During his short life, Mozart composed more than 20 operas. Next month, the Classical Opera Company is recording “Apollo et Hyacinthus”, Mozart’s first opera, which he wrote at the age of 11.
The works of Mozart and his contemporaries have been the specialty of the Classical Opera Company since its creation in 1997. The company always performs with its own period instrument orchestra. Last week, I interviewed Ian Page, its founder, artistic director and conductor. He explained how important it is for him to bring the audience into a journey through 18th Century operas and to recreate the intimate atmosphere of the theatre at the time.
It has been almost a year since I started following the Classical Opera Company’s performances in various London concert halls including Wigmore Hall, Cadogan Hall and Kings Place. In previous years, the company also performed in the Barbican, Sadler’s Wells, St John’s Smith Square and the Royal Opera House. Ian Page is an authority on Mozart and his contemporaries and he has a particular talent in introducing the context of a specific aria to the audience, always in an entertaining and passionate way. He is also well known for his interest in unfinished operas and rarely performed pieces. In 2010, he presented a new completion of Mozart’s unfinished opera “Zaide” at Sadler’s Wells and a reconstruction of Thomas Arne’s “Artaxerxes” at the ROH. Following nine sold-out performances, Linn Records recorded the entire opera.
Ian Page has a unique approach which aims to educate, inspire and entertain his audience: he designs creative programmes like the very successful “A-Z Mozart”, which he set up after having noticed that the first Mozart’s opera started with A (Apollo) and the last with Z (Zauberflöte). This program led to a CD “The A-Z of Mozart Opera” by Sony BMG, which was selected by Gramophone magazine as one of its top recordings of 2007. Ian also explains that he loves the idea of mixing several forms of arts. In another successful programme called “The Truth about Love”, he combined arias and poetry read by professional actors.
The company also seeks to discover and nurture young singers of exceptional talent. When Page started the company, he already had experience with young singers as a répétiteur for the British Youth Opera and later as an assistant conductor at Glyndebourne. His role, he explains, is to teach them to believe in a particular piece, to delve beneath the surface in order to fully master a specific aria and finally, to enjoy and connect with the music and with the audience. “A young artist is often lonely and exposed,” he says. With the Associate Artist Scheme launched in 2006, he selects a few young artists, gives them opportunities to perform in a repertoire that fits them, and coaches and assists them in their career.
Among the current patrons are prestigious names such as Sir Thomas Allen, Sir Jeremy Isaacs and Cecilia Bartoli. Like many young arts organisations, the company does not benefit from public funding but depends on a range of support from sponsorships, trusts and individual donations. Recent concerts have been sponsored by companies such as Ernst & Young and ConocoPhillips. In this field, the company is also creative. Last January, it was the first organisation to participate in a campaign with the new crowd-funding site “WeDidThis” to raise funds for its first recording of Mozart operas.
The concerts scheduled for this fall are promising: on 21 September, the company will present “Ombra Felice: Mozart’s Arias for Countertenor” at Wigmore Hall, featuring the internationally recognized countertenor Lawrence Zazzo. On 11 and 12 November, Ian Page will conduct Mozart’s opera “Il re pastore“ at Kings Place as part of the “Mozart Unwrapped” series.
When we discussed his other projects, Ian mentioned that his ultimate dream would be “to have our own concert venue, the equivalent of Shakespeare’s Globe for Mozart’s music”.