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MOZART in FanFaire:
Der Stein / Die Zauberflote
Marriage of Figaro
World Premiere Recording
of a Fairy-Tale Opera
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music you hear on entering this page is a clip (1) from the Overture to
the opera Der Stein der Weisen, of which this is the first
recording ever. ( Singspiel** is the more technically accurate
term for this type of work.)
If you will, listen to Clip 2 from the overture to a very popular opera - technically also a Singspiel** but unarguably a masterpiece and a consummate work of art. The "Crown of German Opera," it was written one year after Der Stein....
Could both works have been composed by the same man?
* Singspiel - a comic opera with spoken dialogue
You will of course recognize Clip 2 as the first strains of the Overture to Mozart's Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute). But who has ever heard of an opera called Der Stein der Weisen or The Philosopher's Stone (subtitled Die Zauberinsel or The Enchanted Isle)? For many years, musicologists have suspected that Mozart may have had a hand in composing the opera or at least that part of it called the "cat duet", of which there exists a copy in his handwriting - but lacking incontrovertible evidence they were never sure.
[Clip 2 is from the Overture to Mozart's Die Zauberflöte. Staatskapelle Dresden, Sir Colin Davis, cond. Philips 411 459-2 (1984)]
Until the summer of 1996. Der Stein der Weisen, popular in its time, but for the past two centuries dormant and of interest only to scholars, suddenly made headlines - some announcing the discovery of a new opera by Mozart! But only with fractional accuracy. For as it turned out, this was an opera composed by a "commitee of five" of which Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was the most eminent member. The discovery by American musicologist David Buch of a theretofore unknown manuscript of the opera placed the "cat duet's" Mozartean authorship - and indeed the authorship of almost every piece in the opera - above suspicion. That Mozart had in fact written the music for two other brief sections of Act 2 was another revelation. The Mozartean overture, by the way, was written by the Kappelmeister Henneberg (see also table below).
But what one finds most pleasantly surprising on listening to this first ever recording of the opera is that the "team approach" to opera composition can work! Musically, there are many parallels between the The Philosopher's Stone and The Magic Flute as Martin Pearlman, Director of the Boston Baroque (which performed this work on period instruments), points out in a discussion of the work on a bonus third disc. Thus one cannot help but wonder if one composer-in-part (the genius Mozart included) borrowed from the other. Or if this was the total extent of Mozart's involvement. But then, does it really matter? As it is, the opera is so musically cohesive and so thoroughly enjoyable. The five composers may not have been a committee of equals, but it is impossible to tell just where Mozart begins and ends. Clearly, in composing this precursor to Die Zauberflöte, too many cooks did not spoil the broth. (And Mozart may have had a helluva good time making music with his musician-friends, in much the same way today's jazz musicians enjoy jamming together.)
The Philosopher's Stone (or The Enchanted Isle), be it the fable or the music, is as enchanting as The Magic Flute is magical. Bravo! to the team members (listed in alphabetical order). . .
And for a superb recording - Bravo! to Martin Pearlman, the Boston Baroque and the cast of Der Stein der Weisen: Kurt Streit - Astromonte, Alan Ewing - Eutifronte, Chris Pedro Trakas - Sadik, Paul Austin Kelly - Nadir, Judith Lovat - Nadine, Kevin Deas - Lubano, Kane Giering de Haan - Lubanara, Sharon Baker - Genie, Roberta Anderson - First Maiden, Gail Abbey - Second Maiden, Sabrina Learman - Third Maiden, and Karyl Ryczek - Fourth Maiden
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