Elizabeth Gentner performs a scene from the opera "Idomeneo" while Philip Kuttner accompanies her on piano during a tribute to Mozart in celebration of his 258th birthday, Sunday, in Fairfield. The North Bay Opera presented the celebration at the Fairfield Center for the Creative Arts. (Adam Smith/Daily Republic)


North Bay Opera celebrates Mozart

By From page A3 | January 27, 2014

FAIRFIELD — Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born 258 years ago in Salzburg, Austria.

To celebrate the composer’s birthday, North Bay Opera hosted a tribute concert Sunday that drew a small crowd to the Fairfield Center for Creative Arts.

Most people know Mozart as a child prodigy, said artistic director Philip Kuttner. He started picking up notes at age 3 and wrote his first composition at age 5. He waited until he was 12 to write his first opera.

“He was definitely a late bloomer,” Kuttner said to laughter.

On the keys, Kuttner accompanied a small cast of opera singers who took turns performing selections from Mozart’s operas that included “Idomeneo,” “The Marriage of Figaro” and “The Magic Flute.”

Dressed in a blue ball gown, soprano Elizabeth Gentner held her head high in dramatic resistance to a suitor’s love in “Come Scoglio” from the 1790 opera “Cosi fan Tutte.”

Kuttner said the best way he could translate the Italian title was “Women are all the Same” – an insight that forced a chuckle from the audience.

“(It’s a) bit of a caricature that says women sometimes take themselves too seriously,” Kuttner said.

The audience was also introduced to pieces from “The Abduction from the Seraglio” – an opera referenced in the 1984 film “Amadeus” when the emperor complained there were “too many notes,” Kuttner said.

“This was that opera,” he said.

Mozart found more success with “Don Giovanni” – an Italian opera based on the story of legendary seducer Don Juan.

Baritone Sepp Hammer, who performed in North Bay’s production of “Don Pasquale,” portrayed Don Giovanni and joined soprano Svetlana Nikitenko for the charming duet “La ci Darem la Mano,” which roused the audience.

Nikitenko also piqued some interest with her performance of a piece from “The Magic Flute.” Tackling what Kuttner described as a “fiercesome aria,” Nikitenko sang “Der Holle Rache” as the Queen of the Night, a role the Ukrainian-born soprano has played for the San Francisco Opera as well as a Russia-based theater group.

Nikitenko later donned a black feather boa and joined Hammer as the chirpy wife of the bird-catcher in “Pa . . . Pa . . . Pa” – a comical take on the German word, papagei, which means parrot.

“I just love the ‘Magic Flute,’ ” said Vallejo resident Gary Gussz after the show. The former Green Valley Middle School teacher accompanied his wife for the afternoon concert.

“We’re big opera fans,” said Sue Gussz. “To have local opera is really so much fun . . . We wish more people would come out. It’s cheaper than going to the movies,” she said.

Reach Adrienne Harris at 427-6956 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/aharrisdr.

Adrienne Harris

Adrienne Harris

Adrienne joined the Daily Republic in September 2009. She earned her journalism degree at the University of Florida in 2005 and has worked at newspapers in Fort Pierce, Fla.; Las Cruces, N.M.; and El Paso, Texas.

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