Review: Soprano and CPO team up for a magical Mozart evening

Opera music

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We do not generally place Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in the company of composers like John Williams, Hans Zimmer, Howard Shore or Henry Manzini. But in one case, this is appropriate: Mozart provided the film music for the famous biopic of his life, the movie Amadeus. And what film music it is!

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Despite its many excellences in plot, characters and scenery, for many it is the music most remembered from this award-winning film. And whether it’s the music of Mozart or the fame of the film, last weekend’s two CPO Mozart concerts and the movie Amadeus were sold out at the Jack Singer Concert Hall.

Resident conductor Karl Hirzer led the proceedings. Now perfectly seasoned through numerous performances in the widest range of programs, Hirzer is by no means a substitute or palliative conductor; he is a fully developed musician with his own ideas and with the ability to lead a professional symphony orchestra with confidence and competence.

The performances of overtures and arias conducted by Hirzer were the work of a very cultured musician who knows his scores, has interesting musical ideas and can transmit them to an orchestra. A constant competence, raised here and there with brilliance were the key words of this very beautiful concert very appreciated.

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The program featured three Mozart opera overtures. After each, there was also an aria from the opera, sung by guest soprano Anna-Sophie Neher. Neher is a member of the Canadian Opera Company Studio Ensemble, a program similar to our own Emerging Artist program with the Calgary Opera. Both programs provide advanced training for promising singers who may be able to move from “promising” work to “important professional work”.

Canadian soprano Anna-Sophie Neher joined the Calgary Philharmonic for a Mozart interpretation of the film Amadeus.  Courtesy of Andréanne Gauthier
Canadian soprano Anna-Sophie Neher joined the Calgary Philharmonic for a Mozart interpretation of the film Amadeus. Courtesy of Andréanne Gauthier jpg

The opera world is so competitive these days that even very good singers are often not able to take that final step. Good sopranos cost a dime in the opera world, and a singer needs an above average quality voice and a little something extra to be able to stand out. While it’s impossible to know what the future holds for Neher, I’ll venture to guess that she will.

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In the four arias that Neher sang, she turned out to be a real Mozartian. His handling of musical style, whether in fast or slow tunes, was perfect, with his clear and convincing vocal timbre and with remarkably true pitch. Her predominantly light voice still has power, and she succeeded in both floating notes and brilliant quick passages with authority and poise. It was a song of a very high order.

From The Marriage of Figaro, Neher sang the aria from Susanna’s fourth act, Deh vieni non tardar, an extended aria requiring considerable vocal control and requiring subtle characterization. All these things were present here and also in the following Carino Vedrai of Don Giovanni. Neher was equally good in Pamina’s Ach, Ich fühl from The Magic Flute, one of Mozart’s most touching soprano arias and a famous audition piece for showing vocal control at the top and bottom of the range. soprano.

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And as the final number, Neher offered a virtuoso centerpiece, Voi avete un cor fedele, an aria insert that Mozart wrote during his years in Salzburg for a visiting soprano. Alternately expressive and brilliant, the aria demands a soprano with highly cultivated vocal technique, which Neher clearly possesses. His contribution to the evening was considerable and was recognized by a warmly appreciated audience. Neher is a soprano to watch.

The orchestra played the overtures of the three operas with precision and momentum, the overture of the Figaro and the overture of the Magic Flute, both taken at a sustained rhythm. But nothing in the speed caused difficulty in the orchestra, the playing clean and precise. The Magic Flute Overture was, from a performance standpoint, perhaps the best of the three for my taste, but overall the playing was very good in all of these works.

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Little G minor isn’t heard that often in concerts these days, and it was good to hear it here. In the film, he is presented in a dramatic context that makes the first movement indelible, practically the centerpiece of the film. But the rest of the symphony is fine too, especially the somewhat enigmatic second movement and the “hard” final movements. A delightful moment has come in the trio of the third movement which is composed only for wind instruments, a distinctive moment in the symphony and this performance of it.

Hirzer and the orchestra immersed themselves in the symphony with enthusiasm, the music being sharply characterized and made as lively as in the film. The symphony aptly concluded a concert billed as a tribute to a great film and a chance to question again the genius that was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

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