Mozart exhibition by Mark Podwal at Czech Center

ornamentationThe Artist as Critic

Artist Mark Podwal celebrates Prague’s adoration for Mozart in a new series of artworks, which also features Mozart as “the dissident” whose operas took on the status quo of his time.

Opening Reception May 19, 2015 7:00 PM

Czech Center, 321 East 73 St, New York, NY

Mozart is claimed to have said, “Meine Prager verstehen mich” (“My Praguers understand me”). Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro had a mixed reception when it first premiered in Vienna but in Prague it was an immediate success. The opera is a humorous commentary on class conflict based on a banned play by Beaumarchais, the French playwright and revolutionary. Neither class nor wealth defines worth in the setting of a Mozart opera. Mozart considered himself equal to any aristocrat in morality and artistry. “Perhaps I have more honor in me than many a count,” he wrote to his father; “It is the heart that enobles man, not his position.”

According to Lorenzo Da Ponte, the librettist of Don Giovanni, “It is not easy to convey an adequate conception of the enthusiasm of the Bohemians for [Mozart’s] music.” Ten days after Mozart’s death, four thousand mourners attended a Mass in his honor at Prague’s St. Nicholas Church in Mala Strana.

Podwal’s pictures echo the humor in Mozart’s music. For example, the sword on the Prague Coat of Arms is replaced with a violin bow signifying that music can be a mightier weapon. Other works with humorous themes include Casanova Kisses and Mozartkugeln – Casanova attended the world premiere of Don Giovanni in 1787 and claimed to have helped with the librettoa portrait of Papageno, which shows the bird catcher having captured the iconic copper rooster atop a St. Vitus Cathedral steeple; and the “Stone Guest” who rides across Prague’s Stone Bridge on his way to a dinner invitation at the Estates Theater.

About the artist: Mark Podwal’s drawings have appeared for over 40 years in The New York Times and he is the author and illustrator of numerous books. More info here.