Tag Archives: Queen of the Night

Mozart Reimagined – Die Zauberflöte

2 Sep

Mozart Reimagined by Tyson Vick will feature photos illustrating Mozart’s “Die Zauberflote”, an amazing fantasy adventure opera.

Mozart Reimagined features six photos by Tyson Vick illustrating the opera Die Zauberflote

Mozart Reimagined features six photos by Tyson Vick illustrating the opera Die Zauberflote

Mozart Reimagined showcases nearly 100 photos that bring to life Mozart’s operas through photography. I spent a decade building props and sets, meeting models and photographing across the country to showcase what Mozart’s music has meant to me. The book also features essays written about each opera from my own unique perspective. The book humorously points out plot-holes, gives insight into past and present performances, recites a little bit of History and overflows with my own passion for the music of Mozart.

Here’s an excerpt from the book which accompanies the Die Zauberflote pictures:

“At the end of nearly every ensemble, the fourth wall is broken as the characters reveal the moral of the story. Here they say, “Only the harmony of friendship can alleviate our hardships; without such sympathy there is no happiness on earth.” The effect is much like a children’s storybook, and makes me think that the target audience for this opera included children, an audience mostly untapped by opera, and, as we know today, the most profitable audience to tap.”

Die Zauberflote Act 1 by Tyson Vick

Die Zauberflote Act 1 by Tyson Vick

The adventuresome Javanese prince is played by the fantastically popular social media icon, Edward Zo who you can follow on Instagram and Youtube to get all of his latest videos, fashion tips, and more. You can see some behind-the-scenes photos of Edward and The Queen of the Night here.

Die Zauberflote Act 1c, by Tyson Vick

Die Zauberflote Act 1c, by Tyson Vick

The most perfectly cast model, a photographer named Jon, portrays Papageno. With him as my bird-man, I really felt my photos coming together. You can get a step-by-step look at how I built the tiny buildings for the photo of Papageno below in this blog post here.

Die Zauberflote, Act 2 by Tyson Vick

Die Zauberflote, Act 2 by Tyson Vick

I’m going to be giving you a preview of photos from every chapter of Mozart Reimagined over the next month, and then it will be time for pre-orders. I will be launching pre-orders on Kickstarter on September 14th, 2015! Until then, I wanted to give you a glimpse of some of the photos and excerpts from the book so you can see what’s in store! Subscribe to the blog for every update, or check back on September 14th for the launch of the book.

Go Behind the Scenes with the Costume Sketches and Concept Art of Tyson Vick’s Photographic Mozart Illustrations

2 Feb

Whenever I take photos with big concepts, I start with concept art and costume sketches. Usually these aren’t so detailed that someone else can interpret them, but they are detailed enough for me to remember what I feel the need to include in an image. There are three types of art I can potentially do in order to help conceive my vision.

1. Costume Sketches

2. Concept Art

3. Thumbnails 

I use these three types of art to help me develop my ideas into costumes, find models and locations and compose images.


First up is a set of thumbnails I drew up for my illustrations of Ascanio in Alba. Interestingly, while I did photograph these things, I did not use any of these ideas in my final photograph.

Ascanio in Alba concept sketches

Ascanio in Alba concept thumbnails

Next is a sketch for Fiordiligi’s costume from the opera “Cosi Fan Tutte”. This character dresses up in her boyfriends military uniform.

Fiordiligi costume art for Cosi Fan Tutte

Fiordiligi costume art for Cosi Fan Tutte

Der Stein der Weisen was a fun opera to bring to life through illustration. Set in a fantastical Asian world, there was a lot to play with.

Der stein der Weisen concept sketch for Genie

Der stein der Weisen concept sketch for Genie

My genie is based off of Buddha and the maidens vying for his bird’s attention were drawn from Chinese inspiration.

Der Stein der Weisen costume concept for maiden

Der Stein der Weisen costume concept for maiden

The thumbnail below is followed by the image I produced.

Der Stein der Weisen concept sketch

Der Stein der Weisen concept sketch

Compare the thumbnail above to the finished image below to see how closely my concepts are followed.

Der Stein der Weisen Act 1. Photo by Tyson Vick. Hair & Make-up by Lizzie Hatfield. Models: Sierra Rae, Meilyn Saychow, Kolya Cain

Der Stein der Weisen Act 1. Photo by Tyson Vick. Hair & Make-up by Lizzie Hatfield. Models: Sierra Rae, Meilyn Saychow, Kolya Cain

Die Schuldigkeit des Ersten Gebots didn’t have such a big concept process, I only needed the thumbnail to get an idea of what I wanted to get out of the final picture.

Die Schuldigkeit des Ersten Gebots concept sketch

Die Schuldigkeit des Ersten Gebots thumbnail sketch

You can compare the thumbnail above to the finished image below.

Die Schuldigkeit des Ersten Gebots, Act 1 by Tyson Vick

Die Schuldigkeit des Ersten Gebots, Act 1 by Tyson Vick

Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail was costumed out of clothes found in my friend and fellow costumer Camille’s closest. I thought about all the pieces she had available, and then combined them on paper as seen below.

A costume sketch based on Camille's costumes and set in the yellow void.

A costume sketch based on Camille’s costumes and set in the yellow void.

Below you can see some of these costumes in the finished image.

Mozart Project. Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail. Photo by Tyson Vick.

Mozart Project. Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail. Photo by Tyson Vick.

The Magic Flute is an opera I have extensively illustrated. When I first heard it, I was inspired to fill an entire sketchbook.

Queen of the Night Drawing

An early drawing of mine, illustrating the Act 1 Aria “O zittre Nicht”

But when I decided to use photography to bring these ideas to life, I did not know anything about costuming. So, I started petty small. I would probably go bigger today, especially with the Queen of the Night.

Papageno concept art

Papageno concept art

My costume ideas of Tamino and the Queen of the Night were based on what I could realistically make at the time.

Costume Sketches

Act 1 Costume Sketches for Tamino and The Queen of the Night

Tamino’s outfit is influenced heavily by Japanese history and video game costumes.

Tamino Costume Sketch for  my Magic Flute photos

Tamino Costume Sketch for my Magic Flute photos

Below you can see the outfit created from the above design.


Papageno was always meant to be a sort of bird version of a faun in my final image. I based his tattoos and look of of the Egyptian art of the Ba Spirit. A half-bird/half person creature represent a person’s soul.

Papageno costume sketch for my Magic Flute photos.

Papageno costume sketch for my Magic Flute photos.

Papageno was brought to life by Jon Sollee in the image below.

Die Zauberflote, Act 2 by Tyson Vick

Die Zauberflote, Act 2 by Tyson Vick

My Don Giovanni costume sketches were fairly blank, mostly focusing on shape.

Donna Elvira costume sketch for my Don Giovanni photos

Donna Elvira costume sketch for my Don Giovanni photos

In the end, Don Giovanni got a much more complicated white doublet, but the same cut still applies.

Don Giovanni costume sketch

Don Giovanni costume sketch

My thumbnails for Don Giovanni, below.

Don Giovanni concept art

Don Giovanni concept art

A set of Il Sogno di Scipione thumbnails.

Il Sogno di Scipone concept art

Il Sogno di Scipone concept art

Don Pippo of L’oca del Cairo and Lucio Silla, of Lucio Silla, costume sketches.

Don Pippo costume sketch for L'Oca del Cairo and Lucio Silla costume sketch.

Don Pippo costume sketch for L’Oca del Cairo and Lucio Silla costume sketch.

Compare the Lucio Silla Sketch to the final image.


La Finta Semplice was originally meant to feature five or so models, but they kept dropping out. Below was my last minute attempt to create some costumes that could be pulled from what I already owned.

La Finta Semplice costume sketches

La Finta Semplice costume sketches

The Marriage of Figaro photos were inspired by the image below, something I created after first hearing the opera a decade ago.

The Marriage of Figaro concept art

The Marriage of Figaro concept art

The Marriage of Figaro photos involved so many models and stylists, that I needed a thorough map of thumbnails to keep them straight.

The Marriage of Figaro Concept art

The Marriage of Figaro Concept art

I used the page below to keep track of which photos I had taken on the day.

The Marriage of Figaro concept art

The Marriage of Figaro thumbnail art

Compare the middle sketch above to the final image below.


For Mitridate, I based Aspasia’s outfit’s off of Historically accurate garb.

Aspasia costume sketch for my Mitridate photos

Aspasia costume sketch for my Mitridate photos

Farnace was also based off of History, but with a fantastical tattoo addition.

Farnace costume sketch for Mitridate

Farnace costume sketch for Mitridate

Compare the costume sketch above to the final costume below. I regret selling that cool pirate belt holding his cape up.

This is the photo that I will be showing you how I made! Mitridate, Act III, by Tyson Vick.

This is the photo that I will be showing you how I made! Mitridate, Act III, by Tyson Vick.

Finally, I end with the costume sketches for Zaide, another set of costumes pulled from my friend Camille’s closet.

Zaide costume sketches

Zaide costume sketches

I hope you enjoyed viewing all this concept artwork! I have much, much more, but none of it is scanned.

If you like following the creation of my illustrations of Mozart’s operas through photography, please feel free to subscribe to the blog! All you have to do is type your email into the box and the blog will be sent directly to your inbox from here on out! You don’t need to provide any information beyond your email!

Thanks for reading!

From Concept to Completion for Tyson Vick’s Mozart Photography Project!

19 Jan

Well, I’ve Run Out of Costumes to show you. Over the past three months I have shared nearly every costume I created for my photographic illustrations of Mozart’s Operas. There are three or four pieces hiding in the closet somewhere that I’d like to dig out and photograph for you guys, but then I will have showed you everything!

While this project is getting ready to be compiled and put together in a book, I wanted to show you how it all began!

One day I was walking home from the library after looking for some Mozart Operas to get through the inter-library loan, and I thought, “Hmmm. Maybe I could illustrate my favorite parts of these operas through photography!”

When I got home I drew some sketches on my opera list, which you can see below!

The first thing ever put on paper for my Mozart Photography Project.

The first thing ever put on paper for my Mozart Photography Project.

And after ten years, that list turned into this:

Half of the finished photographs all put together in a collage.

Half of the finished photographs all put together in a collage.

In the image above you can see a little over half of all of the photos I took to illustrate the operas of Mozart! You’ll have to squint, but you can even make out that two of the initial sketches seen in the top sketch image were brought to life and can be seen in the final grid of photographs– lol, it’s a lot of work but on the top image, far right sketch row, second box down (guy blowing away in wind) is the design for row 1 column 5 in the photo set. In the sketch far right, bottom, image of lady with severed head can be seen in the photos row three column 3.

Isn’t that fun to see an idea come to fruition?

Be sure to subscribe to this blog, because now you will start getting all of the information on the books progress! You’ll get to see some of the final photos, and the beautiful costumes, hair and make-up — both Historical and Fantastical! There are also a few costumes left to share with you once I get them photographed! These are exciting times!


Creating Miniature Buildings for The Magic Flute

29 Dec

Die Zauberflote or The Magic Flute is one of Mozart’s and the world’s most famous operas. It is a fantasy story about an Asian Prince who has to undergo trials, and he is helped by his half-bird/half-man friend, Papageno.

At the end of the play the Prince has to face the challenges of the Fire Temple and the Water Temple using his Magic Flute.

I wanted these two temples to be a part of my final image, and I wanted them to be something you could focus your attention on once you were done admiring Papageno and Papagena!

Die Zauberflote, Act 2 by Tyson Vick

Die Zauberflote, Act 2 by Tyson Vick

I built these two temples as miniatures using blocks, balsa wood, craft foam, toys, expanding foam and styrofoam. First I drew a concept, and then imagined how to make it 3D in the physical world. Using toy blocks as a base, I built them up, like modeling with clay, but by using rigid pieces. Below you will see the beginning of the Fire Temple.

Using a child's toy block, balsa wood and craft foam, I made the base of the fire temple.

Using a child’s toy block, balsa wood and craft foam, I made the base of the fire temple.

Anything that looks right for my purposes is enlisted, including empty containers. A paper cup was mutilated for the top of the Fire Temple.

I cut apart a paper cup for the building up top.

I cut apart a paper cup for the building up top.

I wanted the fire temple to be a building built into a volcano. The concept was for the volcano to have erupted during the buildings existence, destroying part of it. To make the mountain I added expanding foam, the type used in home repair.

I added expanding foam to the block to create a mountain.

I added expanding foam to the block to create a mountain.

After the expanding foam was dry, I carved it like a mountain. I also added a cute toy sphinx, because The Magic Flute has a heavy Egyptian influence in the story.

Once the expanding foam dried, I carved it to look like a mountainside.

Once the expanding foam dried, I carved it to look like a mountainside.

After everything was primed, I painted the Fire Temple with colors that matched reality. There’s also a tiny Isis statue at the bottom, one of the gods who is praised in two different songs in the opera.

Here is the Fire temple painted.

Here is the Fire temple painted.

Looking at a close up of the top of the temple, you will see how I tried to make it look like a volcano had erupted.

A close up of the little Sphinx and melted building.

A close up of the little Sphinx and melted building.

The Water Temple, on the other hand, was less heavy and rocky. I wanted it to look like it was built on a plateau, but tha the water rushing out of the temple had eroded it so far over the years, that it was just sort of hanging on a hollowed out spire.

The water temple was made out of a toilet paper tube, styrofoam inster and more expanding foam.

The water temple was made out of a toilet paper tube, styrofoam insert from some random package.

I used a styrofoam insert for the base, and I loved the way it looked textured and rocky when painted. I think the styrofoam mixed with the expanding foam worked better than just the expanding foam alone.

The water temple gets it's own expanding foam piled on to the styrofoam.

The water temple gets it’s own expanding foam piled on to the styrofoam.

I primed this one in two colors. The black was for bricks. I carved brick shapes into the craft foam which was built over the toilet paper tube. When the carved foam is painted black, I could then lightly brush the surface with brick colors, grey and brown, and the black in the brick’s crevices would stay black, making the bricks pop, visually.

I primed the pieces in black and white. Black to create shadows, white for better color application.

I primed the pieces in black and white. Black to create shadows, white for better color application.

The little Grecian temple at the top of the water temple turned out very wonky and misshapen, but I fixed that in photoshop. I even added glitter to the greens so that little weird light effects would occur when the miniature was photographed for the composite image.

Here is the water temple painted.

Here is the water temple painted.

Viewing the completed composite once again, you will know how those tiny buildings were made! There are even more tiny buildings and cities seen throughout my project. Can you spot them all?

Die Zauberflote, Act 2 by Tyson Vick

Now, when you look at the image again, you will see the two temples flanking Papageno and Papagena! Die Zauberflote, Act 2 by Tyson Vick

Please subscribe to this blog if you like posts like this! Thanks so much!

A Conversation with a Modern Day Mozartian!

24 May

Posted May 24th. A Conversation with Sherry Davis, a Modern Day Mozartian, and Tyson Vick, artist.

I recently met a fellow Mozartian and Blogger, Sherry Davis, author of the blog The Chronicles of a Modern Day Mozartian through my blog. Sherry is an active supporter of the arts, and has devoted much of her life to stewardship and scholarship, sharing the music of Mozart with both passion and friendliness.

We decided to have a conversation about Mozart for you readers, much in the style of Interview Magazine, keeping things on more of a personal level than an academic one. Mozart’s music has buried itself in our lives, blossoming in happy ways that are deeply rewarding. I talked with Sherry about how Mozart’s music has effected our lives, and asked Sherry what stewardship means in the modern era. Sherry even shares some of the adventures she has had visiting the places Mozart lived and performed!

Please enjoy this  conversation with Sherry Davis, a Modern Day Mozartian!

Tyson: To start, Sherry, can you tell us a little bit about how you came to be a steward for Mozart in the modern age, and what this entails?

Sherry: First of all, thank you for referring to my work as stewardship. This role is very dear to me and whenever it’s acknowledged, it’s also the greatest compliment!

It all began with a simple desire to share my passion of Mozart’s music with others.

My hope is to inspire others to action, encouraging them to be active patrons of Mozart’s music in some way. It started with basic gestures like making mixed CDs, lending books, and sharing links with friends and family, also inviting them to concerts and operas (all of which I still do, of course!).

Sherry Davis with a Portrait of young Mozart.

Sherry (cont.): Then, I met multi-media mogul Chris Andrews at the end of 2005 when the world was abuzz on the eve of Mozart’s 250th birthday anniversary. As owner of the Mozart.com domain (arguably the most sought-after domain of the year, The Economist estimated the Mozart brand to be worth $5 billion that year), Chris was developing a platform where Mozart’s admirers could access the latest news and resources, as well as connect while leaving celebratory wishes. It was Facebook for Mozartians!

Chris came up with the brilliant idea to host contributing writers for Mozart.com. Chris approached a few of us to author blogs. He recognized my passion and encouraged me to embrace that passion and put it into words, put it into action. I was hesitant. Would I be considered worthy of writing on the subject? Did I have anything new to say? There was no title, no template, nothing, and from this void, emerged The Chronicles. And it was the beginning of something much more than just a blog.

As if giving life to my authorship wasn’t significant enough already, Chris also introduced me to Phil Grabsky, Director of In Search of Mozart, the first feature-length documentary ever created about Mozart’s life. I was hired as the Marketing Manager for the North American theatrical release. It was a dream come true; an unprecedented opportunity to embrace a newfound stewardship by taking Mozart to a broader audience! (Note: The Documentary is available on YouTube Movies)

Phil Grabsky, director of the documentary “In Search of Mozart”, and Mozart.

Sherry (cont.): I’ve spent, and continue to spend, a great deal of time studying Mozart, traveling to Europe, attending operas and concerts, serving on organizational committees and maintaining relationships with the scholarly community.

Although my travels center mainly on visiting tangibles from the past, whether a fortepiano or theater, after the museums close, and the concerts end, what remains is the underscored importance of preservation and people. What if nobody had taken the time to save these buildings, manuscripts and artifacts? What if Constanze Mozart had not published her late husband’s works? (Less than 100 were published during his lifetime!) What if we didn’t have the travel diaries of Vincent and Mary Novello, the first Mozart admirers to make a Mozart pilgrimage in 1829, who documented their conversations with Mozart’s widow Constanze and his youngest son Franz Xaver?

As a part of preservation, I love to emphasize the importance of people experiencing the “living” history as in performances, new artistic interpretations (like your illustrations of Mozart’s operas!) and so on. The name of the game is innovation, imagination, interaction and inspiration.

I believe God entrusted this music to every individual in the world who has ever drawn joy from it.

Tyson: Mozart seems to have had a profound effect on you. Where did your passion for Mozart start?

Sherry: I was initially fascinated by Mozart when my 5th grade music class watched the film, Amadeus. I was completely swept away by the drama, theatricality, and above all, the music (the proverbial hook!). Being 11 years old, I never could have guessed that a lifelong love affair had just begun.

The Queen of the Night from the film Amadeus.

Sherry (cont.): The film encouraged my curiosity and subsequent sleuthing which in time revealed my passion for the real man and artist. The soundtrack was the best introductory to his music I could have ever received, and it didn’t hurt that it was accompanied by dramatic Hollywood narrative! I continue to adore this album. It’s very sentimental to me.

As a teen, I periodically rented Amadeus from my local video store. I think I paid enough in rental fees to almost cover the retail cost, but I eventually bought a copy myself!

After making a short trip home from graduate school in London for the holidays, it was one of the few items I managed to fit into my suitcase (suitcases, rather!) for the trans-Atlantic voyage back to the capital. The film encouraged me to immerse myself into independent musicological study and before I knew it, I was traveling to Salzburg, Vienna and Prague the following summer. Reaching this new threshold of understanding, the beaming bright Hollywood lights of Amadeus faded, revealing my love for the small, pockmarked young man who had a penchant for fashion, dancing, punch, billiards and a good German translation of Shakespeare. Mozart!

Tyson: For me, it began with “Riconosci in Questo Amplesso” from The Marriage of Figaro, which was the first foreign language opera I ever listened to. This is an ensemble in the opera where the main character, Figaro, discovers who his parents are. The song is mostly a set piece of comedic moments, but it features a strange moment of pathos where Figaro says “This is my mother, she’ll say so herself, and This is my father, he’ll say so himself.” The whole song has been funny up until that point, and those lines have already come and gone separately, but when put one after the other, the music seems to say that Figaro has been fulfilled, that what was lost was found, that what was broken has been fixed – he’s found his wife, his mother, his father and his family — and the four characters voice’s flutter away, like leaves on a breeze, into a hymn of love, leaving the other characters separate, apart.

That meant so much to me as a young man, because that was a feeling that I had longed for — to be loved and accepted by my parents, no matter what evils had gone on between us (just like Figaro and his villainous parents.) — and the first time I had ever felt that feeling was through Mozart’s music. That’s when I knew that there was more to be found in opera than there was in any other art form. One of the greatest moments in my life came when I actually did experience that feeling with my parents, and it was everything Mozart said it would be! (“And let the Count burst with our happiness!”)

Sherry: “Riconosci” is otherworldly on its own, but to connect to it on a personal level as you did…wow! As long as people are connecting to Mozart in this way, the music will always have life.

I’m actually wondering if this particular cathartic moment influenced your decision to illustrate his operas?

Tyson: That, and the monsters. Mozart has Monsters. At least six appear across his operas. You totally need Monsters if you want to hang out at the cool composers’ table. None of this dying of consumption crap.

Figaro Sketch and Pic

My original color drawing of the Figaro reunion was made back in 2002, before I started illustrating the operas through photography. The thumbnail I drew a few days before the shoot in 2008 and the final image I took shortly after.

Tyson (cont.): I’m really just a standard fan-boy. I probably know more about Mozart’s operas themselves than I know about the man, himself. However, you’ve gone a step further. Mozart has led you on a path of adventure! You have explored fantastic European cities like Prague, Vienna and Salzburg which all have a connection to the composer. Are there any amusing stories you can share about your travels to learn about Mozart?

Sherry: When I was attending the Mozart Society of America’s conference in Prague in 2009, we visited Lobkowicz Palace. The Lobkowicz collection is one of the largest and grandest private art collections in Europe. Amongst the notable musical manuscripts we saw that day included original scores and manuscripts by Beethoven, Mozart, Haydn and Gluck — including Beethoven’s 4th and 5th symphonies and Mozart’s 1787 arrangement of Handel’s Messiah, which I never thought I’d see in person.

Sherry in Prague attending the Mozart Society of America’s conference.

Sherry (cont.): Since we were given time to wander independently, I was entirely immersed in my own world. I was swept away by the whole experience, by the grandeur of the palace, the family’s history and portraits, the magnificent artifacts and paintings by great artists like Cranach. I spent a great deal of time just beholding Mozart’s autographed score.

Then, quite unexpectedly, Prince William and Princess Alexandra Lobkowicz appeared out of nowhere! Though patrons of a Who’s Who list of great European artists, they were all smiles, gracious and friendly as they greeted us with their American accents (I later discovered that the Prince was born in the US and they spent much time there). They were very talkative and interested in what we found fascinating in the collection.

It turned out that a member of our group had been working with them on their music collections, so they stopped by to say hello. They were very down to Earth, sincere and genuine. They didn’t stand on ceremony, but made themselves, their home and history accessible to us. It was a “mi casa es su casa” moment between royalty and a group of Mozartians. It was clear that they were just as passionate about this music as we were. I attended one of their daily mid-day concerts in the palace’s stunning 17th Century Baroque concert hall. Icing on the cake!

Lobkowicz Palace Concert Hall where Sherry attended the concert of the Prince and Princess.

Tyson: It’s great to find a common ground with strangers over your love of classical music! Every once in a while, during my time learning about opera, I have come across behavior that can only be described as snobbish.

Sherry: Snobbery is unfortunately alive and well. I penned my master’s thesis about the history of the aristocratic concert society, and how it prevails today in deterring audiences from the music.

People will tell you that they’ve never listened to classical music or opera because of the elitist stigma. They assume it’s boring, superficial music for wealthy, superficial people, not music with substance that’s relatable, entertaining and worthwhile. Yes, music was largely a diversion in Mozart’s time, but his music is far from the trifling Rococo!

Tyson: Though, I think we can both admit that he did write some Rococo trifles! The great thing about Mozart’s music is that he wrote for every genre of music available at the time, and so you can find some really serious Mozart music, some really trivial Mozart music, as well as religious music, background music, and duets with cats, etc.

When I became interested in experiencing all of Mozart’s operas, which is a bit like wanting to see all of Scorsese’s movies, I had all the music on CDs, but I didn’t have the text to the plays he was setting. I wanted to read along to enjoy the drama.

So, I went to an opera forum online (not a wise decision in general), and asked if anyone knew where to find the text to Mozart’s more obscure works. The replies I received all said something along the lines of, “Are you saying the Neue Mozart Ausgabe is incomplete?” or “Those things are unimportant and/or don’t exist.”

My first thought was, “Wow. These are really unhelpful answers.” My second thought was, “What the hell is a Neue Mozart Ausgabe?”  I’m not a scholar, I’m just a uneducated fan. I just want to read an old play, and they’re accusing me of making — from what I can infer from their tone is — an offensive claim that this Neue Mozart Ausgabe is somehow incomplete?

Thank heavens for Google. About a half an hour later, I knew full well what this “Ausgabe” was (A digital Collection and Transcription of all of Mozart’s works). Also, I was not any closer to having my question answered. It was such a bad experience that I have never posted in an online forum since.

Sherry: Ouch! I’m sorry that this happened to you, but I hope it makes you feel better that these purists (which are the minority) not only attack innocent doe-eyed novices like yourself, but they also attack each other!

Tyson: Don’t feed the trolls. Am I right?

Sherry: You’re always welcome to visit my friendly and drama-free forum dedicated to the study and advocacy of Mozart’s wife, Constanze. She has also been a victim of malicious attacks over the years.

The Mozarts in Green. (Wolfgang, left, Constanze, right) I’ve photoshopped their original colors for an upcoming shoot!

Sherry (cont.): I’d have to say that the snobbery I experienced towards Mozart in Vienna was the pinnacle of [my] shock and dismay. Vienna was a city Mozart once called home and “The best place for my métier.”

My friend Robert offered to take my sister and I around the city and to the countryside one afternoon, showing us treasures known only to the locals. He was a musician, a native of Vienna, so music was always a significant part of his life.

When our conversation turned to Mozart, I could not have predicted what I was about to hear. His attitude was severe. He said that Mozart was not and will never be considered a Viennese composer. Mozart was a foreigner who did not succeed in Vienna. (In Mozart’s time, Salzburg was an independent state and not part of Austria, so Mozart wasn’t technically Austrian during his lifetime.)  I felt that I had stepped back into the 1780s and was talking to a Viennese gentleman who had great reservations about the Salzburg composer’s latest work.

He couldn’t believe that our main reason for visiting Vienna was for the Mozart history, in his eyes, the history of a foreigner. I asked him if his opinion was commonplace, and he said that many felt this way. I was glad we had this conversation, because I learned a great deal.

Sherry at the Vienna State Opera.

Sherry (cont.): Today, Austria’s principle industry is tourism. How ironic it is for Mozart to be the bread-winner of a nation where he’s still undermined as a “foreigner” by some of its citizens.

Although Mozart was always drawn to conquering Vienna, the capital of the empire, he unfortunately never received the recognition and appreciation he so readily deserved. The Viennese were often cold and indifferent to his music. On the other hand, Mozart achieved a god-like reception in Prague. The Bohemians loved him and expressed their adoration openly, more than any other city he visited. (I’ve been there three times in the past eight years and can tell you that they still love him.)

Prague was nearly unprecedented in musical talent and appreciation in the late 18th Century. The general population was highly educated in music due to their state-mandated instruction in sacred music (Roman Catholicism). Mozart is claimed to have been said, “Meine Prager verstehen mich.” (“My Praguers understand me.”).

Mozart’s music lived more amongst the people unlike the more staid, aristocratic Vienna, and he loved it. In a letter to his friend Gottfried von Jacquin, Mozart wrote: “I was very delighted to look upon all these people leaping about in sheer delight to the music of my Figaro, adapted for noisy contra-dances and waltzes; for here nothing is discussed but Figaro; nothing is played, trumpeted, sung, or whistled but Figaro; no opera is succeeding but Figaro and eternally Figaro; certainly a great honor for me!”

Tyson: It’s good that Mozart found his audience while he was alive. We often forget that recordings didn’t exist back then. For most historical composers, their music would only be heard for a few weeks before being retired for hundreds of years.

When I consider the character of Mozart, I am often inspired by his dedication to doing his work for little pay, little recognition, and absolutely no knowledge that the future generations would name him the finest of all composers. In his situation, I think most people would be depressed most of the time, working so hard, never advancing very far, and worst of all, having to deal with the aristocracy. But he always kept a good head on his shoulders.

In one of my favorite Mozart quotes, he writes to his father, “Young as I am, I never go to bed without thinking that possibly I may not be alive on the morrow: yet not one of the many persons who know me can say that I am morose or melancholy. For this happy disposition I thank my Creator daily, and wish with all my heart that it were shared by all my fellows.”

Sherry: An excerpt from a letter his father Leopold wrote to him is eerie: “Your countenance…was so grave that many intelligent persons, seeing your talent so early developed and your face always serious and thoughtful, were concerned for the length of your life.”

Tyson: Yet he always kept his sense of humor. In another of my favorite quotes, he writes to his sister, “I have no news except that 35, 59, 60, 61, 62, were the winning numbers in the lottery, and, therefore, that if we had played those numbers we would have won; but that inasmuch as we did not play those numbers we neither won nor lost but had a good laugh at others.”

Sherry: Great choice of quotes! This duality represents the man of faith, love and sincerity who was also not above vanity and being entertained at the expense of others!

Mozart's Face

W. A. Mozart.

Tyson: Mozart is a very relatable fellow with his strong work ethic, a desire to promote love and brotherhood, a sophomoric sense of humor, who took joy in being with his family, and who, hilariously, couldn’t stand talentless people. I remember reading a passage he wrote once about a pianist who played a little sloppily, really making fun of them, and it just had me in stitches because he was describing exactly how I play the piano. One way to keep Mozart relevant is to share the feelings and experiences we have while learning about the man, or better still, listening to his music. People connect with people, and it’s easier to relate to experiences than to facts and figures.

Sherry: Capitalizing on the human interest element is at the heart to what I do, because it’s inherent to Mozart and it’s inherent to me as a person who loves social history. From early childhood, Mozart was a darling of European courts. He knew how to charm and dazzle. He was a social being and his music was crafted amidst a hefty social calendar of touring, teaching, composing and concertizing. Moreover, his music is a narrative on humanity in every way.

There’s a quote from the documentary, Adieu Mozart, in the context of his operas which is appropriate to share here: “Mozart knows so much about human nature as if he had invented it himself, while people just conform to his template.”

Thank You Sherry!

The Magic Flute (Die Zauberflote) – Historical Stage Designs

18 Apr

I’ve been watching what my visitors like to read about, and the most popular page on my blog is devoted to The Queen of the Night in various historical productions. It’s also the post that’s the least commented on for how busy it is! I thought I’d vary a theme, and give my silent visitors another dose of Historical “Magic Flute” illustrations, from olden-timey productions!

We’ll start with what scholars believe may be designs from the first production!

This is possibly an illustration of the first scene from the first production of "Die Zauberflote". From Joseph and Peter Schaffer, 1791.

Tamino, Pamina and Papageno sit around jamming in their make-shift band. Tamino/Flute, Papageno/Magic Chimes, Pamina/Vocals. From Joseph and Peter Schaffer, 1791.

Next, we’ll move on to an early revival.

A lady (Papagena?) Indicates a Genie descending from the sky to Papageno. From Joseph Quaglio's 1793 production.

A Guard and what I can only assume is a completely nude Tamino, frolicking gaily in front of a temple of Firey Doom (Left) and a Temple of Watery Destruction (Right) -- like in Zelda but with more nudity! From Joseph Quaglio's 1793 production.

A group of Esoteric Priests of the Sun sing very, very slowly (on most recordings) about Isis and Osiris, numerous times. From Joseph Quaglio's 1793 production.

Next up is one of the more well known Early productions.

Before the Sun Temple, lo, the mighty Osiris, of whom many Esoteric Priests sing many long songs about! From Shinkel, 1816.

Sarastro's moody garden. This is probably where he goes to chillax whenever he needs a break from the endless, slow, praying to Isis and Osiris by the many Esoteric sun priests. From Shinkel, 1816.

The Queen of the Night's Palace. Notice the famous star arrangement in the background. This Screen was lifted to reveal the Queen sitting in those stars singing. From Shinkel, 1816.

Karl Friedrich Schinkel 1815

Here she is! Watch out, or she might ask you to stab somebody! She's got a thing for stabbing! Karl Friedrich Schinkel, 1816

Next up, another generation of Quaglio!

Palm Grove, with more stonework than palms. From Simon Quaglio's 1818 production.

Sarastro's camp. I think this is where Papageno wishes he was a mouse, so that he could hide from the mighty sorcerer. From Simon Quaglio's 1818 production.

The Temple of the Sun, with a Zodiac beam cutting through the esoteric symbolism of incense carrying ladies and wordy lines of latitude. The words are probably just the prayers to Isis and Osiris written out for the more forgetful Esoteric Sun Priests. I mean, they sing so Slowly, they're bound to forget the lyrics from time to time. From Simon Quaglio's 1818 production.

And here’s a straggler:

Papageno and Papagena rock the Magic Chimes like it ain't nobody's business! Schwerdgeburth after Ramberg, 1826.

Now all you lurkers, don’t be afraid to comment and talk about some of things you might like to see on my blog! I will be collecting historical pictures from all of Mozart’s operas, and whenever I get a good batch, I’ll be sure to put them up! See you all laters!

Die Zauberflote – Queen of the Night in Stage Design

7 Jan

After my last post about The Queen of the Night, I thought it might be fun to show some of the more popular design sketches for the character The Queen of the Night from Mozart’s “Die Zauberflote” throughout theater history.

Karl Friedrich Schinkel 1815

Queen of the Night by Karl Friedrich Schinkel, 1815

The stage design for “Die Zauberflote” by Karl Friedrich Schinkel is one of the most famous artistic representations of The Queen of the Night. This image even influenced my own photographs, and I actually used the same arrangement of stars in the sky in my images of the Queen and Tamino.

Original "Die Zauberflote" Costume Sketches

The original costume sketches from the original production of Mozart's "Die Zauberflote" including a close-up of The Queen of the Night

Thierry Bosquet Queen of the Night design sketch

Thierry Bosquet Queen of the Night design sketch

Erte - Queen of the Night

Erte - Queen of the Night

Die Zauberflote by John Martinez

Die Zauberflote poster by John Martinez

Caramba "Die Zauberflote" Sketches, Tamino, Pamina

The Queen of the Night, Tamino and Pamina costume designs by Caramba for a Toscanini production of "Die Zauberflote"

Queen of the night by Simon Quaglio

Queen of the night by Simon Quaglio