Mozart's genius on display at Westmoreland concert

| Friday, March 15, 2013, 1:06 p.m.

Kostis Protopapas says it is not difficult for him to get into a “Mozart mode.”

“He is the greatest musical genius of all time,” says the guest conductor of the March 16 concert by the Westmoreland Symphony Orchestra. “He may not be your favorite composer, but it is impossible to ignore the greatness of his compositions, the volume of his work and all that he did in all types of music.”

Put simply, Protopapas, artistic director of the Tulsa Opera in Oklahoma, is a fan of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. But he has other skills that made him the choice to be guest conductor for this concert.

Daniel Meyer, the artistic director of the Westmoreland ensemble, says he chose Protopapas to direct this concert because his work in opera makes him adept at dealing with melody. Meyer says he went that direction with the concert because it is difficult putting together a concert that looks at Mozart's music. The great amount of works alone creates that problem.

After all, it includes 41 symphonies, 27 piano concertos, a clarinet concerto that still sets the bar for that instrument and operas such as “The Magic Flute” and “Abduction From the Seraglio.”

“You could spend your life analyzing the music of Mozart and still not finish,” Meyer says.

To examine the composer's mastery of melody, “Amadeus — A Mozart Celebration” will include arias from “The Marriage of Figaro” and “Don Giovanni” done by soprano Jeanine De Bique, winner of several international awards.

She also will sing “Laudamus te” from the C minor Mass, which Protopapas says is “like there is not a cloud in the sky” in its joy.

But the other pieces of music — two symphonies and an overture — will illustrate his melodic ability in orchestral settings, Meyer says.

Meyer knows Protopapas from when they studied together at Boston University and says he thought Protopapas had the overall skills needed for the show.

Protopapas says he was delighted to be asked to do this concert. Although he is thoroughly convinced of the direction of his career in opera, he admits he enjoys guest conducting jobs with orchestras and regrets he does not get them enough.

Having an all-Mozart concert is a great opportunity, he adds.

He says Mozart is a master of many musical aspects of which professionals and academics are aware, but those features don't need to be analyzed to create appreciation for the music. They simply create a great product, he says.

Beyond this, Mozart's use of characters, storytelling and comedy make his operas enjoyable, he says.

Protopapas, a native of Greece, came to Boston to study piano and conducting.

But in 1997, he conducted Giuseppi Verdi's “Masked Ball” in a workshop in the Czech Republic and says he was “hooked” on the opera's combination of music, drama and theater.

“It was a no-brainer,” he says.

Bob Karlovits is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at or 412-320-7852.

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