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FALL ARTS PREVIEW / CLASSICAL

Relief for that Mozart hangover

September 10, 2006|Mark Swed | Times Staff Writer

MOZART'S 250th birthday Jan. 27 was still being celebrated through the summer, with mostly Mozart this, all-Mozart that. Now it's the fall of Mozart burnout, and what to do? You could, of course, burn out on Shostakovich: His 100th birthday is Sept. 25, and his music will be unavoidable this season. Or you might seek out a Long Beach nightclub -- Vault 350 -- on the last weekend of this month for "No Mozart," two very Mozartean un-Mozart operas by Europe's preeminent Minimalists, Louis Andriessen and Michael Nyman. Both works were created as part of a series of half-hour British television collaborations between composers and filmmakers for the great Mozart burnout of 1991 (the 200th anniversary of his death).

"M is for Man, Music and Mozart," which will be performed in Long Beach by live musicians accompanying the film, paired Dutch composer Andriessen with British auteur Peter Greenaway. A gorgeous cornucopia of nudity, gore and exquisite movement, it takes as its thesis that God, having clumsily made man, had no choice but to make something of his invention through music and finally Mozart.

In British composer Nyman's postmodern opera "Letters, Riddles and Writs," busts of Beethoven and Haydn peer down on the dying Mozart, who has just deliriously slept through the premiere of "The Magic Flute" and is coming to terms with his overbearing father. In the kooky film by Jeremy Newson and Pat Gavin, the German chanteuse Ute Lemper impersonated Mozart, and Nyman appeared as himself, a Mozartean plagiarist.

Musically, the operas are important small gems, each composer employing his immediately recognizable, aggressively rhythmic modern style to reflect on the past but remain up to date. And "No Mozart" promises to be one more milestone for the plucky Long Beach Opera, which will be presenting the first opera by either composer to reach the West Coast.

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