In truth, I had orchestrated my own disaster. The memory of my eighth-grade field trip kept running through my head. A grumpy conductor had stopped the program in order to lecture our group on the proper etiquette of applause. I decided then and there never to pay good money to be chastised for spontaneous clapping. Twenty years later, I arrived late and frazzled to the small community theater hosting Mozart 101, sparing only a passing frown at the gentleman who had just beaten me to a prime parking space and added three minutes to my tardiness.
The program began with a few words from Opera Omaha General Director John Wehrle introducing a collaborative program between Omaha Conservatory of Music [http://www.omahacm.org] and Opera Omaha. To further this endeavor, two adolescents took the stage against a jumble of props from a recent play. A mannequin dressed in watch-cap and pea-coat watched benevolently as they prepared.
Jennifer and Jehong Ahn communicated with the nods, gestures and eye rolls exclusive to siblings before tucking their instruments under almost identical chins. And then they played. Like a cathartic release, the notes seemed to untangle the complexity of human emotion into pure, harmonic sound. Equally inspiring, Hannah Pinnt Music performed Mozart’s Concerto in D Major with accompanist Dr. Karen Sigers.
I carefully waited until everyone else in the theater began clapping before I joined in the applause.
Then poet Matt Mason entertained the audience with an historical perspective of 18th century poetry. Full of love and loss, tragedy and jealousy, poetry contains many of the same themes today as it did 200 years ago. Inspired by a play, Lorenzo Da Ponte wrote the libretto for The Marriage of Figaro, carefully removing any overt political humor that would alienate Emperor Joseph II, while exploiting current views of the day to entertain his audience.
Garnett Bruce ended the program with music from The Marriage of Figaro, reminding us that the human voice is one of the most beautiful instruments of all. For me, art should always inspire emotion. I wish that I had not been so intimidated all these years. I try to remember this: a true artist is passionate about their work, and a true intellect can converse at any level. Artists who love what they do want to share with you—not exclude you.
After all, art is not about what you wear to the theater, or whether or not the usher is rude to you, or feeling intimidated by a conductor. Opera is about the performance—people who have spent years refining their talent in order to share their passion with an audience. Mozart had a singular talent for creating music that was accessible to everyone. And the more you know, the less likely you are to be intimidated. I hope you’ll join me on December 7th for the next installment of Mozart 101. Performances by the likes of Jennifer, Jehong and Hannah should not be missed!