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Jungles, Soap Operas and Mozart for TSO's First Concert of 2017

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Tallahassee Symphony Orchestra
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The Tallahassee Symphony Orchestra kicks off the New Year Saturday night (1/21). Before anything else, though, we have to find out where the title of this concert – “Mozart in the Jungle” – came from.

“’Mozart in the Jungle’ actually won an Emmy last year,” said Tallahassee Symphony Orchestra Conductor and Music Director Darko Butorac. "It’s about the saucy life behind the scenes of an orchestra. And if you haven’t seen it, it’s kind of an orchestra-inspired melodramatic telenovela”

Meaning a musical soap opera, maybe like “General Harpsichord” or “All My Cellos”. Actually, the legendary composer whose music makes up this program had a flair for the operatic, without the soap but still a tad trashy nonetheless. Butorac says Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart got an early start in the biz. He was composing by the age of five and went on to crank out an incredible body of work between then and his death a scant thirty years later.

“Mozart wrote – published – over 600 pieces in his lifetime,” Butorac said with a touch of awe in his voice. “Just think of the time it would take with parchment and feathered pen to write out all that repertoire. It would take years of full-time work just to write it out by hand.”

Mozart was SO productive, Butorac said, that just picking out which of his many works to feature was a major challenge.

“This particular concert I wanted to highlight Mozart’s greatest operatic writing, so we have three vocal soloists. We will be presenting arias from the three famous operas that Mozart wrote: ‘The Marriage of Figaro’, ‘Don Giovanni’ and ‘Cosi Fan Tutte.’”

One of the three vocal soloists is mezzo-soprano Felicia Gavilanes.

“I mean everybody knows a Mozart tune whether they know it or not,” she said. “They hear it in a car commercial or a movie and they’re humming along and they might not even know that Mozart wrote it. But he gives us little gifts and little jokes in all of his music. Even the serious pieces have little moments; something in the flutes or the clarinets that make you smile.”

Something to smile about in this instance, added Butorac, is the thematic linkage that unites these three operatic selections.

“They’re all somehow indirectly connected to the subject of love. So one aria is about unrequited love, another aria is about infidelity, another aria is the rage aria; there is an aria about fidelity and there’s a playful aria.”

Gavilanes said the aria from the “Marriage of Figaro” featuring a 17-year old kid named “Cherubino” is almost borderline R-rated.

“The things he says only sound innocent if you’ve never been a teenager yourself. So anyone over the age of 17, if they really listen to what Cherubino is saying, there’s some sauce in there. I won’t make quotations; I’ll blush!”

Still, if you bring the kids to the concert, they’re unlikely to be scandalized too much unless they’re REALLY fluent in nuanced 18th Century Italian. “Mozart in the Jungle”, the year’s first outing by the Tallahassee Symphony Orchestra is at FSU’s Ruby Diamond Concert Hall this Saturday evening at 8:00.

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Tom Flanigan has been with WFSU News since 2006, focusing on covering local personalities, issues, and organizations. He began his broadcast career more than 30 years before that and covered news for several radio stations in Florida, Texas, and his home state of Maryland.

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