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Review: OPERA SAN JOSE'S MOZART AND SALIERI at Home Computer Screens

Jealousy Served Cold

Review: OPERA SAN JOSE'S MOZART AND SALIERI at Home Computer Screens

Rimsky-Korsakov's short opera, Mozart and Salieri, compares the work of the two musical greats. Now, Mozart and Salieri, is a fine new filmed production from Opera San José available for streaming after Sept. 30, 2021.

Baritone Sidney Outlaw stars as Salieri and tenor Simon Barrad assumes the part of his fellow composer, Mozart, in Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov's Mozart and Salieri at Opera San José.

Outlaw is expressive as Salieri and he is somewhat offended at the other composer's easy sense of humor. Singing with bronzed tones, he cannot help but think Mozart is not sufficiently serious. As Mozart, Simon Barrad's character is completely happy with himself and his jokes. He does not care what Salieri thinks of him or his music as he sings with reedy tenor tones.

Throughout the opera, conductor Donato Cabrera brought out the quotations from the Mozart Requiem. They pointed out the height and depth of Mozart's talent while underlining Salieri's intense jealousy.

The piece, based on an Alexander Pushkin play, contrasts the work of these two differently talented composers. Pushkin's play describes Salieri's talent as showing itself gradually as the result of grueling work and rework. On the other hand, he sees Mozart's talent as flowing liberally from a generous spring. Written in 1830 and published in 1832, this was the only one of Pushkin's plays staged during his lifetime. It features three characters, Mozart, Salieri, and a blind fiddler whose playing entertains Mozart and disgusts Salieri.

Rimsky-Korsakov's well-put-together two-person mini-opera premiered in 1898, sixty-six years after its composition. At the beginning the opera, Salieri is angry and defeated. Having seriously devoted his life to music he has achieved hard won success, but it seems to him the Mozart can improvise what Salieri labors over for days. He cannot help feeling jealous of that kind of an immense talent.

Stage director Fenlon Lamb has Salieri move in the serious manner of an older man who has experienced the vicissitudes of life, while her Mozart prances with youthful vigor and plays with a picture frame. Set designer Steven C. Kemp has outlined the walls which seem to converge in on each other with music that Salieri eventually tears down. Lighting Designer Pamila Z. Gray's shadows add to the ominous atmosphere. The costumes by Alyssa Oania further demonstrate the age difference and divergence of point of view between the composers.

OSJ created their Fred Heiman Digital Media Studio, a state-of-the-art performance space housed within Opera San José headquarters, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic so that the company could offer opera in a safe, online setting. Since then, OSJ has presented Gene Scheer and Jake Heggie's Three Decembers, three short operas by Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari, Ned Rorem, and Tom Cipullo, grouped as Love and Secrets, and the September, 2021, presentation of Rimsky-Korsakov's Mozart and Salieri.

Rimsky-Korsakov's Mozart and Salieri is available for thirty-day access at $40.00. It's a fine example of 2021 online opera available to opera lovers worldwide. Don't miss it.


Photo of Sidney Outlaw as Salieri and Simon Barab as Mozart courtesy of Opera San Jose.


From This Author - Maria Nockin

Maria Nockin worked at the Metropolitan Opera in New York while attending  Fordham University across the street from Lincoln Center. At the same time, she studied voice, piano, and violin... (read more about this author)

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