5 Questions with Christina Major

MMF Guest Artist Christina Major reflects on Mozart as she prepares for her 2019 appearance. 

Christina appears with the MMF on Friday, July 12 in San Francisco, Saturday, July 13 in San Jose, and Sunday, July 14 in Sonoma. Buy your tickets today!

What do you love about the music of Mozart?

Mozart seemed to understand the voice and its most intimate and outer edge capabilities, depending on the singer he had in mind at the time. From the simple and most sublime legato lines to the racing coloratura and octave leaps he either made the singer a God/Goddess or dismantled a faulty technique in no time. There is nothing more celestial than ringing out a line above the soft cloud of the orchestra underneath, perfectly balanced, to showcase and elevate the instrument.

Do you have a special memory of any of Mozart’s works?

My favorite was always any performance where Maestro George Cleve was at the helm. George knew more than I did that Mozart and I got along very well and challenged with me opportunities such as Konstanze in “Die Entführung aus dem Serail”, or especially Elettra in “Idomeneo”. He knew the role of Elettra encompassed gorgeous moments of beauty chased by madness. I’ll never forget those pianissimo cadenzas where Maestro simply flicked his baton and let me take over for a moment.... always with that wonderful smile.... from his eyes. Life moments on stage for sure. 

How is learning or performing a Mozart work different than other composers?

In my experience, which will most assuredly be different than others , I found that I could not just start sight reading Mozart without having looked at the structure and find the long legato phrases, which can be quite elusive. The recitatives in particular have their own conversational flow and nuance not found in other composers. The patterns of the recitatives, and why they were placed how they were, isn't always immediately clear. Then you have that moment when putting it all together realizing..... wow.... his mind saw this whole scenario all at once before writing it down, thus no corrections. And I am the artist trying to reveal this to the audience, with all kinds of corrections going on in my mind. You must be ok with feeling exposed at times, a lot of times actually, and if you are then the result is heaven.

What feeling do you hope the audience walks away from after your performance at the Midsummer Mozart Festival?

Exhilaration. Awe. Fulfilled. Transported. Released. I want to simply translate how I feel when singing Mozart.

Any other thoughts on Mozart and his music?

He wrote the voice like he would any other solo instrument. It needed to be a mastered instrument for sure. You can’t perform it unless you have mastered your instrument. The human voice however is special. The difference is that we can’t put our voices in a case and walk away from them... the voice IS us. I feel like he was well aware of that and capitalized on the humanity (anger, pain, deep sorrow, joy, laughter) in each character even in the fantastical characters. I feel like in his works I see his soul and all that is swirling around inside him. For me, that what sets him apart.