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A Mostly Mozart Primer

Whether you're an opera buff, a pianophile, a dance maven, or simply a lover of meat-and-potatoes symphonies and concertos, there's something for everyone at the 37th annual Mostly Mozart Festival. Consult our one-stop guide for what to listen for in the 2003 Festival.


Il re pastore
August 12, 14, 16 at 8pm
LaGuardia Concert Hall

It used to be that New Yorkers had to leave town in order to get their operatic fix during the month of August. This year, however, Mostly Mozart is presenting its first staged opera with Mozart's pastoral "Il re pastore" (The Shepherd King). Written when Mozart was just 19, the plot may be a little shopworn (an Enlightenment riff on noble duty verses the innocence of pastoral life) but it includes several fine arias, including "L'amero, saro costante." This Mark Lamos production stars soprano Heidi Grant Murphy, tenor Mark Padmore, and the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra under the baton of Nicholas McGegan.

Vocal Fireworks:

David Daniels, countertenor
August 17 at 5pm
Alice Tully Hall

Anyone who thinks that the sound of a countertenor is by definition effeminate should go hear David Daniels, an artist who has reinvigorated this once esoteric vocal category with scrupulous musicality, range and power. Here he joins forces with guitarist Craig Ogden for a recital of works by Bellini, Dowland, Purcell, Bernstein and Kander, plus traditional Spanish songs.

Up-and-Coming Maestro:

Philippe Jordan, conductor
With Leila Josefowicz and Susan Graham and the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra
August 8 & 9 at 8pm
Avery Fisher Hall

While all eyes are on Mostly Mozart's new music director, the French conductor Louis Langree, another young maestro merits attention this season. Philippe Jordan, a 28-year-old Swiss conductor, was the youngest-ever music director of a major Austrian opera company. He currently conducts at two houses in Graz, and has a busy international touring schedule. His high-energy style suggests Leonard Bernstein at his most kinetic, and his sensitivity to soloists should be on display here as he leads mezzo-soprano Susan Graham in arias by Handel and Gluck, and the violinist Leila Josefowicz in Mozart's Violin Concerto No.3 in G.

Back-to-Back Piano Phenomena:

Peter Serkin
August 19 and 20 at 8pm
Avery Fisher Hall
Leif Ove Andsnes
August 21 at 8pm
Alice Tully Hall

The affable thirty-two-year-old Norwegian pianist Leif Ove Andsnes (pictured) has rapidly established himself as one of the finest pianists of his generation. Here his stylish musicality and poised technique should admirably serve concertos by Mozart and Haydn. A generation Andsnes' elder, Peter Serkin is a probing interpreter whose performances are always imbued with a strong sense of historical awareness. Still, he seldom comes across as overly cerebral, and his emotional connection to Mozart should be on display in the Concerto No. 17 in G major. In sum, two pianist's pianists who are well worth a closer look.

Period-Instrument Performance without Mustiness:

Europa Galante
Fabio Biondi, conductor and violinist
August 7 at 8pm
Alice Tully Hall

This period instrument band, directed by Fabio Biondi, has made some zesty recordings for EMI Classics, and returns to the festival with the U.S. Premiere of Alessandro Scarlatti's sacred oratorio La Santissima Trinita. A quintet of vocal soloists will take center stage, but don't take your ears off Biondi, whose enthusiasm and virtuosity has made him a leading figure in the international period-instrument scene.

Modern Dance:

Mark Morris Dance Group
August 6, 7, and 8 at 8pm
New York State Theater

Few dance troupes so brilliantly fuse 19th century music with witty, fresh and profoundly humanistic choreography as the Mark Morris Dance Group. The ensemble returns to the festival this year with four pieces: "V," set to Schumann's Piano Quintet, Bedtime" with music by Schubert, "Gloria" with music by Vivaldi, and "A Spell" featuring music by John Wilson. Kent Tritle will conduct the The Dessoff Choirs. With soprano Christine Brandes and mezzo-soprano Kristine Jepson.

Family Fare:

Green Eggs and Hamadeus
Robert Kapilow, commentator
August 9 at 2pm and 4pm
Alice Tully Hall

The lilting musicality of Dr. Seuss's verse in "Green Eggs and Ham" finds a natural counterpart in Mozart's "Eine kleine Nachtmusik," as this comedic chamber opera by composer Robert Kapilow demonstrates. The program stars the 12-year-old Nicholas King (who played Chip in Broadway's "Beauty and the Beast") as well as a chamber orchestra and soprano Sherry Boone. A perfect way to introduce the pre-teen set to the classics.

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