Rhinegold Photo credit: Guy Deutscher

Owen Mortimer

Opera by 11-year-old receives ovation in Vienna

11:09, 19th January 2017

An 11-year-old British composer Alma Deutscher has received a standing ovation in Vienna for the premiere of her opera, Cinderella.

The opera, which runs to two-and-a-half hours, was sung in German and staged at Vienna’s Casino Baumgarten theatre. The role of Cinderella was played by Theresa Kruegl, appearing with the Viennese opera group Oh!pera.

Deutscher, whose opera was showered with the sort of press coverage that few premieres at the Vienna Sate Opera would receive, was hailed in the Austrian media as a ‘Wunderkind’ and her talents likened to those of the young Mozart. With music that draws on the Classical style of the 18th century, she reimagined the tale of Cinderella, setting it in an opera house run by the wicked stepmother. Instead of a glass slipper, the missing link that resolves the plot is a tune that Cinderella starts to sing as she flees the ball, but remains incomplete when it catches the Prince’s ear. The rest of the opera hinges on the Prince’s attempts to discover the singer who can complete the melody that has haunted him…

Interviewed on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Deutscher said, ‘Quite a few of my melodies and themes for this opera came while I was skipping. I take my skipping rope to the rehearsals and skip with it in the breaks.’

The composer, who is home-schooled in Dorking, Surrey, participated in the Vienna performances, playing piano and violin in the opera’s interludes. The maestro Zubin Mehta agreed to act as patron for the Vienna shows.

Responding to the soubriquet of ‘Little Miss Mozart’, coined by Stephen Fry on listening to her music, Deutscher said, ‘I don’t really like it when people call me that because I don’t like being called “little”. I’m very big! And secondly, if I just wrote everything Mozart wrote again it would be boring.’ Her next project is to complete a piano concerto, followed by her first novel which she plans adapt as a film – writing the soundtrack herself.


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