Deep in the Mozart of Texas

Austin enjoys the stateside debut of the Austrian American Mozart Academy

Deep in the Mozart of Texas
Illustration By Robert Faires

Where in the world do hot young singers go to study and perform Mozart's operas?

Austria? No, Austin.

This summer, the Austrian American Mozart Academy, an international program that provides aspiring professional singers with training and performance experience in Mozartian opera, can be found deep in the heart of Texas. It may seem incongruous, this classical culture in the land of the armadillo, but hey, if Shakespeare can have his Winedale -- and the Bard winds up his 32nd summer in that Central Texas community this week ( -- why can't Wolfgang Amadeus find an academic home for his work here, too?

The key here is William Lewis, the man who founded the Mozart Academy in Salzburg in 1995. In addition to being a renowned tenor who has performed with the Metropolitan Opera, La Scala, and Royal Opera Covent Garden, among others, he's also the Frank Erwin Centennial Professor in Opera at UT-Austin. So when he opted to move the Academy out of Mozart's birthplace this year, it was only natural that he bring it here. True, our city hasn't the historical connection to the composer, the culture, or the mountains that Austria has, but our state university's School of Music offers abundant resources with which the Academy can provide its 30 nationally chosen artists with a quality experience, and Lewis feels he can bring "some of that Salzburg ambience to Austin."

But it's local audiences who might feel that ambience the most, as they'll have the opportunity to savor the Academy's efforts through public performances in the Old World setting of the Scottish Rite Theater. Prof. Lewis is staging Die Entführung aus dem Serail (The Abduction From the Seraglio), the lighthearted tale of a Spanish nobleman scheming to rescue his beloved and her maid from a Pasha who has taken them captive. Gottfried Hellmundt conducts. UT Opera Theatre Director Robert DeSimone stages La Clemenza di Tito (The Mercy of Titus), Mozart's last and most controversial opera, in which jealousy spurs a woman to seek the life of the man she loves. David Neely conducts. And Joseph Dowell stages a pair of short works: Der Schauspieldirektor, a comedic competition between two diva sopranos, and Bastien und Bastienne, a comic romance about a shepherd and shepherdess who get a lesson in love, penned by the precocious composer when he was 12. Dr. Barry Scott Williamson conducts. All the operas are performed in English.

Schedule for performances:

Aug. 11-12, 3pm: Der Schauspieldirektor & Bastien und Bastienne

Aug. 11-12, 8pm: Die Entführung aus dem Serail

Aug. 17-18, 8pm: La Clemenza di Tito

All performances are at the Scottish Rite Theater, 207 W. 18th. Admission is $10 ($5 students). Proceeds benefit the Academy scholarship fund. For info, call 301-3739 or visit

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