thirds made me want to laugh. How concisely Mozart had illustrated the relationship between these sisters! They sang together, but they were really worlds apart. The harmony was superficial, shallow. So was their relationship. It won’t take much for it all to fall apart. But that was yet to come. The opera continued, the music unfolding faster than I’d expected. I tried to absorb as much as I could, but it was impossible to get everything. How exciting it was, to stand there and experience an opera being born. To have the composer sitting at the clavier, narrating and coaching… It was too much. I felt that I must be the luckiest person alive. There was an abundance of ensemble numbers. I had to sing romantic things to Vincenzo, who was playing my lover. It was so amusing. Vincenzo and I kept smiling at each other, constantly on the verge of laughter. He made a goofy face after our tearful parting in the ninth number and I could hardly contain myself. La Ferrarese wrinkled her nose at me and muttered, “Such professionalism.” She shot Vincenzo a disdainful look and that made me want to laugh all the more. My first aria came and I got through it. I’d studied that one for a long time before I really got it. Mozart had written some challenging music for me. I’d have to thank him for that. The funniest part about that aria was the fact that the musical and textual histrionics reminded me so much of La Ferrarese. I wondered if Mozart was thinking of her when he wrote it. Signora Bussani sang her first aria, a folksy little ditty that I knew would easily get stuck in my head once we started rehearsals in earnest. She was playing Despina, the maid, and I could tell that she wasn’t totally thrilled with her role. She’d been standing there sulking while she waited for her first entrance. Even now she sang her music moodily as though the whole ordeal were beneath her. Personally, I thought the role fit her perfectly. Despina was a schemer, as was Signor Bussani’s character, Don Alfonso. Signor da Ponte must have known that they’d be cast and written parts that revealed their true colors. I decided that da Ponte and Mozart must have done it on purpose.


The first piece of music that really stood out for me was La Ferrarese’s big aria. A dramatic accompanied recitative set it up and then the aria launched, grounded in the heroic key of B-flat major. “Come scoglio,” Fiordiligi sang. Like a rock. She went on, explaining that she’d stand firm against all temptations and be eternally faithful to her beloved. The aria was stunning. It leapt all over the place. La Ferrarese was forced to continually change registers. She hit a high B-flat a few times. Her intense voice rattled the bones in my face. The aria climaxed with a wild burst of fioritora (which La Ferrarese partially faked). The music intensified right up to the end, ending majestically. It was all so ironic when you knew that Fiordiligi would soon betray her beloved Guglielmo. The one thing about the aria that surprised me most of all was its vast amount of similarities to the “Alma grande” that Mozart had written for me those few months before. There were a few phrases that were exactly the same. And to top it all, they were both written in the same key. How strange! I resolved to ask Mozart about that later. The Act I finale was great fun to sing. It started out as a duet with La Ferrarese and shifted around until finally it was a sextet and everyone was singing. I couldn’t believe how Mozart handled all the voices and all the characters. There wasn’t a point when someone was out of his or her element dramatically or vocally. The music and its complexity completely astounded me. I could hardly assemble thoughts to describe it. The second act moved along much faster. My second aria, also difficult, went smoothly. Mozart smiled as I sang the rollicking tune. I smiled and kept my laughter at bay as well. The aria was tantalizingly ironic and I loved every moment of it. Mozart and Signor da Ponte obviously added this aria after they knew I’d be singing the role because it made me out to be Amore. Anyone who knew me or had seen me in L’arbore di Diana would most likely get the joke as well. The irony and jokes never cease with Mozart. That’s one of the reasons that I enjoy him as much as I do. Chills ran up my spine as we sang the final sextet. Something about the music was haunting. For a moment, I was ill at ease. What was it about this music that bothered me? The plot seemed frivolous enough. At times, it was downright ridiculous. But the music was not. There was something serious lurking under the surface. But what? And why? This enigma puzzled me for some time. After we finished the run-through, Mozart broke out the champagne. It was almost midnight. We celebrated as one should on New Year’s Eve. Wine was brought out and Mozart sat back down at the clavier to create slightly less profound music. La Ferrarese and Signora Bussani celebrated perhaps a bit too much. However, they were more civil to one another when drunk than when sober so I didn’t have any quarrels with their decision to become inebriated. I sat around and chatted with Vincenzo and joined in with the music-making. Pietro sang so loud that the people in the first floor apartment sent their maid up to complain. The night ended nicely and everyone went home happy. The only strange thing about the party was that I kept catching Mozart looking over at me. The expression in his eyes was furtive yet innocent…pleading almost—like a small child that follows you around, constantly pulling on your skirts and asking over and over again if you love them. Still, I so much wanted to discuss the opera with Mozart. After everyone had said their goodbyes, I finally got him to myself. He seemed just as eager to speak to me. The first words out of his mouth were,


“What did you think? You know how important your opinion is to me.” “I must say that I like the music much better than the libretto,” I said. “I love the little arias you wrote for me.” Mozart made a strange face at this comment. “What was that for?” I asked. “Unfulfilled hopes,” he answered. “Do you want the truth about this?” “Of course.” He took a deep breath, then leaned in toward me. “I have a confession,” he began. “You may have noticed something…interesting about La Ferrarese’s first aria.” “’Come scoglio’?” “Yes.” “I did notice that you used a good amount of material from my ‘Alma grande,’” I said. He shook his head. “I knew that nothing would escape you.” He smiled endearingly at me. “To tell you the truth,” he continued, “I couldn’t get you out of my head when I was composing this opera. Your energy is in it all. I put some of your spirit into Dorabella, but I couldn’t think of La Ferrarese when I was writing her music. Your voice was ever in my head, inspiring the music that you heard tonight. If only you had been cast as Fiordiligi…” I wasn’t sure how to respond to that. First of all, I felt a deep honor, but after that something else…unbelief? I decided to change the subject. “I wish Constanze had been well enough to get out of bed,” I said. “She would have loved to hear that. And I would have loved to see her.” “She told me that she missed you while she was away,” he said. “Of course I had to coerce her into saying that she missed me.” “I’m sure she missed you deeply. She just doesn’t like to admit it.” He nodded, saying, “She doesn’t like to admit to anything.” He paused, then said, “I’m just glad that she’s home.” “Me, too.” Our conversation faded into more objective topics. We sat talking for some time; I was so enrapt in our discussion that I lost track of time. His intelligence and general exuberance kept me intensely interested in everything that he said. It was only when Constanze stepped blithely into the room, pulling a long night-robe around her waist, that I looked up at the clock. “Wolferl,” she said, her voice soft with half-sleep. “It is so late. You must go to bed.” Then she saw me and seemed a bit surprised. “Louise,” she said as a way of greeting. There was something tentative in her voice. Mozart rushed over to her. “Darling, you shouldn’t be up; you should be in bed.” “As should you,” she said. “I shudder when I think how you cared for yourself while I was gone.” “What would I do without you?” he said lightly, kissing her hair. “Now, back to bed. I’ll be in once I see Mademoiselle Villeneuve off.” “I apologize for staying so long,” I said. “I had no idea it was so late.”


“It’s quite all right,” Mozart said. “I lost track of the time myself. It is New Year’s Eve after all.” “Just come,” Constanze said to him. Then to me: “Goodnight. We’ll talk soon.” “Feel better,” I said and she disappeared into the hallway. “Poor dear,” Mozart murmured. “She is still so upset. I hate to think of her when it had all first happened. It is unfortunate that we were separated at so crucial a moment…” Then, as though remembering himself, he straightened up and said, “I’ll get your things so you can go. The maid has been in bed for hours.” He disappeared down the hall and I had a moment to simply stand and absorb the atmosphere of the room. How many fun evenings I had spent here! Everything was just as I’d first known it: piles of music hiding in corners and under chairs, Mozart’s clavier with its cover half on, the writing desk with the ink spill on it… I realized that I’d come to love the place. It felt like home. Mozart came back, my coat hanging over his arm. He helped me put it on, then handed me my gloves. He seemed as though in a daze. “Goodnight,” I said, putting on my gloves. “Goodnight,” he said, bringing his focus back on me. He kissed my hand and saw me to the door.


May 2013  

Richard Wagner

May 2013  

Richard Wagner