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July 15, 1988 - Image 56

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-07-15

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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56

FRIDAY, JULY 15, 1988

Mrs. Mozart

J1\1_40

Mozart Society have raised
more than $20,000, which has
gone toward the publication
of those 110 volumes the
president of the Mozarteum
told her about on that Sunday
afternoon inSalzburg. Today,
the vast project almost con-
cluded, Chajes' and Detroit's
long-time efforts have not
gone unsung. Volume No. 56,
the score of Mozart's beloved
opera, "The Magic Flute," is
prefaced with special recogni-
tion to Marguerite Chajes,
the Pro-Mozart Society of
Detroit, and other Detroit
contributors.
"Other compositions are
dedicated to kings and
emperors, to Prince So-and-So
or to Count So-and-So," says
Chajes, smiling, and proudly
showing off her copy of the
handsomely-bound volume.
"But 'The Magic Flute' is
ours. And this is absolutely
for the rest of (time). When
people open this volume years
from now, they will see the
name `Chajes; and 'Detroit,'
and think 'What nice people
they must have been.' "
Over the years, Chajes, a
Mozarteum graduate herself
who came to the U.S. shortly
before the outbreak of World
War II, has done even more to
"spread the word" about
Mozart.
Since her retirement from
the operatic stage in the ear-
ly 1960's, she has written ar-
ticles and lectured widely, in
this country and Europe, on
the musical genius who pro-
duced in his lifetime more
than 600 compositions. (Cha-
jes' work is often written
about in Europe. From a stack
of recent clippings, she
translates a favorite comment
in a Viennese paper: "Mrs.
Mozart is Jewish and lives in
Detroit.")
In recognition of her work,
her name can be found
engraved on a marble plaque
just inside the main entrance
to the Mozarteum. In 1985,
she also received from the
Mozarteum the highest honor
awarded by the foundation —
the rarely-bestowed Golden
Mozart Pin. Besides Chajes,
the pin is worn by only one
other person, a Cologne pro-
fessor who spent more than
half-a-century researching
Mozart's compositions.
The award was presented to
Chajes at Mozart's birthplace
in Salzburg, a city where, now
in her 70s, she still spends
several months each year.
"Anybody who has ever
studied in Salzburg always
comes back to it," she em-
phasizes. Her next stay in
Austria is coming up in just
a few weeks, adds the hard-
working great-grandmother,
who usually makes the trip

Marguerite Chajes made her professional singing debut as an operatic
soprano with a role in "Tosca."

alone, and stays in the same
room in the same Viennese
hotel she's frequented for the
last 40 years. While there, she
divides her time between
Salzburg and Vienna, work-
ing on behalf of the
Mozarteum, visiting with
friends, and attending con-
certs, operas, and other
performances.
"I don't still sing, but I love
to listen to others singing,"
she says.
Although, previously, she
had spent much of her time
studying piano, Chajes
started singing professional-
ly after winning an interna-
tional vocalists' competition
in Vienna in 1932. She made
her professional debut as an
operatic soprano two years
later in Czechoslovakia with
a role in "Tosca," directed by
Rudolph Bing and, early in
her career, sang at the 1939
World's Fair in New York. A
high point in her career oc-
curred at Prague's National
Theater shortly after the end
of World War II, when she
sang the title role in Dvorak's
"Rusalka," and received 31
curtain calls.
"I was the only American to
sing," she recalls. "And I sang
the role in English."
In the years since her retire-
ment from the stage, the
energetic music lover has
found herself involved not on-
ly in work centering on
Mozart, but in other music
projects as well. Fluent in
German, Yiddish and
Hebrew, in addition to
English, she often writes ar-
ticles on music and music
festivals throughout the
world. She has also taught
voice, and lectured on colonial
American music and the
music of the Bible.

The granddaughter of a rab-
bi and descendant of an

Austrian rabbinic dynasty,
Chajes says her special affini-
ty for Mozart's music goes
back to her childhood, when
she began to study piano at
age 6.
When asked what
motivated that admiration,
she answers quickly.
"He was the greatest
musical genius," she explains.
"He wrote compositions at 6,
which are (masterpieces) for
somebody at 18. He got his
degree when he was 14, and
when one sees the work for
which he received his degree,
one wonders that a 14-year-
old boy could possibly create
(them). They are like master-
pieces of a master — at age
70."
"Mrs. Mozart" adds that
her love for the music of
Mozart has been augmented
over the years by a special ad-
miration that has developed
for the composer himself.
"I think sometimes that we
are trying to atone for what
happened to him when he
was alive — when he was poor
and sick and nobody helped
him.
"Of all the giants in music,
he was the most human. In
the movie, Amadeus,' he was
depicted as being — you know
— with the ladies, and some
people were a little unhappy
about him being depicted that
way. But that's how he was,
whether you like it or not.
Sometimes he would say
things that were vulgar.
Sometimes he would crawl
under a table at dinner. But
he was also very warm and
human, the kind of person
that you could call your
friend.
"You could never say that
about Beethoven, certainly
not about Brahms or Handel.
They are giants, but they are
not your friends. They don't
come nearly so close."



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