Arts & Events

West Edge Opera offers an evening of Mozart's Vienna

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Friday July 28, 2017 - 03:38:00 PM

On Saturday, July 22, West Edge Opera presented an evening of music by Mozart and his contemporaries. This concert was held at Dashe Cellars, an Oakland winery. The performers in this concert will be heard again in West Edge Opera’s forthcoming season, which will include L’Arbole di Diana/The Chastity Tree by Vicente Martin y Soler, Hamlet by Ambroise Thomas, and Frankenstein by Libby Larsen. 

Making his American debut was German bass-baritone Malte Roesner, who will later perform the role of Doristo in The Chastity Tree. Making her West Coast premiere was soprano Aurora Perry, who recently became the wife of Malte Roesner. Tenor Samuel Levine will later take the title role in Libby Larsen’s Frankenstein. Finally, Robert Mollicone performed as piano accompanist at this concert and he will later conduct The Chastity Tree.  

The July 22 program at Dashe Cellars focused on music involving Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, the librettist Lorenzo da Ponte, and composers Antonio Salieri, Franz Xaver Süssmayr, Vicente Martin y Soler, Maria Theresia von Paradis, and, last but not least, Ludwig van Beethoven. All of these remarkable individuals were active in Vienna during Mozart’s lifetime and often collaborated with Mozart in one way or another. Thus, this concert was dubbed “Mozart and Friends.” 

First on the program was a series of songs by Vicente Martin y Soler, a Spanish composer best known perhaps for his opera Una cosa rara, a brief passage of which features in the banquet scene in Mozart’s Don Giovanni. In Soler’s Songs for Miss Miller, the lyrics are by Lorenzo da Ponte. Soprano Aurora Perry offered a lively, richly expressive performance of these five songs. Next came bass-baritone Malte Roesner singing three songs by Franz Xaver Süssmayr, a composer best known as Mozart’s copyist and the man chosen by Mozart’s widow, Constanze, to complete Mozart’s unfinished Requiem after his death. With his dark-toned bass-baritone, Malte Roesner excelled in the Süssmayr songs. 

A change of pace was offered by pianist Robert Mollicone, who performed Beethoven’s Variations for piano on a theme from Süssmayr’s opera Soliman II oder die drei Sultaninnen. True to form, this instrumental work by Beethoven was the most musically complex piece of the entire program, exquisitely performed here by Robert Mollicone. Following the Beethoven came three songs in German by Antonio Salieri, sung here in duets by Samuel Levine and Aurora Perry, whose voices blended nicely. Then Aurora Perry sang four songs by Mozart. Especially lively was the fourth and final song, Die Veilchen/The Violet.  

Next we heard three songs by Maria Theresia von Paradis, a noted Viennese woman composer and virtuoso instrumentalist on violin and piano. These Songs for the Duchess of Saxony were elegantly sung by tenor Samuel Levine. Finally, all three singers joined in to perform Songs and Duets for the Princess of Wales by Vicente Martin y Soler. And, finally, the singers performed a canon by Martin y Soler in which they plead, “We sang for you. Now we want to be paid, for we must eat!” 

On this humorous note, which suggested to the audience that they might wish to contribute to the West Edge Opera coffers, the evening’s musical program came to a close, though audience and performers alike then gathered to eat delicious cheeses and drink refreshing wines courtesy of Dashe Cellars.