Thursday, January 27, 2011

Happy Birthday, Mr. Mozart

Yes, it's another birthday for Mozart, today being the 255th anniversary of his arrival on this planet.  I thought it fitting that I take over his blog on this occasion, and discuss what it is about Mozart that captured my heart and my imagination.  The short answer would be his genius.

The longer one requires a little backstory.  You see, I was born to be a diva.  I discovered my coloratura voice at age nine, as did our neighbor, a mezzo soprano with the Lyric Opera, who offered to take me under her wing and tutor me.  My father, being on the run from the Chicago mob, didn't want me performing in public, lest I draw their attention to the Moreno family.  (He even changed the spelling of our name from the original Marino to throw them off the track!)

So there went my opera career.  Later in life, after I got out from under Dad's thumb, I moved to New York, became a rock singer/songwriter and destroyed my upper vocal range.  But at least I got to perform in public.  I also developed my skills as a writer of prose and promotional materials, and after a lucrative career in advertising and corporate communications, I turned my attention to writing fiction.

About eight years ago I  re-ignited my passion for opera and orchestral music.  I enrolled in Juilliard's evening division, and began taking courses in composition, orchestration, counterpoint, etc.  In one of my first classes we analyzed Mozart's Symphony No. 39, and with apologies to Messrs. Bach, Beethoven, Berstein, Copland and Stravinsky, it slammed me like no other composer ever has.  So, while immersing myself in contemporary music, (and winning a NY Foundation for the Arts Fellowship in Composition along the way) I spent hundred of hours studying Mozart's symphonies, chamber music and operas.  No one wrote for the soprano voice like Mozart.  No one.

What sealed my relationship with him, though, was a visitation from the little scamp one New Year's Eve, several years ago.  (Okay, yes, I was drinking champagne, but that had nothing to do with it.)  The incident propelled me to write a mystery series loosely based on opera plots, and to introduce Mozart as a key character.  Why not bring him back to life?  He was way too young to leave us at age 35!

So Happy Birthday, Mozart, dear, and thanks for all the inspiration you've given me.  I hope you and your music will be around for another 255 years.