Thursday, April 30, 2015

Don Giovanni — A Sneak Peek!

We are excited to share with you this special SNEAK PEEK from our Dress Rehearsal for Don Giovanni! With a cast of superb Mozartian singers and a sexy, daring new staging, this production is not to be missed. Learn more and purchase tickets here—they are going fast!

May 1–10 | 2015
Citi Performing Arts Center Shubert Theatre

Don Giovanni (Duncan Rock) orchestrates a wild party evening in order to seduce
more women for his list.

Donna Elvira (Jennifer Johnson Cano) is determined to exact revenge for Giovanni's betrayal.

Leporello (Kevin Burdette), Giovanni's servant, schemes with his master.

Zerlina (Chelsea Basler) tries her best to resist the Don's advances.

All photos © Eric Antoniou for Boston Lyric Opera, 2015

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Don Giovanni in Prague and Vienna

By Magda Romanska, Ph.D., BLO Dramaturg

"Don Giovanni Playbill, Vienna Premiere, 1788". Public Domain.

Although we don’t know the exact date of Mozart’s arrival in Prague for the production of Don Giovanni, we do know that he was actively involved in shaping the libretto and the staging. His first letter from Prague, dated August 24, 1787, suggests that he had already spent some time in the city, though scholars offer different interpretations of the production timeline. Da Ponte’s account suggests that he had completed the libretto in June of that year. Many legends surround the origins of Don Giovanni, one of which claims that it was based on Mozart’s own numerous affairs with female singers. While rehearsing the opera in Prague, Mozart found that, “the company here is not as skilled as the Viennese in studying such an opera in so short a time.” The accounts of the rehearsals shed light not just on the activities specifically involved in producing Don Giovanni, but on the entire process of opera-making during the era. Luigi Bassi, a 22-year-old Italian singer who starred in the title role as the philandering libertine, complained that he had no big arias to sing, so Mozart, the story goes, wrote five different versions of the duet, “Là ci darem la mano” before the singer was content. Caterina Bondini, who sang the role of Zerlina, was unable to make the famous scream in the first Finale, which prompted Mozart to seize her unexpectedly until she did scream.

The first performance was scheduled for October 1, a gala occasion in honor of Prince Anton of Saxony and the Archduchess Maria Theresa, a sister of Joseph II, who were traveling through Prague while on their honeymoon. But the opera needed more rehearsal time, as Mozart was simultaneously involved in directing The Marriage of Figaro. In his letters home, Mozart blames the postponement on the “lazy singers” who “refuse to rehearse on opera days and the manager, who is anxious and timid, [and who] will not force them . . .” Eventually, the opera was scheduled to open on October 29, with Mozart reportedly completing the overture the night of the first performance (though some scholars argue that it was two nights before the opening).

All of the drama and efforts, however, were well worth it, because the opening night was a great success. A newspaper, Die Oberpostamtszeitung, wrote enthusiastically:

On Monday 29th the Italian opera company in Prague performed the eagerly-awaited opera by Maestro Mozart, Don Giovanni, or The Stone Guest. Connoisseurs and musicians say that nothing like it has ever been heard in Prague. Mr. Mozart himself conducted, and was greeted with repeated cheers as he came into the pit. The opera is, incidentally, extremely difficult, and everyone admired the fine performances after so short a rehearsal period. Theatre and orchestra did everything in their power for Mozart as a token of gratitude. A good deal of money had to be spent on the chorus and the décor, which was provided in excellent style by Mr. Guardasoni. The extraordinarily large audience was an indication of the general approval.

Mozart returned to Vienna by mid-November. During his absence, Salieri had asserted his dominance over the Viennese musical scene, so chances for Don Giovanni to be performed right away were rather slim. Don Giovanni was eventually staged on May 7, 1788, at the Burghtheater, by the order of Joseph II. Da Ponte was paid 100 florins, and Mozart, 225. The success that the opera enjoyed in Prague didn’t materialize immediately in Vienna. The critics remained lukewarm, and the general consensus was that the opera had some kind of fault in it. In response, Mozart made a number of rewrites: a few arias were altered, two were cut, and three newly-composed pieces were added. Still, it took a long time for Vienna to accept Mozart’s masterpiece. The next performance took place in Leipzig on June 15, with the original cast from the Prague production and under the direction of Guardasoni. In 1789, the opera was produced in Mainz. Although opera-goers were still wary of the story (“The music pleased the experts greatly; the action did not,” October 13), they embraced Mozart’s music. Johann Friedrich Schink wrote enthusiastically:

Is this splendid, majestic and vigorous music really the stuff for the ordinary opera-goers, who take their ears to the theatre but leave their hearts at home? What is beautiful, grand and noble in the Don Giovanni score will everywhere be obvious to a minority of chosen people. It is not music to everybody’s taste, tickling the ear and starving the heart—Mozart is no ordinary composer. Every note is felt and transformed into feeling. His expressiveness is glowing, lively and picturesque, without becoming excessive or self-indulgent. His imagination is at the same time both rich and controlled.

  • Abert, Hermann. Mozart’s “Don Giovanni.” London: Eulenburg Books, 1976.
  • Cairns, David. Mozart and His Operas. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006.
  • Woodfield, Ian. The Vienna Don Giovanni. Rochester, NY: Boydell, 2010.

Monday, April 27, 2015

The Legend of Don Giovanni (or, Don Giovanni before Don Giovanni)

By Magda Romanska, Ph.D., BLO Dramaturg

"Don Juan (Molière)" by Illustrator: Pierre Brissart (ca. 1645 – 1682)
Engraver: Jean Sauvé (VIAF)
Photographer: Unknown.
The origins of the Don Giovanni legend reach back to the Middle Ages, but the character didn’t become fully fleshed out until the Renaissance, when it first appeared in the 1630 comedy, El Burlador de Sevilla y convidado de pietra, by the monk Tirso de Molina (although modern scholars have contested his authorship of the play). In this first written incarnation, when faced with the vision of Hell, Don Giovanni does eventually ask for a priest in an attempt to repent, though it is too late, and it is difficult to say what his motives are (does he genuinely feel remorseful or is he only pretending?). Modern scholars believe that Molina’s text was modeled on the story of a certain Count Leonzio who was described in a Counter-Reformation document as an unscrupulous disbeliever. In the writings of the theologian Paul Zehentner, we can find a description of a theatrical performance in which, “Leonzio, like Hamlet, apostrophizes a skull and defies him, inviting him mockingly to a banquet to entertain his dinner guest with a debate over whether the mortal bodies of men enclose an immortal soul; unexpectedly, the skeleton appears at the banquet and drags away the scoffer to eternal punishment” (quoted in Pirrotta 12).

The next version of the story, under the title Convitato di pietra, rappresentazione in prosa, by Onofrio Giliberti, was published in 1652, but because it was lost, we know little about it other than that it was written as a piece of commedia dell’arte. Andrea Perrucci’s 1678 treatment of the story is also lost. Commedia dell’arte troupes traveled extensively throughout Europe during that time, enjoying particular success in France. Thus, it is not surprising that from Italy, the story next traveled to France, where it got its first two treatments, both titled Le Festin de Pierre ou le Fils Criminal, and both also in the style of commedia, by Dorimond (1658) and de Villiers (1659). The most important French version of the story from the era is, of course, Molière’s Dom Juan ou le Festin de Pierre, which first opened at the Théâtre du Palais Royal on February 15, 1665. Molière’s Dom Juan is a rational creature, quick-witted and charming but without passion. He not only blasphemes but goes even further, denying the very existence of God, and thus any moral system to live by. At the end of the play, he is confronted by a veiled woman, who makes the final judgment and reveals herself to be an incarnation of Time (with scythe). Scholar David Whitton notes that Molière’s Dom Juan is endowed “with a powerful intellect” which:

... allows him justify his actions in terms of a systematic programme of rational free-thinking. Dom Juan, unlike his real-life counterparts who dabbled in Epicurianism and materialistic skepticism, may simply be using his professed philosophy as a convenient cloak for a selfish way of life.  But by treating the subject at the level of philosophical debate, Molière makes the play into a provocative blend of social satire and metaphysical speculation.

The play was so controversial that it was only performed 15 times in 1665, and it wasn’t published until after Molière’s death, in his Oeuvres in 1682. Thomas Corneille’s 1677 adaptation eliminated the controversial ending, and the original Molière version wasn’t staged in full until 1841 at the Odéon, and in 1847 at the Théâtre Français. Following Molière’s production, Claude de La Rose, who was also known by the name Rosimond, and who acted in the rival company to Molière's,  staged his own version in 1669, titled The New Stone Guest, or The Atheist Struck by Lighting. Rosimond’s comedy focused on Don Juan’s impiety and atheism.

Molière’s version of the libertine’s story became quite influential across Europe. Thomas Shadwell’s The Libertine, first performed in London in 1676, was among many versions based on Molière’s. In Germany, Johannes Velten’s translation, Don Juan oder Don Pedros Totengastmahl, initiated a lasting fascination with the character. Until 1772, Don Juan, or The Stone Guest was regularly performed in Vienna on All Souls’ Day. Numerous versions of the play, often in burlesque style, toured Europe, and many puppet plays were performed at the town markets, with titles like Don Juan, or the Quadruple Murderer, or the Midnight Banquet in the Cemetery. In Spain, a new version appeared in 1725, written by Antonio Zamora, and in Italy, Goldoni wrote his Don Giovanni Tenorio ossia il Dissoluto, which was performed in Venice in 1736. Many of these versions were quite popular, though questionable. Writing about one such travelling Italian production, Voltaire noted that “it was a great success at the improved theatre: no one rebelled against the monstrous collage of buffoonery and religion, of jesting and horror, nor against the eccentricities that formed the subject of this piece.”

Around the same time, the story crossed to the operatic stage. In 1713, Le Tellier’s three-act vaudeville comedy Le Festin de Pierre, en vaudevilles sans prose was performed at the Théâtre de la Foire Saint-Germain in Paris. Despite audience enthusiasm, the show was at first banned because of the representation of Hell in the finale. In Italy, Don Giovanni appeared first in the composer Eustachio Bambini’s 1734 farce opera, La pravità castigata, and in 1746, Colin Restier’s ballet Le grand Festin de Pierre was staged at the Théâtre de la Foire Saint-Laurent. The second ballet, Don Juan, with music by Gluck, was performed at the Vienna Karntnertortheater in 1761. By the 1770s, the Italian theatres were flooded with convitati di pietra, many of which mixed serious and buffo elements. The Italian fascination with the Don Juan character reached its peak in 1787. Writing to one of his friends, Goethe noted that “an opera called Don Juan (not Mozart’s) was played every night for four weeks.”

These early representations of Don Giovanni’s story focused less on his womanizing than on his general display of impiety and disbelief, which inevitably must be punished with eternal damnation to Hell. The later productions, which were influenced by Restoration comedy, presented Don Giovanni’s womanizing in a more ambivalent light. The Restoration saw the boudoir as a place of war: of men against women, and vice versa. Men gained esteem and increased their reputation proportionate to the number of women they seduced, while women gained esteem according to how long they resisted. A woman’s virtue was a fortress to be conquered, and the theme of the fall of the virtuous woman and the progress of the libertine seducer (the rake) dominated most Restoration comedies, in which “the citizens continue to hunt down the gallants’ patrimonies; the gallants continue to hunt down the citizens’ wives” (Bruce 15). Sex and power was a game that only the most skillful could win.

  • Abert, Hermann. Mozart’s “Don Giovanni.” London: Eulenburg Books, 1976.
  • Bruce, Donald James Williams. Topics of Restoration Comedy. New York: St. Martin’s, 1974.
  • Keefe, Simon P. Mozart Studies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006.
  • Pirrotta, Nino. Don Giovanni’s Progress: A Rake Goes to the Opera. Trans. Harry S. Saunders. New York: Marsilio, 1994.
  • Whitton, David. Molière’s ‘Don Juan.’ Cambridge UP. 1995.

Friday, April 24, 2015

The Women of Don Giovanni

By Magda Romanska, Ph.D., Boston Lyric Opera Dramaturg

The Garden of Don Juan by Lajos Gulácsy, 1910
By the 18th century, educated women were beginning to question male freedoms and dominance of society, and starting to demand similar freedoms for themselves. Many men were also increasingly uneasy about their own social and economic privileges, especially the moral latitude shown toward male sexuality (as opposed to the constraints placed on female sexuality). The women of Don Giovanni showcase the many tensions that dominated gender relations of the era, each representing different aspects of the cultural and social landscape.

For critics, the most problematic of the three central female characters is Donna Anna. Her character does not appear at all in Molière’s play, Don Juan. In Tirso de Molina’s The Trickster of Seville and the Stone Guest, it is suggested that perhaps Don Giovanni raped her, with the play revolving largely around the issue of her honor. At the end, Giovanni confesses that he had not been successful with her, thus resolving the main dramatic question. In Mozart’s opera, she figures not so much as one of Giovanni’s conquests, but foremost as the daughter of the Commendatore whom Giovanni kills, and who in turn enacts his own supernatural revenge on the libertine. Anna’s relentless pursuit of Giovanni and her request to delay the wedding to her fiancé, Don Ottavio, suggest that perhaps she may have been violated, though some critics note that she may simply have been traumatized by the death of her father, who was killed while protecting her honor. In his book on Mozart’s opera, Edward Joseph Dent argues that Anna and Ottavio, “were evidently intended by Da Ponte to be the pair of more or less serious lovers customary in most Italian comic operas.” If Anna and Ottavio indeed fulfill the function of the Italian innamorati, Irving Singer points out that her request to wait the conventional year before marrying is rather normal, and there is no reason for us to believe that her encounter with the Don had anything to do with it. Singer suggests that Anna, the dutiful and guilt-ridden daughter, represents Mozart himself and his own strained relationship with his father. At the end, Singer notes that “neither the capture of Don Giovanni nor the comfort of Ottavio’s love can eliminate the sadness she feels” at the loss of her father.

Of the three women, Zerlina appears to be the most sexually liberated. She can be portrayed as either an innocent village girl or a cunning, no-nonsense peasant woman. She most closely parallels commedia dell’arte’s Columbina, the clever maid stock character. Although Zerlina has no qualms about flirting with Don Giovanni on the day of her wedding to Masetto, we don’t know if her interest is genuine and she indeed comes under the spell of the Don’s charisma, or whether it’s merely her strategy of dealing with Masetto, making him jealous and by extension more prone to her influence. As Singer points out, “[S]he knows that the more she is fickle with Masetto, the more he will dote on her; the more he dotes on her, the greater her freedom to deceive him.” We also don’t know if Zerlina really believes in Giovanni’s promises of marriage, or merely pretends to in order to justify the seduction. She is sensual, but she also understands the social and moral judgment that women must conform to, and she quickly adjusts her behavior to what Masetto expects, begging him to “beat your poor Zerlina.” In the end, Masetto doesn’t beat Zerlina, but Giovanni beats Masetto, which she cleverly blames on Masetto’s own jealousy. Zerlina is often compared to Papagena from The Magic Flute, a child of nature who treats sensual pleasure with casual joy and without the guilt of dominant Christian morality.

Finally, Donna Elvira’s chase of the Don and her drive to “avenge my deceived heart” is one of the most tragic motifs of the opera. Elvira is as traditional as possible; believing in the institution of marriage, she is unable to come to terms with Giovanni’s false promises and betrayal. If she were a character in an opera buffa, her love-hate pursuit of her former lover would be farcical, but the music that accompanies her is always serious, suggesting something darker and perhaps even pathologically obsessive in her passion. As David Cairns put it, “[Elvira] is a victim-figure, and her music depicts her obsessiveness, her continued sexual fascination with Don Giovanni, her lack of control; but, unlike the Don, it doesn’t deride her. She rises above the indignities callously heaped on her, and earns our respect.” She is constantly torn between the reality of her predicament and her fantasy world. She desperately wants to believe Giovanni’s assertions because not believing means admitting to her own gullibility, but the more she trusts him, the more she suffers. He deceives her until the very end.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

DR. VON LYRIC: Giovanni Variations #1

BLO's production of Don Giovanni is roaring is currently loading into the theatre.

But while we prepare to confront the irresistible but treacherous Don in person, let's calmly listen to some virtuosic variations by various 19th-century composers drawn to Mozart's unique blend of charm and high drama.

Liszt (who would perhaps appreciate Lang Lang's visual sense of theatre!):




...and  by one of Mozart's sons:

Thursday, April 16, 2015

BLO Exposed: An Interview with Jennifer Johnson Cano!

Jennifer Johnson Cano stars as Donna Elvira
in the BLO production.

This week, mezzo-soprano Jennifer Johnson Cano sat down with BLO to talk about her first Donna Elvira, her musical background, and being in Boston in springtime.

BLO: In your own words, what’s the story of Don Giovanni?
JJC: I think it’s really about the relationships in the piece and how everyone relates to Don Giovanni himself. Ultimately, I think it’s the story of this wildly charismatic person who doesn’t use people wisely, and how it affects people’s lives, but at the same time, they’re attracted to him.

BLO: Have you sung the role of Elvira before?
JJC: This is the first time! And it’s such a great first time for so many reasons—it’s a new production and we’re constantly talking as a group about the decisions that we’re making. And Emma [Griffin], the director, has such a fantastic point of view in terms of fleshing out the relationships … So there have been a lot of really great, collaborative conversations … Sometimes I say something and then I’m like, that’s a terrible idea! Let’s do  something else! [Laughs.]

BLO: What is your process like when you’re preparing a new role?
JJC: For me, it’s always about studying the text. What does the text actually say, what is the story that the libretto is actually telling? And then making sure that I can communicate that through what I’m doing onstage … It’s a constantly layering process. You start off super basic, nuts and bolts, and then you decorate the rest of the time... My husband [Christopher Cano, pianist and vocal coach] likens it to building a house: You gotta lay a concrete foundation, you gotta get the studs in, then you put the walls on and the roof on, and that’s the structure. Then the rest is the interior decorator’s job. Do I want to add a window dressing? Would a rug look good in this room? So it starts off basic, and hopefully as close to the truth as you can get, and then you decorate from there.

BLO: What are some of the things that are challenging in singing Elvira?
JJC: The biggest challenge of any opera, not just Elvira, is finding the highs and low to make the character a fleshed-out person. It’s very easy to take the music at face value and create a stock character, but what you really want to do is create someone who has feelings, and reactions, and emotions, and that it’s very, very honest. And [Elvira’s] music changes a lot. When she first enters on the scene, it’s very angular, very up and down, lots of leaps. And then her next aria is this Baroque piece, and if you heard them separately you might not know it was the same character singing that music. Her final aria in the second act, the “Mi tradì,” again is a totally different style. So [the biggest challenge] is bringing all of these things together to create this one, fluid character.

BLO: Do you have a favorite aria or section of music in Don Giovanni?
JJC: The ensembles are the best parts in the show … Mozart’s arias tend to be one or two points of self-reflection, but in the ensembles, the movement of the story is continuous, and I love playing with my colleagues onstage. We play make believe, all day! …[M]y personal favorites are the quartet in Act I, the trio in Act II, and the final scene between Elvira, Leporello, and Giovanni.

BLO: Tell us a little bit about you, your background and training.
JJC: I grew up in Missouri, a small town about an hour south of St. Louis called Festus, MO. My parents are great music lovers, so I grew up going to a lot of musical theater shows and symphonic performances by St. Louis Symphony. My mom was a church musician. So there was always music around to enjoy, but I didn’t really get serious about studying music until I went to college. I went to school in St. Louis and then in Texas, and then I won the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. And from that was invited to be in the Lindemann [Young Artist Development] Program, where I spent three years as a young artist. It was an extremely formative part of my growing up—although I’m still very much growing up!—I had the luxury of being in this incredible opera house, and not only learning actively from people that I would work with one-on-one, but also learning passively though observing incredible people do what they do. And the orchestra making music was the best thing in the world.

BLO: What do you have coming up after Don Giovanni?
JJC: This summer I am going to Opera Saratoga, and I’m doing my first Dido in Dido and Aeneas by Purcell. They’re working with a dance company so I understand that dance will be interspersed throughout the entire show, which will be a fantastic challenge … And then I’m also tackling my first Carmen in Savannah with the Savannah Voice Festival, delving into that world as well. So my spring and my summer are filled with these incredible characters studies and these remarkable women. Very different, but I’m sure by the end of the summer I will have found all these links between them. So I’m very spoiled.

BLO: How has your time in Boston so far been?
JJC: I’m loving Boston so far! I’ve only ever been here for concerts, which are very intense, quick trips, and this is my first time where I have been able to take an afternoon or a morning and wander and see what’s going on. And it’s the first time that I’ve been here in spring … So it’s really nice to be here and sit in Boston Common, or walk up and down Newbury Street or Commonwealth, and take it all in. The only issue is that I’m in Red Sox territory and I’m from St. Louis…but don’t hold it against me, I just happen to be from Cardinals world. So far, two thumbs up for Boston!

Behind the Scenes at BLO's Don Giovanni Photo Shoot!

As rehearsals began, the stars of Don Giovanni came together for a red-hot photo shootcheck out the talented cast below! They bring to life opera's most dangerous leading man and the three dynamic women who are determined to bring him to justice May 1–10 at the Shubert Theatre. Learn more.

Jennifer Johnson Cano and Duncan Rock star in the BLO production as Donna Elvira and Don Giovanni.

The three unforgettable leading ladies of Don Giovanni: Chelsea Basler (Zerlina), Meredith Hansen (Donna Anna), and Jennifer Johnson Cano (Donna Elvira).
Chelsea gets ready for her closeup.

Duncan and Jennifer share an inside joke about redheads.

The divas take a break to smile for the camera.

BLO’s PR rep, John Michael Kennedy, and photographer Eric Antoniou provide some direction to the ladies.

The money shot…

And how we got it. Jennifer Johnson Cano lends a hand!

Who said it's not all fun and games?

All photos Eric Antoniou for Boston Lyric Opera © 2015

Thursday, April 9, 2015

DR. VON LYRIC: “My dear Chopin, let me introduce my friends, Herr Liszt and Herr Wagner...”

On Friday, April 10, BLO is presenting a Signature Series program featuring a screening of the film AMADEUS at the beautiful Somerville Theatre (if you haven't seen the place, you should!), with some extra features beyond seeing the excellent picture on a big screen. Check it out!

Biopics of composers are somewhat of a staple of Hollywood (and foreign) cinema. Look at the daunting list from Wikipedia. Not surprisingly, Chopin leads the list, with Schubert second (pale, handsome romantics, desperately in love and dying young ... irresistible!).

For many critics, these films have perhaps not been the cinema's finest hours. They have been often derided as sentimental , historically inept, and wildly distorted, and their depictions of creativity as crude and reductive. These charges have most often been aimed at the main practitioner of films with composers as their focus--Ken Russell. Russell is a very complex and fascinating artist (he acted, wrote, was a photographer ... he also directed opera). Charged with willful distortion and outrageous manipulation (or is it genuine myth-making?), feverish travesties (or is it a delightfully flamboyant and highly expressive use of any theatrical means available?), derided as crude and vulgar (or truth through excess, in the manner of Blake?), Russell remains a controversial figure. Read more here.

But I would also recommend the series of very influential and often quite extraordinary programs he did for the BBC early in his career (some consider these his best work): check them out on Amazon. Let's look a few examples of his work (and others):

Chopin and Liszt:

A SONG TO REMEMBER (1945), directed by Charles Vidor
Cornell Wilde as Chopin and Merle Oberon as George Sand


MAGIC FIRE (1955), directed by William Dieterle
Alan Badel as Wagner and Yvonne de Carlo as Minna
Music arranged by Eric Korngold (who also appears as Hans Richter)


LISZTOMANIA (1975), directed by Ken Russell (incidentally, the sobriquet "Lisztomania" was created by Henrich Heine)

The following films depict the composer as rock star (literally ... Roger Daltrey of The Who plays Liszt!). Two more Ken Russells:

MAHLER (1974):



And here are a few more contemporary examples.


COCO CHANEL AND  IGOR STRAVINSKY (2009), directed by Jan Kounen


IMMORTAL BELOVED (1994), directed by Bernard Rose

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

A Chat with Miroslav Sekera, the child Mozart in Amadeus

Remember the amazing child musician who embodied the ultimate prodigy, Mozart, in the 1984 film Amadeus, directed by Milos Forman?

That boy is now the internationally-recognized pianist, Miroslav Sekera, and he’s in Boston rehearsing with Shakespeare Concerts. This week, we caught up with Mr. Sekera about portraying the famous composer as a child, his musical background, and what he’s up to in Boston.

Don’t miss his performance in the Oscar-winning film, on the big screen this Friday, April 10 at 7PM at the Somerville Theatre! Featuring a live performance by Duncan Rock (BLO’s Don Giovanni) a beer special from Aeronaut Brewery, a raffle, and more. Learn more.

Miroslav Sekera

BLO: Was Amadeus your first movie? What was the audition process like? How old were you?
Miroslav Sekera: Yes, it was my first experience with movies. I was seven years old. Luckily, there was no audition process for the role. They were filming several scenes in Prague, and were looking for a child musician who could play both violin and piano (cembalo). They inquired at a very well-known music school, where I studied, so we connected through my teachers.

BLO: What was the filming process like? What are your memories or stories about the process?
MS: I remember one story very clearly: My first tooth fell out, so we were worried about filming. Forman’s assistant told me, no problem, they will make something [a fake tooth] in the make-up room for you. But Mr. Forman stopped us and said, “Calm down, Mozart’s teeth fell out when he was a boy also!” It is very funny, because in my scene I don’t smile and I keep my mouth closed!

BLO: What was your musical training and background like at that point? Did you come from a musical family?
MS: I'm not from a musical family, though all my family members like to sing together, mainly folk songs. I started my [formal] musical education when I was three years old. We visited a very well-known piano teacher for children, Zdena Janzurova. She tried my talent and told me and my grandmother: “He could start learning violin, he has perfect pitch.” We agreed, but I told her that I wanted to play the piano also. So thanks to my grandmother, I studied with her in Prague twice a week.

BLO: Were you already doing professional gigs as a child, or did you decide to make music your career later?
MS: Music was always the clear choice for me. I practiced my instrument every day since I was three years old, and I was called a “child prodigy.” Plus, I love music! When I was fifteen years old, I began studying piano at the Prague Conservatory. I continued to play violin as a hobby. I received some prizes from international competitions, but when some people heard about my performance in an Oscar-winning movie, that felt like the greatest point in my professional career, paradoxically!

BLO: Are you a Mozart fan?
MS: Of course! Mozart is one of greatest composers ever. His music is beautifully clear, but also is one of the most difficult for interpretation.

BLO: What projects are you working on now and why are you currently in Boston? What are your interests as an artist?
MS: Right now, I am working with the composer Joseph Summer, as he prepares the premiere of his opera, The Tempest. We have collaborated together for more than ten years. I like his music, it is so emotional.

I have many upcoming concerts in my country [the Czech Republic] and in Europe. For example, next month I have three recitals in my country and am recording a CD of a piano concerto by B. Martinu. Next year, the violinist Josef Spacek (my good friend and a finalist in the International Queen Elisabeth Competition in Brussels) and I will play together in Washington, DC, at the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts.

Don’t miss Mr. Sekera’s appearance in The Tempest, a new chamber opera by Joseph Summer, with Shakespeare Concerts. Performing Friday, April 17 at the Somerville Theatre. Tickets available here!