Franz Joseph Haydn (born 1732, died 1809, lived 1732-1809): This Austrian composer was best known for his Messiah (unless that was Handel). Middle name pronounced “Yo-zef,” last name with long i: “High-den.” You can read more (though not about his name, or Handel) in the Official Program Notes, but it’s rather boring.
Missa Cellensis in honorem Beatissimae Virginis Mariae: Did you assume this Mass is for St. Cecilia, the patroness of sacred music? Hahaha: don’t make that mistake. It’s really in honor of the Virgin Mary. However, it is also known as Cäcilienmesse (every Mass needs a nickname).
The Mass has six movements, the longest being the second (though titled “Gloria,” it bears no relation to the classic 1960’s Van Morrison hit). Follow the program, so you know when to nap (best times: middle of G-L-O-R-I-A and during the Credo) and when the end nears (from the Sanctus it’s a straight run to the exit doors; that’s your cue to reopen your eyes, lean forward attentively, and do a final perusal of the choir women—see below).
Cast and Musicians: One female soloist is a mezzo-soprano. What are the chances she’s from Mesa Verde? Her bio states she was the operatic lead in Cosi Fan Tutte, Alcina, Vanessa, Dido and Aeneas. Is that 2, 3 or 4 separate roles?
Imagine the violins replaced with kazoos: How different would this sound? Might it be an improvement? Would Haydn (long i) notice? How about Handel? If a kazoo version appeared on YouTube, how many hits would it get?
Distractions: If you’re in luck, there will be several attractive women in the audience, and perhaps a few in the choir (which contains 80+ performers, so the odds of a looker or two are good). Note and compare their décolletage: Are the biggest bosoms real or enhanced? How can you tell? Who have the larger chests generally, sopranos or altos? Consider: if you laid the female choristers end to end, how many would drown in the Atlantic Ocean? Is that a reason to lay them end to end westward?
Another line of thought: Are any of the basses wearing toupees? What about the tenors? In general, who is more likely to wear a toupee, a bass or a tenor? Is either more likely to own a bad toupee? Compose one or more Google searches to answer these questions.
When severe boredom sets in, ask yourself: Whom would you prefer singing solo in this mass, Beverly Sills or Renée Fleming? Is either Flemish? Would that affect their singing? Suppose they came to blows over who had the better voice: Would Renée’s youth and smarts best Beverly’s age and sagacity? Or would Beverly win, because it’s creepy to fight dead people? How about Faith Hill v. Taylor Swift? Is a country-western version of Missa Cellensis a good idea? How many YouTube hits would it get?
Look around. Do you see numerous listeners staring in rapt attention? Those are actual groupies!… Just kidding. The real groupies don’t appear until they take this baby on tour (again, kidding). But notice the couples in the audience. Statistically, 50% are either divorced, or will be. Does this rate change when wives drag husbands to such concerts? Does the rate rise geometrically, or merely arithmetically, if the wife bought season tickets?
Check the back of the head of the person in front of you. Do you see moles, boils or other imperfections? (If you spot discolorations, they could be malignant: Is it your duty to warn them? How would a warning be received?) How dense are the neck hairs? If you had a safety razor, would you be tempted to offer a trim? Is there a non-obvious way to check for nose hairs? Do you like this kind of challenge?
Quick Quiz: What was Haydn’s nickname?
a. The Fonz
Another Quick Quiz: Why was Haydn given that nickname?
a. He helped develop the modern symphony and string quartet.
b. He kindly mentored many musicians at the Esterházy court.
c. He was suspecting of boffing Frau Esterházy.
d. Cäcilienmesse was taken.
[Answer: a and b, maybe c and d]
Faux Compliments: If after the concert ends you feel compelled to comment (for example, upon greeting a performer), be polite but honest. For example, you can mumble what sounds like “It was an incredible Mass” and “Just glorious!” but is actually, “It was an incredible mess” and “Just Glorias.”