When it launched the first Mostly Mozart Festival in 1966, Lincoln Center rewrote the rules for music in New York. Until then, the city's classical music scene had basically shut down in deep summer, as audiences and artists headed out of town. Concert halls sat empty, chandeliers were cleaned, and rural hills were alive with the sounds of music. Mostly Mozart was a fairly radical idea at the time‹serious music in the summer, played by big stars and virtuosic newcomers, at rock-bottom prices ($3 for every seat in the hall), and named for a composer who was hardly the revered demigod he is today. Thirty-seven years later, Mostly Mozart has set the standard for the country's summertime music events, has spawned a host of alliterative imitations (one awaits the arrival of "Dutifully Dutilleux"), and is as much a local tradition as free Shakespeare in the Park or a Yankees game. Mostly Mozart keeps reinventing itself, and this coming season features some big plans. Jane S. Moss, Lincoln Center's Vice President for Programming, who is responsible for Mostly Mozart, discusses the upcoming season.
Playbill: The most obvious change at Mostly Mozart is the arrival of the new music director, Louis Langrée.
Jane S. Moss: Louis brings an enormous amount to the festival, and we're very excited that he's joining us. The music director of Mostly Mozart needs to be an individual who covers many different bases. First and foremost, the Festival needs someone who is a wonderful conductor, particularly in the Classical repertoire. He or she must also be familiar with the Baroque era and with period-instrument practice, since those are now part of Mostly Mozart. We're incorporating opera into the festival, so we need someone with opera experience. Not a lot of conductors fit those criteria. We're thrilled because Louis brings all that to the table. This will also be a very exciting time for the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra to work with a new music director, since it had the same director‹Gerard Schwarz, who was great‹for 20 years. Louis comes to the Orchestra with very specific ideas about Classical style, which is certain to have a strong impact on the Orchestra's sound.
Playbill: Mostly Mozart has changed its profile over the last few years. What kind of balance do you seek between the traditional image of the Festival and new ideas?
Moss: Mozart will always be the center of the Festival, but it now encompasses Baroque music, too. We also make occasional forays into the Romantic and modern periods, with works related to Mozart. We will be very active in terms of securing outside period-instrument and chamber ensembles for the Festival. We now look at some repertoire from a theatrical-staging perspective. We're doing mini-festivals within the Festival, as we did with Handel. So, although it's rooted in the music of Mozart, the Festival is actually larger than an exclusive look at that singular genius.
Playbill: What are the highlights for this summer?
Moss: Well, I look forward to all of it, especially the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra performances. I am eager to see the outside presentations, among them the Salzburg Camerata, led by Sir Roger Norrington. The group is from Austria, and will perform a two-concert "Beethoven Experience." Europa Galante, a period-instrument ensemble from Italy, will perform the U.S. premiere of Scarlatti's La Santissima Trinità. Fabio Biondi will conduct his own reconstruction of the oratorio, which Scarlatti wrote in 1715. Leif Ove Andsnes is making his New York conducting debut with the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra, a group of wonderful young players. He'll conduct and perform as piano soloist in concertos by Mozart and Haydn.
Having said that, working on Mostly Mozart is kind of like being a parent with lots of children‹we love them all equally. On closing night, Louis will conduct the Festival Orchestra in Haydn's Creation. Midori is coming back for the first time since 1989. Alicia de Larrocha, who has performed at virtually every Mostly Mozart since 1971, is making her Mostly Mozart farewell, which is quite moving. The sensational young pianist Lang Lang will make his debut with us this summer. Countertenor David Daniels will give a recital accompanied by guitar, singing a very interesting program. His appearance points to another development: in future years you will probably see more recitals. We presented Thomas Quasthoff in recital a few years ago, and we have been presenting string quartets for a while. This year, we have the Emerson String Quartet.
And we are introducing family programming for the first time. Robert Kapilow, who is extraordinary, will conduct his own Green Eggs and Hamadeus, which sort of merges Dr. Seuss with Eine kleine Nachtmusik. It's charming. So family programming will expand in future years.
Playbill: When you presented the Mark Morris Dance Group last year, it seemed like a big departure. Now it's almost expected.
Moss: The first time out, Mark Morris did L'Allegro, il Penseroso, ed il Moderato, an innovative staging of a Baroque oratorio. This summer, they will perform V, an acclaimed work to Schumann; Gloria, to Vivaldi; and other repertoire.
Playbill: You are also mounting your first fully staged opera.
Moss: Right, Mozart's Il re pastore. Nicholas McGegan will lead the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, and Heidi Grant Murphy and Mark Padmore head the cast. Since it's our first outing with staged opera, we wanted something that already existed, so this is a production Mark Lamos did at Glimmerglass. In coming seasons, we will both import existing productions and develop our own in a mixture of full operas and innovative stagings of oratorios, arias, or any variation thereof. One example of that is Winterreise, which Great Performers presented in December, and that we are bringing back for encore performances. Trisha Brown choreographed the piece for baritone Simon Keenlyside and dancers from her modern-dance company.
Playbill: You have concerts at Avery Fisher Hall, New York State Theater, Alice Tully Hall, and John Jay College Theater. You've given concerts outdoors in Damrosch Park. Do you ever gulp when you realize how things keep expanding?
Moss: [laughs] Well, yes and no. Organizationally, we are never intimidated by artistic risk. We only experience apprehension in terms of ticket-buying; but what's wonderful is that as we expand our identity by including new elements, our audience expands. We are getting different audiences for different events. Mostly Mozart has become a successful part of the mainstream of New York's musical life, and now that success can propel us in new directions.
Robert Sandla writes frequently about the arts.