Mozart Dinner – Your Private Opera in Prague
There are ads all over the tourist spots and the internet for the “Mozart Dinner”. After some careful study, I thought this would be one of the better concerts to attend because it had both instrumental and vocal music, would give us dinner, and–because it wasn’t in a church–would probably have some of the best acoustics in the smaller venues.
So on Tuesday, July 11, at 8pm, we attended the Mozart Dinner in the Boccaccio Ballroom in the Grand Hotel Bohemia.
The Ballroom is located down a level or two from the street and is beautifully laid out mostly in a classical style. There is a small stage with just enough room for the string quintet, while the 2 vocal soloists have plenty of space on the floor in front of the stage. The space was wonderful for the ensemble. The music was perfectly clear and I was amazed at how much the sole contrabass could fill the room.
I’m sure it was quite good, but not really anything I wanted to eat, so while I forced myself to eat the beef tips (I think that’s what they’re called), I pretty much stuck with the wine. I was here for the music.
The concert was made up of three 20-minute segments in between dinner courses. While the musicians were quite good, I’m highly biased towards the instrumentalists. The following is simply my observations throughout the concert in no particular order.
It’s great to hear Mozart played by a small ensemble. One can hear the genius in the inner parts and the orchestration. While lines are straightforward and somewhat “simple”, they are by no means plain. Mozart was a master at little surprises hidden in every part. The instrumental music was very good and the opera arias were good–I presume.
I’m not really a fan of opera and now I remember some of the reasons. Being up close, it was obscenely obvious what weird expressions the vocalists make, unnatural mouth movements, and acting verging on pantomime.
I do find the vocal melodies interesting, but I tend to hear them as another part of the whole. Perhaps because I am not caught up in any of the drama, I find the slow pieces to be so laborious. What I like is the writing–the interplay of all the parts, including the voices. I couldn’t care less about the lyrics!
I guess it is more accurate to say I like opera music, but do not enjoy watching opera.
Now is the time I get personal and allow you to know a bit about myself. I have a short attention span. I get easily bored by music over 100 years old! I deeply respect the masters and often hear things I’ve not noticed previously, but for the most part, it’s the same harmonic language that’s been in use for hundreds of years. So when I’m getting bored or distracted I play a game. This time I made it a game to try to listen to the viola part. Since he was facing away from me, this was a particularly difficult challenge and kept me focused.
This was a wonderful concert and definitely worth the money (whether you eat the dinner or not!). The musicians were first class (I forgot to mention that 4 of the 5 reminded me of someone I know at home), and of course the compositions were all masterpieces. I highly recommend this concert over many of the others offered at small venues in Prague in the summer. This was the venue with the cleanest acoustics, though I’m sure some of the churches have more appealing ambiance. I don’t think any of them will compare with the SOUND of this ballroom for chamber music.