Dances with Mozart

Mark Morris and his dance company will perform “Mozart Dances’’ with the orchestra of Emmanuel Music at the Opera House. Mark Morris and his dance company will perform “Mozart Dances’’ with the orchestra of Emmanuel Music at the Opera House. (Amber Darragh)
By Geoff Edgers
Globe Staff / January 29, 2010

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‘There’s a theater problem in Boston,’’ grumbles Mark Morris, who ought to know. His work has been performed all across the city. But never in the Opera House, which he’s pleased to be presenting in tonight, Saturday, and Sunday. The Mark Morris Dance Group performs “Mozart Dances,’’ which will feature the orchestra of Emmanuel Music and pianists Russell Sherman and Minsoo Sohn. Morris spoke recently by phone from New York.

Q. Tell me about “Mozart Dances.’’ What is it?

A. It’s a gorgeous triptych of dances that are devoted to the piano music of Mozart.

Q. Why did you choose Mozart?

A. I was asked to do so, by two different organizations, a few years ago: “Mostly Mozart’’ and also this Peter Sellars-curated festival in Vienna. Peter was working on the last year of Mozart’s life as the theme for his festival, and “Mostly Mozart’’ was just looking at Mozart. I had also come into contact with Emanuel Ax, who I worship, and decided it should be all piano music. Originally, I was thinking of concertos of other instruments, but that went away when I started thinking of Manny Ax. And the three pieces can be performed under separate cover. They stand alone also.

Q. The Celebrity Series of Boston website for this performance states that “creating dance to the music of Mozart is a famously rare and supposedly difficult thing.’’ Then you’re called courageous.

A. I didn’t say that. I think that’s bull.

Q. It is difficult, though, right?

A. It’s hard to make up a dance. Making up a dance is difficult. You have various concerns or problems or relative ease. It’s not famously difficult. If it was so difficult I wouldn’t have done it.

Q. Do you find it easier to talk about music or dance?

A. I can talk about dancing but I’m not going to describe a dance. Otherwise it’s an essay.

Q. You seem to be here a lot. Do you come to Boston so often because you have a special affection for the city or is it just that we’re on the East Coast and it’s a place to tour?

A. You know, I go where I’m asked. I don’t just go to the airport and think of what might be a good place to tour. We’ve been going to Boston for many, many years through all sorts of artistic weathers.

Q. Tell me this. For people who have seen a lot of Mark Morris. Give them one reason to get out of the house and see this production.

A. It’s incredibly thrilling and beautiful and unusual in that it’s a full length, nonnarrative evening with this gorgeous music and wonderful company. And it’s all live, unlike everything else they do the rest of the day.

Interview was condensed and edited.