“Magdalena” Explores What Really Happened to Mozart

Extraordinary musical genius, child prodigy, and socially awkward eccentric, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was an enormously prolific and influential composer. He remains one of the greatest and most popular composers of all time, 230 years after his death under mysterious circumstances, at the age of 35.  

What caused his death has remained a mystery to this day. Was it a sudden, strange, and still undiagnosed illness? The result of years of poor health? A single badly cooked pork chop?

Or was it murder? In her new play, “Magdalena,” Cape Cod playwright June Calender puts forth her own ideas about what happened and who might have been involved.

Directed by Linda Monchik, “Magdalena” will be presented by Eventide Theatre Company’s Virtual Playhouse on Saturday, June 5, at 4 PM. Admission is free, and attendees may register at http://www.eventidearts.org.

Morgan Capodilupo as Magdalena

Magdalena, played by Morgan Capodilupo, was a beautiful, young piano student of Mozart’s, and she was smitten with him. She was married to Franz Hofdemel (David Simpson), an older man who was a friend and patron of Mozart’s.

Sandra Basile is Constanze, Mozart’s wife, a trained vocalist, who had been married to the composer for nine years at the time of his death. She and Mozart had six children, only two of whom survived infancy, and the couple struggled financially—due in part to Mozart’s insistence on living beyond his means—and in their marriage, especially toward the end.

Rod Owens rounds out the cast as the Gravedigger, who, like the others in this captivating play, reflects on Mozart’s untimely death and why he was buried without the fanfare that might have been accorded a composer of his stature.

The performance was recorded on Zoom. “It was a challenge,” said Monchik, “and it is a testament to the resilience and fortitude of all involved that we were able to pull it off, despite the virus’s attempt to shut us down. Frank Scanzillo served as technical director and was indispensable in creating the final film and facilitating both the zoom rehearsals and recordings.

“We have convincing virtual backgrounds, wonderful period costumes, and outstanding wigs by T.C. Crutchfield, and the actors give it their all. At least 20 people were involved, including Carol McManus who provided crucial editing and support, and Janet Moore, production manager of Eventide’s Virtual Theatre,” said Monchik.

Still, the Zoom format can be confining and hard to follow. “With no movement on stage, you have to rely on language and acting skills; fortunately, June has a wonderful writing style, and the ‘who-done-it” mystery plot is exciting and intriguing—and truly relevant today.

“’Magdalena’ has everything that interests me in a play: a challenging plot, good dialogue, and a strong moral message,” said Monchik. “Good plays show the dark side of people with sympathy.”

Calender based her play on her research on Mozart, exploring the facts and theories surrounding his death, the motivations of people close to him, and his burial in a common grave. No one knows for sure what happened, but, according to Monchik, Calender’s dramatic fictional tale “could be true.”

Monchik praised her cast for their dedication and commitment. Morgan Capodilupo is an accomplished actress and recent graduate of Emerson College’s theater program who ran an outdoor Shakespeare program last summer. David Simpson is relatively new to acting, but is committed to getting to the real essence of the character.

Rod Owens is an English teacher whose recent shows include plays by Judith Partelow and others at Cotuit Center for the Arts. Sandra Basile, who studied acting in college, appeared in “The Weight of Silence” and other shows.

“The shutdown of live theater has given playwrights an opportunity to workshop their plays through Zoom productions, which are essentially one step above staged readings,” said Monchik, “To me, it’s an opportunity for playwrights—and directors like myself—to have fun and explore. It’s been a great learning experience.”

Monchik began her directorial career at Emerson College, where she earned a masters in theatre education. She has directed numerous plays, including “And Then They Came for Me,” and wrote, produced, and directed “Tales of 5 Jewish Woman.” More recently, she directed “Glory of the Flowers,” “The Price,” and “Oleanna.”

Also an actor, Monchik has performed in community and regional theaters for 20 years, with lead roles in over 40 productions. She has toured New England with her three one-woman shows, “The Belle of Amherst,” “Golda’s Balcony,” and “Rose.”

Calendar has been writing since high school. After attending an O’Neill Playwright’s conference, she moved to New York, where she studied playwriting and wrote numerous full-length and 10-minute plays, which were produced at various off-off-Broadway theaters and across the country.

After retirement, she moved to Cape Cod, where her plays have been produced by Cape Cod Community College and in Sandwich. Her short stories and poetry have been published in a variety of literary journals. She teaches a writing class at the Academy of Lifelong Learning. Calender is also an avid art quilter and her novel, The Friendship Quilts, will be published later this year.

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