I am writing this post between the birthdays of two dear people: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Lianne Aharony – a wonderful singer and one of my best friends. A few years ago I listened to Lianne singing the part of Pamina in a Jerusalem production of The Magic Flute – a feminine character, desired and loved, which suited her perfectly.
Pamina is not only pretty and girly, she is also courageous, loyal and goodhearted, though these values are well hidden between the lines (and within several chauvinistic comments). The story of The Magic Flute might give the impression of a light, even childish tale, when in fact it is considered to be one of Mozart’s most significant embodiments of Enlightenment philosophy. It also features strong Masonic influences, as both Mozart and Emanuel Schikaneder, the librettist of The Magic Flute, were freemasons. All of which makes it surprising, how easy it is to listen to the music with a light heart and mind.
There is an interesting interview with Daniel Barenboim where he was asked to talk about the question of “how to listen to music”. He defines two ways: 1. Listening to music to forget, and 2. Listening to music with an intellectual and emotional engagement:
As Barenboim accurately claims, an emotionally engaged type of listening necessarily brings with it a deeper understanding of the music, which might very well reveal a hidden pain. How fascinating is our ability to feel joy and gratefulness amid the sadness of tragic music. Mozart’s music seems less tragic and in many ways easier to listen to, than for example, Beethoven’s. Of course we know that things are more complex than this.
I was surprised to learn how occupied he was with death:
“As death (when closely considered) is the true goal of our life, I have made myself so thoroughly acquainted with this good and faithful friend of man, that not only has its image no longer anything alarming to me, but rather something most peaceful and consolatory; and I thank my heavenly Father that He has vouchsafed to grant me the happiness, and has given me the opportunity, (you understand me,) to learn that it is the key to our true felicity. I never lie down at night without thinking that (young as I am) I may be no more before the next morning dawns.
And yet not one of all those who know me can say that I ever was morose or melancholy in my intercourse with them. I daily thank my Creator for such a happy frame of mind, and wish from my heart that every one of my fellow-creatures may enjoy the same. ”
[The Letters of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, translated, from the collection of Ludwig Nohl, by Lady Wallace, Boston, 1864, pp. 221-2 ]
These words express an interesting, complex state of mind: yes there is darkness in the world, there are death and tragedies, but one can be aware of these and joyful at the same time. A brave choice which is definitely reflected in works such as The Magic Flute.
Saying that there is more to it than what seems might sound banal. But when you think about it – this is where the great potential of so-called “serious” art is: one can choose to experience it with awareness and intellect; one can decide to make the effort of breaking the outside layer by means of learning, better listening, better observing.
Here is Diana Damrau as the Queen of the Night, a performance which does wonders in terms of bringing out the terror and complexity of the character:
With these thoughts in mind I’m going on a break. In fact, MOUNT DELA is going on a three weeks break after completing a cycle of 12 issues of the magazine. There is a call for submissions for the next cycle – if you feel creative please take a look at the end of this week’s issue. We would love to hear from you!
See you here on Sunday, February 21! Daniela.