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Last Updated: Friday, 27 January 2006, 08:32 GMT
Mozart: the singers' perspective
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Mozart died in Vienna at the age of 35

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born 250 years ago in the city of Salzburg, Austria.

A child prodigy, he wrote his first piece of music at the age of five and completed his first symphony at the age of eight.

Admired throughout Europe, Mozart produced a prolific body of work, including piano concertos, string quartets and opera, but died at the age of 35.

Hailed by his contemporary Haydn as "the greatest composer known to me in person, or by name", Mozart's popularity continues today.

Two professional singers tell us, in their own words, what sets Mozart apart from other classical composers.

GERALD FINLEY, BASS-BARITONE

Canadian star Finley stars as Count Almaviva in Le nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro) at London's Royal Opera House.

Gerald Finley
Finley made his name in the leading Mozart roles for baritones

Mozart has been fundamental both in my career, and to my development as a singer. I made my debut as Figaro and ever since I have enjoyed not just the opera roles he produced, but also his choral and orchestral output.

The reason he has been so successful is that he manages to make simple music sound both beautiful and powerful. People are disarmed by it, they find it easy to listen to - and yet, they are still moved by it.

He was absolutely at ease amongst the common people - speaking for them and to them. Unlike Haydn or Beethoven, who were trying to write for imperial society, Mozart was really writing for the common man.

What makes his work exciting is that Mozart could encompass the entire emotional range of human existence.

His music can be extremely difficult to play and sing, but it sounds easy, which makes it completely accessible.

We hear Mozart in lifts and hotels. It's there rattling away, and we think it sounds simple, but if you concentrate on it, it can be transforming - it can make you feel incredibly good.

Mozart was fairly revolutionary, and we need to keep that going. We have to encourage an environment in which composers feel that they can reflect what is going on today, and yet keep challenging convention.

We are in an age of world music. I suspect that in 250 years it will be an African or Asian composer that we are celebrating.

PHILIP LANGRIDGE, TENOR

A versatile tenor with an extensive repertoire, Langridge plays Don Basilio in the new Royal Opera House production of Le nozze di Figaro.

Philip Langridge
Grammy-winner Langridge was made a CBE in 1994

What makes Mozart so special is that he seemed to have all the emotions that we have. Sometimes composers tend to sideline their emotional side.

He wrote practically every style of music, but with Mozart you can't separate the music from the emotion.

I've had a wide experience of music, but I've always come back to Mozart. Mozart is good for the voice, but it's also good the soul, good for the health and good for the imagination.

Apparently there is a part of the brain which reacts to a certain kind of music - and it happens with Mozart, that part of the brain responds.

Mozart's style was absolutely direct for the time - and for now. That is what makes it so extraordinary. He lived in a very different time to the way we live now, but it is still relevant.

Of course, we only had 35 years of Mozart, nowadays 35 is young for an artist. But I think his contemporaries like Haydn, Schubert and Beethoven all learnt from him.

There are quite a few other composers who have anniversaries this year, but they're not as important as Mozart. One never gets tired of Mozart.

Le nozze di Figaro opens at the Royal Opera House on 31 January 2006


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