For the vast majority of the public, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart can be summed up as follows.
“A crazy, wild guy that is a genius,” said Paul Pement, executive and artistic director of Classical Kids Music Education. “I think a lot of our information we have about Mozart comes from the movie ‘Amadeus.’ “
It’s hard to humanize great composers and make them appeal to modern audiences, let alone children, especially when the biggest impression comes from the Academy Award-winning 1984 movie that portrays Mozart through the eyes of a man in an insane asylum.
“From our perspective, we don’t want to delve into a lot of the… escapades that might not be appropriate for a younger audience,” Pement said, laughing in reference to Mozart’s challenging reputation.
Classical Kids Music Education is teaming with the Phoenix Symphony this Sunday to present “Mozart’s Magnificent Voyage,” a show designed for kids that Pement described as “like a play and a symphony concert put together.
“The story is exposing kids to the life of the great composer, and the orchestras are underscoring that story and exposing kids to their music,” he said. “We want to be able to appeal to their minds and interests and capture their hearts and find a point of entry into story they can relate to.”
That story centers on Karl, Mozart’s young son who is preparing to go to boarding school against his wishes, instead hoping to spend more time with his father. Karl’s trunk is magical, taking him back in time to see Mozart as a child, and later taking him inside the world of Mozart’s famous “The Magic Flute.”
“There’s a child actor in all of our productions that the kids in the audience relate to and see themselves on stage and in that story, so they experience what that child on stage is going through,” Pement said. “The child meets the composer and learns about them. That’s a point of entry so they can relate.”
This is one of six Classical Kids Live! shows created by Classical Kids Music Education, a non-profit in Chicago that tours the country with their productions. Others cover Beethoven, Tchaikovsky and Vivaldi. Altogether, the shows are performed an average of 50 times each season, reaching up to 100,000 people every year.
“They’re not dumbed down; it’s not louder, faster, funnier. They’re sophisticated productions that appeal to the parents as much as the kids,” Pement said. “We’re proud of that fact.”
Adults may be surprised to learn more about Mozart, too. For example, when Mozart was 14 he heard a choir sing “Miserere mei, Deus” by Gregorio Allegri during a visit to the Sistine Chapel.
“He heard it one time, memorized it all after hearing it only once, went back to his room and wrote it down and supposedly every note was perfect. One of those genius things there,” Pement said.
This 50-minute show will include 23 excerpts of Mozart’s music, including themes from the “Marriage of Figaro” and “Don Giovanni” operas as well as “The Magic Flute,” “Ave Verum” and “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik.”
At the very least, the show is an opportunity for kids to just enjoy music, Pement said.
“We want them to be able to feel like they have more of a connection with who that composer is and be able to enjoy their music and hopefully later in life be able to create a spark in them,” Pement said, “to either become a musician themselves, become a composer, but at the very least become a classical music lover or a music lover in general.
“There’s a greater achievement in life that music can bring kids.”
Classical Kids Live! ‘Mozart’s Magnificent Voyage’
When: 2:30 p.m. Sunday, April 27.
Where: Symphony Hall, 75 N. Second St., Phoenix.
Details: 602-495-1999, phoenixsymphony.org.