Operas rekindle old debate

Rivalry and harmonious beauty brought two of the most famous classical composers together 232 years ago, and their operas will be performed this weekend on campus.

The School of Music will perform “Mozart versus Salieri” Friday and Saturday in Ed Landreth Auditorium, said Richard Estes, TCU opera studio director.

An opera, “Prima la musica, poi le parole,” by Salieri and “The Impresario” by Mozart will be performed each day by a different cast of upperclassmen and a few graduate students with a full orchestra, said Corrie Donovan, a senior music major who will play Ingrid Idol in “The Impresario.”

Estes has been working on the project since October and said he wanted to mimic what took place in Vienna in 1786, when Emporer Franz Joseph chose Mozart and Salieri to perform their operas on the same night competitively.

That night, Salieri’s Italian opera was playing at one end of the room while Mozart’s German singspiel played at the other.

“It was old Italian versus the new Vienna model,” Estes said.

World War II veteran George Stephens will play “The Impresario.” Before serving in Europe, Stephens attended TCU and came back to study after the war. Later, he studied in New York at the American Theatre Wing. Stephens sang with the New York City Opera, the Boston Opera and was a soloist at Carnegie Hall in the performance of Bach’s Magnificat.

“This opera took a long time to piece together and was difficult,” Donovan said. “But I’m doing what I love and sacrifices have to be made for something you love.”

Brian Smith, a TCU alumnus, said he vaguely understands the rivalry between the two composers but would like to see the opera.

“I think it would be fun to go and see how it was like back in Vienna.”