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Why you should go to the opera next week

Edward Jacobson | Friday, April 8, 2011

When asked to name a composer of classical music, even the most benighted among us could name Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. But aside from a collection of sound bites in television commercials or a sonata you were forced to play during your childhood years in piano lessons, you probably have not had much direct contact with the great composer. Perhaps you have just never listened to much classical music, or worse, you find it boring. Many people do claim to enjoy Mozart, but sadly his music remains trapped as background noise to study sessions. Even music majors I know seem somewhat disinterested in Mozart, citing his effervescence as tiring fireworks and preferring the wider harmonic variety of later 19th and 20th century composers to Mozart’s simpler tonal palette. These criticisms I do not understand, for when I hear Mozart, the walls of my dorm seem to recede and I need do nothing more than close my eyes and be carried away by the defiant playfulness and absolute sublimity of his music.

I write this letter because next week Notre Dame’s music department will present Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro) in the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center. If you have never been to an opera before, I urge you to go. Figaro is a brilliant comedy which will certainly make you laugh. But for those moments when you are not laughing, you will be touched by Mozart’s poignant illumination of the human condition.

When I wake up on the worst of days, those days when I wish I could stay in bed, lest I face a multitude of disappointments and failures, I pause and thank God that he gave the world a Mozart and that I may be so lucky as to have heard his music. Of Mozart’s music, a well-known scientist once said that it “was so pure that it seemed to have been ever-present in the universe, waiting to be discovered by the master.” I can do little to improve the words of Albert Einstein.

Edward Jacobson


O’Neill Hall

Apr. 6