By Zachary Marano for Ironwood Daily Globe
Ironwood, MI – Longtime opera fans and new listeners alike gathered in Miners Memorial Heritage Park on Saturday to hear a selection of recordings curated by tenor Miles Mykkanen. Mykkanen, who is also artistic director of the Emberlight Festival, provided commentary and context on 18th- and 19th-century compositions by Mozart and Beethoven.
During the event, Mykkanen announced his plans to “make Ironwood a little hub for opera, and it starts today.”
Mykkanen argued that the classical canon should be part of the school curriculum. Mykkanen said the work of Mozart and Beethoven are more than mere historical curiosities and that they continue to speak to an essential part of the human experience.
“As much as appreciation for people have changed, the human condition hasn’t,” he said. “We still love the same way that they loved 500 years ago. We still hate or feel guilty. Emotions don’t change. It’s just the context around those emotions that has changed. The love that Mozart was writing about in his concerto in 1791 is the same love that I can experience tonight when I go and sit down with my loved ones and my family.”
Mykkanen said listening to classical can help people develop a deeper understanding and appreciation of these emotions. He also said that we should remember our heritage because those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.
Mykkanen covered pieces from Mozart’s operas “The Marriage of Figaro” and “The Magic Flute” as well as Beethoven’s symphonies No. 5 and No. 9 and the “Choral Fantasy.”
During the event, Mykkanen compared the compositional method and celebrity status of Mozart to contemporary artists like Led Zeppelin and Lady Gaga.
To new operagoers who want to understand classical music, Mykkanen said that studying the historical period in which a piece was written is more important than knowing how to read sheet music or speak the language it is performed in.
“If you can, look at what you’re going to see that night. Go on to Wikipedia for five minutes, that’s all it takes. And then you’re going to go there and appreciate it tenfold. More than you could have if you just went in. Because we don’t know that history. Once you understand the context that it was written around, it’s much richer,” Mykkanen said.
Mykkanen admitted that classical music requires “a little bit of understanding and research,” but that it can be grasped easily by someone willing to put in the effort.
After his performance, Mykkanen said he hopes that bringing opera to Ironwood will help people recover the human touch missing in pop songs and other aspects of our lives.
“Allowing ourselves to experience the magnificent beauty that music and art can give us – that’s my goal with Emberlight,” he said.
There will be another Performance Infusion event at site 18 in Miners Memorial at 1 p.m. on Saturday as part of Emberlight Festival. Ironwood beekeepers Ted and Judy Sim will share the “art and adventure of beekeeping” with an observation hive that safely confines working bees and a discussion on bees in art, music and literature.
At 6 p.m. on Monday, the Emberlight Book Club will meet at site 18 in the park to discuss the nonfiction book “Braiding Sweetgrass,” by Robin Wall Kimmerer.