Tag Archives: The Marriage of Figaro

Mozart Reimagined Preorders Now Live on Kickstarter!

14 Sep

Hello friends! After ten years, Mozart Reimagined is now available for Pre-Order on Kickstarter!

You can watch some preview videos below, or just click on over to Kickstarter to learn more!

I hope you will all enjoy this labor of love!

If you feel passionately about my project, I would really appreciate it if you would share the Kickstarter link ( https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/948510266/mozart-reimagined-photography-book-by-tyson-vick )on your social media sites (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, etc.!) You can use the hashtags #tysonvickphotography and #mozartreimagined if you like to tag your posts. It would help out immensely. Thank you all for your support over the years! I’m excited to finally be producing the book!

Mozart Reimagined – Le Nozze di Figaro

26 Aug

Mozart Reimagined by Tyson Vick will feature photos illustrating Mozart’s “Le Nozze di Figaro”, my favorite Mozart opera, and the chapter featuring the most photos and the most personal anecdotes in the text.

Mozart Reimagined features seven photos by Tyson Vick illustrating the opera Le Nozze di Figaro

Mozart Reimagined features seven photos by Tyson Vick illustrating the opera Le Nozze di Figaro

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 Le Nozze di Figaro pictures:

“The Marriage of Figaro is the play that opened my mind to forgiveness, my ears to music and my heart to joy. This is where my passion for this photography project came from.
It began with Riconosci in questo amplesso (Dearest son, in this embrace Recognise your mother). This is an ensemble where Figaro discovers who his parents are. The song is mostly a set-piece of comedic moments, but it features a unique 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’ voices flutter away, like leaves on a breeze, into a hymn of love, leaving the other characters separate, apart.
At the time my mother was suffering from depression and my father had been growing more and more disappointed with me and began calling me “worthless” and “useless.” This scene in the opera 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 parents. The first time I had ever felt that feeling was possible thanks to Mozart’s music. I knew, then, that there was more to be found in opera, and more to life.
In the end, I did actually experience that feeling of love and acceptance with my parents, after much struggle and healing, my father apologized and made things right; my mother found help, and we reunited and it was everything Mozart said it would be! (And let the Count burst with our happiness!)”


Most of the models in this set are close friends and family members. You can see some behind-the-scenes shots here.

You can also get some in-depth costuming info here, from fabric to garment here, and wig styling here.

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!


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!

Hats Off to Broadway! with Lizzie Hatfield

8 Aug

Lizzie Hatfield is my go-to girl and co-conspirator for Mozart Project, having done the make-up and hair for nearly half of my Mozart Project photos. First and foremost she is a musician and theater performer, which I believe is why she is so in synch with my project. Go big or go home, am I right? Recently, she has been asked to Music Direct an Off-Broadway musical for the New York Musical Theatre Festival, and is holding a concert and fundraiser in Missoula Montana (Aug 27, 28 2011) and Cut Bank Montana (Aug 24, 2011).

Lizzie Hatfield, my good friend and art buddy, is going to New York and needs our help to get there! Photo by Evan Thompson

While working on my project, Lizzie has not only done hair and make-up, she has also helped me with finding locations and reflecting light using the reflector board (a noble duty), but most importantly, she has fed and housed me and my models whenever we shoot with her!

My shoots with Lizzie are usually large or span weekends, and she always feeds the models whatever food they desire, always asking them if they have any preferences. Bacon, Apple and Cheese sandwiches with roasted onion mayonnaise? Check. An entire gluten free meal for the gluten intolerant, including Grilled chicken and potato salad? Got that covered! Thai take-out? If she doesn’t get it, her husband will! She even maintains a cooking blog called “The House of Hatfield” which chronicles her most successful culinary delights!

In this “Where’s Waldo” of Lizzie images from our Mozart Project, you will find her doing hair (Top Left: "Il Sogno di Scipione" with Jerry), showing up the models when I give the direction “smile” (Top Right: "Figaro" crew), holding a reflector board (Bottom Left: "Zaide", Arri and Jenna) , and taking a picture of Maria’s right eyebrow (Bottom Right: "Abduction").

Lizzie’s many talents include getting hair to stick straight up and stay there, creating entire make-up designs from my obscure phrases like “Fugitive Princessy” and “Just on the verge of looking like he’s wearing make-up”, supplying Jewelry during a Jewelry shortage, spilling booze on the reflector board, entertaining us by making her very loud cat do a kitty-cat dance, and a complete comic inability to paint different shaped lips over existing lips (Which I’m glad to say she overcame on our last shoot).

Cosi Fan tutte

Lizzie Hatfield has participated in numerous Mozart Project photos doing hair and make-up, as well as finding locations and baking, which you can see in these two "Cosi Fan Tutte images". She has also modeled as Fiordiligi (Bottom Left).

Because Lizzie has always supported me, I wanted to write a blog post about her, in hopes that my readers will support her while she raises money to get to New York and stays there for six weeks. While in New York, Lizzie will Music Direct the play “Blood” by the Mummers (Which also features Nora Gustuson who has modeled for Mozart Project). This August she is putting on a fundraiser in Montana (Missoula and Cut Bank) called “Hats Off to Broadway”, a musical revue which features all the best Broadway songs about New York, and stars Lizzie, Kendra Syrdal (another Mozart Project participant) and Dylan Rodwick. The show will be performed in Missoula Montana (Aug 27, 28 2011) and Cut Bank Montana (Aug 24, 2011). Along with the fundraiser and concert, Lizzie is holding a raffle featuring art from Montanan artists to be drawn at the final “Hats Off to Broadway” show, and she will be accepting donations throughout her entire trip.

"Hats Off to Broadway" cast - Lizzie Hatfield, Dylan Rodwick and Kendra Syrdal

The best way to get to know Lizzie is through her own words! In the following interview, Lizzie talks about Mozart Project, her trip to New York and how music has become such an important a part of her life!

You have worked with me on my Mozart project from the beginning. In your own words, what is the Mozart Project?

Lizzie: The Mozart project is an illustration of the Mozart operas using photography.  The style varies for each shoot, from steampunk to rococo to semi-modern.  It uses outrageous makeup, hair and costumes to create grandeur needed for such elaborate operas. Each shoot is extremely individual, from the lighting and sets to the visual effects and actors used.

What is your job on a typical Mozart Project shoot?

My main job on the shoots is to create the makeup and hairstyles according to Tyson’s vision. Sometimes he gives me a rough idea and I get to create the look on my own. Other times he has a very specific look in mind and brings multiple examples that I can pull inspiration from. However, my job usually doesn’t end at makeup and hair. I almost always help set up the shoot, scout locations, help actors with wardrobe and hold the light reflector. I have also housed actors, cooked food for everyone on the shoot and baked and decorated cakes and cookies for the set dressings of one shoot! I try to be as involved as possible.

Is there anything you especially enjoy about working on a shoot?

I love meeting and working with new people and seeing the vision come to life throughout the day. I have really enjoyed being with the project from the beginning and seeing it evolve. Its amazing how polished and sophisticated the photos have become over the last 5 years. For the first shoots, I was sort of doing trial and error when it came to the hair, as I had never created the crazy styles that Tyson was asking me to make. Some of the things I used to hold the hair into shape were ridiculous! One time I made a cage out of wire and pinned it to a girl’s head to hold her hair up… That didn’t work too well… It was so heavy that by the end of the shoot, her hair was sagging and drooping off her head. Not my finest achievement! But since then, I have come up with much more creative solutions to making hair defy gravity (Velcro rollers and hair glue!).  Since those first shoots, I’ve worked with wigs, hair extensions, hats, body jewels, spray-on hair color and even fake facial hair! 

Which is your favorite collaboration?

My favorite collaboration was probably the Marriage of Figaro, because of the sheer size of it. While I didn’t do all the hair and makeup (the duties were split with Elizabeth Dellwo), it was a full day of hair, make-up and shooting. There were very close-up shots, so everything had to be extremely precise. It was also one o the first times I had worked with wigs, and the one we used for Camille was huge! I also loved putting fake eyebrows on Wayne!  And the location was amazing.

The most proud I have been of any shoot is Zaide. I think those photos turned out beautifully. I created the hairstyle using her real hair and extensions… It was extremely detailed, but I thought that it was so polished.  I also loved how the jewels looked with her makeup.

This is Lizzie's favorite work on Mozart Project. Zaide by Tyson Vick, hair and make-up by Lizzie Hatfield.

Tell us about your trip to New York.

I am going to New York to music direct a show called Blood that was written by my friend Nora’s theatre company “[By the Mummers]”.  It will be playing as a part of the New York Musical Theatre Festival in October… It will mark both my New York AND Off-Broadway debut!

What does it mean to music direct?

The music director is in charge of pretty much everything pertaining to the music in a musical.  They help cast the show, making sure that everyone can handle the music and is vocally appropriate for the parts. They teach the music to the cast, from notes to expression to clarity of lyrics. They are sometimes in charge of hiring the band and are almost always involved in working with the band/orchestra on music. Sometimes music directors also conduct the show.  I usually play piano for the shows I music direct.

Lizzie Hatfield by Evan Thompson

How can we support you before or during your trip?

I am hosting a fundraiser during the last week of August.  It is a show that was conceived and directed by me, called “Hats Off to Broadway”. It is in the style of a musical review, including songs, dance and comedy. It will play in Cut Bank, MT on August 24th, (2011) and in Missoula, MT on August 27th and 28th, (2011). It should be an extremely fun night for everyone. Two of my friends are amazing performers and are in the show with me.  We are also hosting a raffle along with the show which features Montana art from Monte Dolack, Barbara Gerard-Mitchell, Wanda Rude and this blog’s own Tyson Vick! All donations are tax deductible and will be placed in a community benefit account to be used to offset the expenses of living in New York for six weeks.

What sorts of songs will you perform at your fundraiser “Hats Off to Broadway?”

We will be performing songs from a multitude of Broadway shows. The show has a story that follows three young people as they attempt to make it into Show Business in New York. There are comedy songs, a song written by me specifically for the show as well as some of the most famous songs celebrating New York and Broadway.

Will there be prizes?

First prize of the raffle includes a signed, limited edition, framed print by Barbara Gerard-Mitchell, a Monte Dolack poster, a hand-quilted bag by Wanda Rude and a set of Gilbert and Sullivan notecards by Tyson Vick. Second prize includes a Monte Dolack poster and Tyson Vick notecards. Third prize includes a Monte Dolack poster.

Nearly everything you do is interwoven with music. You Music Direct, accompany rehearsals and auditions, sing and act in musicals, teach dance, and weave your way into the art projects of others (like my Mozart Project) which are also based on, or in, the world of music. Can you tell us what music means to you and why you are so passionately drawn to it to involve it in so much of your life?

Ever since I was a little girl, I have been surrounded by music. I started singing at a very young age and began playing piano very young also. I love the way that music and lyrics can make you feel things that words alone can’t express. The fact the children can listen to instrumental music and explain the way it makes them feel is a great testament to how important music is in our lives from a young age. I surround myself with music all the time… It has become a part of my life that can’t be separated. It is interwoven with everything I do because it is what makes me happiest. I am so lucky to be able to have work that is so fulfilling.

Thank you Lizzie!

I hope you readers enjoyed this interview, and got to know a little more about my project and about Lizzie! Please support Lizzie on her trip if you can, and thank you all for reading!


To Learn More About the things discussed or featured in this post, here are some links:

Innovation, The Operas of Mozart

5 Jul

Mozart was an innovative operatic composer, in that his operas span every genre available at the time, and for one or two he created new genres. He wrote music for high drama, broad comedy, fantasy adventures, musical theater (Singspiel), religious pieces, intermezzos, one act-ers, festival theatricals (lots of ballet and chorus), private allegorically performances, cantatas and even oratorio.

Mozart wrote his first operatic work at ten years of age. It is interesting to note that he wrote many pieces that are operatic, but which he did not consider opera when tallying how many operas he had completed. This is most likely to do their length, subject matter and his maturity.

Some people may not know how operas are written, so I would like to clarify that Mozart composed music for “libretti” (which are little books of words and lyrics) written by different authors. He set someone else’s words to music and did not write the words himself. He collaborated with two notable authors in his lifetime: Varesco who wrote the book to his first mature work, “Idomeneo”, and the poet Da Ponte, whom he collaborated with on three of his most famous works, “Don Giovanni”, “Le Nozze di Figaro” and “Cosi Fan Tutte”. He also set quite a few of the texts written by the Shakespeare-of-Opera, Metastasio, an author whose plays were set by the most popular and influential composers of the 18th century, including Handel, Gluck, Haydn and Vivaldi. Metastasio did not hold what is known commonly today as a “copyright”, and therefore any work which he had written could be set and adapted by anyone who had access to his plays. This means that while Mozart set more works of Metastasio to music than any other librettist that he worked with, the two men never actually collaborated to create a new work together, except peripherally on “Lucio Silla”, on which Metastasio generously wrote the Act finales for the play’s struggling author.

Title Page Illustration from the First Edition of Don Giovanni. Engraving by P. Bolt after Vincenz Georg Kinninger.

Mozart often had a say in how the story was put together for an opera he was going to set, and he consistently chose texts about — or had the endings of texts altered to be about — “forgiveness”. Brotherhood and Forgiveness seemed to be Mozart’s inspiration from the start, and thematically link all of his plays (Though Don Giovanni inverts these ideas, and shows us what happens if we don’t treasure Brotherhood and what happens if Forgiveness is ignored and denied).

He was always inspired by his loving wife, as well, often writing music that would please her. Mozart also had a knack for finding inspiration in, and utilizing the talents of particular instrumentalists and singers, often linking them together in song. His most notable soprano music was inspired by and written for his sister-in-law, Aloysia Weber. Aloysia Weber was actually his teenage crush, as well, and pursuing her is how he met his wife!

The Queen of the Night from the Shinkel Magic Flute production of 1816 drawn by Carl Friedrich Thiele after designs by Sturmer

The most important operas of Mozart are: “Don Giovanni”, “The Marriage of Figaro” and “The Magic Flute”.  Don Giovanni is the most unique of all of his operas, belonging to an almost indefinable genre which encompasses intense psychological drama, broad comedy, romance, and most alarmingly of all, the supernatural thriller. Included in a full list of his mature works, you will also find, “Cosi Fan Tutte”, “La Clemenza di Tito”, “Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail” and “Idomeneo”.

All of these pieces are wonderful! However, for a novice who has just started to listen to the operas of Mozart, “Cosi Fan Tutte” is psychologically unsettling, “Idomeneo” is set in an older style (but has monsters), and “Don Giovanni” can be overwhelmingly intense, both musically and dramatically. I would recommend starting with “The Marriage of Figaro” and “Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail” (Which is more like a modern musical), or if you are a fan of fantasy, I would certainly recommend “The Magic Flute” as your starting point (It was mine).

Papageno from the Shinkel Magic Flute production of 1816 drawn by Carl Friedrich Thiele after designs by Sturmer

Mozart also wrote music to be inserted into other plays and operas, but these are generally singular arias or ensembles. Only recently was it discovered how much he contributed to the fantastical “Der Stein Der Weisen”. Not all of his contribution to this work is entirely documented, but a general rule to go by is, “If there’s a cat meowing in the scene, he wrote it.”

In this list I have included every theatrical work for which Mozart composed a significant amount of music. You will also find this list over on the right. It is how the blog is organized, and you can read posts about both each specific opera, and my photography and costume work on the photos of that opera. I hope to be organizing the blog better soon, where there will be posts about the making of one set of photos from beggining to end, giving away all of the secret details of the history, art, inspiration, and production of the operas and my photos.


Die Schuldigkeit des Ersten Gebots (Composed Act I of III)

Apollo et Hyacinthus

Bastien und Bastienne

La Finta Semplice


Ascanio in Alba

La Betulia Liberata (Oratorio)

Il Sogno di Scipione

Lucio Silla

La Finta Giardiniera

Il Re Pastore

Zaide (Abandoned)

Thamos (Incidental Music)


Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail

L’oca del Cairo (Abandoned, Composed Act I)

Lo Sposo Deluso (Abandoned)

Der Schauspieldirektor

Le Nozze di Figaro

Don Giovanni

Cosi Fan Tutte

La Clemenza di Tito

Die Zauberflote

Der Stein der Weisen (Collaboration)

And Two Lengthy Cantatas


Davidde Penitente