'Magic Flute' precedes Mozart anniversary

December 31, 1990|By Ernest F. Imhoff | Ernest F. Imhoff,Evening Sun Staff

THREE BALTIMORE boys with bright but dissimilar voices will ring out the old year tonight singing as the trio of spirits in the Washington Opera's production of Mozart's "The Magic Flute."

The three trebles, or boy sopranos, are Bradley Boucher, 12; Raphael Zinman, 14, and Gregory Knox, 16. The three have sung from four to nine years in the boys and men's choir of St. Michael and All Angels, St. Paul and 20th streets.

For the past 21 years, David Riley has directed the choir of 14 boys and 12 men, one of four Baltimore churches with male choirs. Others are at St. David's Church, Old St. Paul's Church and Mary Our Queen Cathedral.

Riley describes his three opera singers thusly: "Greg's voice is very bright; he has very thoughtful stage presence. Raphael just opens his mouth and lets it fly; he has impeccable tuning and a good ear. Bradley's voice is a darker sound, very beautiful."

Always appearing together in a giant hand in this production, the trio act as divine messengers singing different parts but in harmony in four separate scenes. Their total singing time is only 10 minutes in the three-hour opera "but it's not all that easy," Riley said. After tonight, the boys will sing their roles five more times: Jan 8, 12, 20, 23 and 25. The opera has sold out and has a waiting list of 800 people, a typical Washington Opera story in recent years. Maryland tenor John Aler sings Tamino.

The boys' story seems a fitting musical end to 1990 and a good excuse to empty out a music reporter's notebook of half-notes and quarter-notes:

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Next year is the 200th anniversary of Mozart's death. Mozart music and stories will abound. So let's start. When Mozart was 24, he started an orchestral piece, "Sinfonia Concertante in A for Violin, Viola, Violoncello and Orchestra." He finished only 53 bars for reasons that are unclear. Three years ago, The Internationale Stiftung Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria, Mozart's birthplace, asked a Japanese composer Shigeaki Saegusa to finish it. He refused at first, then took on the heady job.

The Mozart appreciation group heard the finished product, liked it and scheduled it for a concert Dec. 5, 1991, in Salzburg on the 200th anniversary of Mozart's death. Instead of 53 bars, it now has 415 bars. "This is not like a supplement of Mozart's work, it's more like my original," Saegusa said. But he also said of Mozart, "This is such a nice work, he should have finished it."

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Alan Rich, writing in the Los Angeles Daily News, pooh-poohed another writer's notion that with Leonard Bernstein and Herbert Von Karajan gone, classical music is dead. Rich listed his idea of 10 "guardians of music's future":

Evgeny Kissin, 19-year-old Soviet piano whiz; Simon Rattle, 35-year-old Birmingham, England, conductor; James Levine, Metropolitan Opera conductor, "not the greatest but merely the most important of traditional conductors"; Peter Sellars, American theater and opera director; Carlos Kleiber, "mysterious, unapproachable, perfectionist" German conductor;

Also, Soviet composers Alfred Schnittke and Sofia Gubaidulina, "Europe's greatest composers"; John Adams, composer of "thoroughly modern approachable music within traditional frameworks"; The Kronos Quartet -- "they make new music matter"; Stephen Sondheim, American composer who "forces . . . a rethinking of artistic categories," and American baritone Thomas Hampson, "opera's latest glory."

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If you can't sit still for much classical music, the BSO may have something for you -- six commissioned works no more than two minutes each. They are six "Musical Greeting Cards," original compositions written for the orchestra's 75th anniversary season. Composers are John Harbison, Feb. 14 and 15; Christopher Rouse, Feb. 28 and March 1; Stephen Albert, April 18 and 19; Adolphus Hailstork, April 26, 27 and 28; Stephen Stucky, May 2 and 3; Jonathan Jensen, June 7, 8 and 9. Morton Gould's quickie was played in October.

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Ignace Jan Paderewski's remains, except for his heart, will finally returned from an Arlington National Cemetery crypt to Warsaw, Poland, for a state funeral and gala concert June 29, 1991, a half century after the Polish pianist's death at 80 in 1941 in New York City. After his American debut in 1891, the flamboyant pianist once gave 117 recitals in 90 days.

His will asked that his body be kept here until Poland was again free but his heart remain permanently in America. A separate burial for the heart was a not-unusual practice among some Polish luminaries. The heart was kept first in a crypt in the Cypress Hills Cemetery in Brooklyn. In 1986, the Paderewski Memorial Committee moved the heart to the National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa, Doylestown, Pa., where it will remain.

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