Spring has sprung, but winter just won’t let go … this weekend, however, it will be high-season summer at the Camden Opera House. The world premiere musical “Is Mozart in Maine?” will answer its title question over a couple of summer-set hours Friday and Saturday nights; and Sunday afternoon, March 23 through 25.

The original musical, written by Rockport’s Richard Cadwalader with musical arrangements, scoring and direction by Tomas Caris Andersson of Stockholm, Sweden, mixes W.A. Mozart’s music with Broadway-style songs to tell a tale of love, loss and summer on the coast of Maine — with a time-travel fantasy twist.

Cadwalader and Andersson began working together on the show some six years ago, when Cadwalader was still working in advertising in Sweden. But “Is Mozart in Maine?” goes back further, inspired by friends from a couple of Midcoast families, families that had musically gifted members whose lives were cut short by cancer.

“It's hard to talk about how this thing came about without that … I want to pay full respect to Karen [Young]'s family and the Wolf family — families with musical stars of international quality,” he said. “They lost these beloved siblings, and how do you fill that space?”

Reflecting on the loss of pianist Andrew Wolf, one of the founders of Bay Chamber Concerts; and Roselyn Young, who was a violist in the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra — and who had been a student at the Mozarteum, which Cadwalader describes as the Juilliard of Saltzburg — planted a kernel of a story in his brain. What if Mozart comes to Maine … and what if these families take him in?

“So there's kind of a mashup of the families in there, an amalgam of these families and these people I know. And Mozart shows up and falls in love and then he has to go back,” he explained.

Cadwalader also drew on his boatbuilder friends, not only to help design and build the show’s minimal sets, but also to inspire a couple of characters — and even to play one.


March 23 through 24:

7 p.m. Friday & Saturday

3 p.m. Sunday

“My friend Paul De Orsay, who's an old schooner captain, plays Capt. Paul, even though he's not the Capt. Paul — that's Paul Robie and his partner is Dr. Karen Young,” said Cadwalader.

The real versus fictional crossovers are pretty thick in “Is Mozart in Maine?” The real Dr. Young is just wrapping up a family practice in Belfast, while the show’s Dr. Karen is organizing a big classical music festival with a fury that, well, taps into one of Mozart’s most intimidating operatic creations.

“Kate Hall is coming down from Mt. Desert Island to play Dr. Karen. She's got a great voice and is really pulling it off,” said Cadwalader.

And what is “it”? About a third of the songs in “Is Mozart in Maine?” are famous arias from Mozart’s “The Magic Flute,” whose operatic lyrics have been replaced by ones tied to the show’s plot. Hall sings a transformed version of the Queen of the Night’s famously demanding coloratura aria "Der Hölle Rache" and, Cadwalader said, “really gets her inner drill sergeant out!”

Also from “The Magic Flute,” there is a revamped version of the Papageno/Papagena duet and the Birdcatcher Song.

“But here it's a woman singing it and she's talking about how she's a spider catching men,” he said of the latter. “If you know the original, it’s a twist on that, which has been fun and felt really natural.”

Another third of the music is orchestral, Mozart’s and Andersson’s score, both Mozartian and electronic. The last third comprises Broadway-style songs. For a project that began as a screenplay, it’s quite the musical smorgasbord.

“Yeah, it started 14 years ago as a film script, but didn't get any kind of reception. Then Paul Robie said, why don’t you make it a musical and you can do it when you come back [to Maine]? I thought about it and thought, he's right, it's worth doing, and then it's something doable that I could control,” Cadwalader said.

At the time, Cadwalader was traveling back and forth between Sweden and Pennsylvania, where his mother was in her last months. Sitting by her bedside, he started cutting down the 130-page movie script into something that could be staged. As he chopped out visuals and condensed dialogue, he had a revelation — a good song could take the place of 10 to 15 pages.

“That was a real eye-opener to me,” he said. “Like in ‘South Pacific,’ where she sings ‘I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair.’ She's really sad when she goes into it, and when she comes out of that dumb little song, she's in a totally different place!”

His advertising background probably contributes to an ease with writing lyrics, and Cadwalader found he also had a knack for matching them to a melody. He started to record the results on his iPhone. In the spring of 2012, after his mother died, he contacted John and Ruth Gelsinger, who were still running the Northport Music Theater at the time, and shared the audio clips and story outline.

“So I said to John and Ruth that this is where I am with this. They said this is really hard, but we love this story and that was an extra piece of encouragement,” Cadwalader said.

When he returned to Sweden, he took a digital music production class as a way to begin the hard work of fleshing out his musical. The class, taught by Andersson, ranged from teens looking to become rappers to older members of Sweden’s burgeoning immigrant community.

“And I’m this old, gray-haired guy who can hardly find A minor on the piano! I went to him after class and said, what you're doing on that keyboard, I really need this, because I want to build out from here. And that's how we started working together,” Cadwalader said.

As it turns out, musicals are Andersson’s passion, so they began working together in Stockholm on what the Midcoast will get to experience this first weekend of spring. They worked on the musical intermittently, bringing local Swedish talent into the studio to lay down the song tracks that can be sampled on YouTube.

“The music is based on mostly Mozart. I needed to take his music and do a twist on it, but with these songs,” Andersson said. “So it's going to be a soundscape; the orchestra is basically a real one, a symphony,” albeit on recorded tracks.

“It's a super-rich musical landscape, like classic, really high-grade film score music,” Cadwalader said.

The world premiere production has come together from all directions. Holding all the threads to the loom is Nicole Provonsil of Rockland, who is serving as assistant director, stage manager and choreographer, as well as filling a couple of the on-stage roles.

“She's doing an amazing job, all that administrative stuff, which I'm terrible at. She's got a head for it, she really does, which is unusual in a creative person,” Cadwalader said.

Provonsil also is focused on ensuring the show is a workable length.

“Nicole's cutting like crazy,” said Cadwalader. “And I'm adding,” said Andersson, who arrived from Sweden a couple of weeks before the opening.

The show’s talent is also bursting at the seams. In addition to Provonsil, Hall and De Orsay (Rockland), the cast features Tyler Johnstone of Belfast, Annabel Parker of Rockport, Gretchen Anderson of Morrill, Isabella Merrill of South Hope, Will Foote of Rockland, Jake Greenlaw of North Haven, Georgie Devereux of Islesboro, Kelly Sandman of Belgrade and Isabelle Olson of Islesboro.

Tom Sadowski and Juniper Purinton are doing the lighting design; Hannah Wells is handling costumes alongside her mother, Mary Wells, as well as sets and makeup; and Owen Shay will be prompting. In addition to Robie and De Orsay, the three-Paul set design and construction crew includes Paul Cartwright. Neal Parker did script editing, and Bay Chamber’s Kathryn DerMarderosian is the show’s vocal coach.

Other community members helping to make “Is Mozart in Maine?” a reality, whether directly or via encouragement and advice, include Bay Chamber’s Monica Kelly, Camden Hills Regional High School’s Rick Ash, Everyman Repertory Theatre’s Paul and Jen Hodgson, Camden Shakespeare Festival’s Stephen Legawiec, Midcoast set designer extraordinaire John Bielenberg and performer and producer John Burstein, whose own musical, “The Night Kitchen,” had its world premiere on the same stage last winter.

Initial rehearsals were held in the home of Cadwalader and his wife, who emigrated from Sweden when he returned to Rockport in 2016. Later gatherings took place at the Rockport Opera House and at the Bay Chamber Music School, which will receive some of the show’s proceeds.

“Without Bay Chamber, I wouldn't have had the idea, and so it's a benefit,” said Cadwalader.

It’s also the culmination of a many-years’ dream and something Cadwalader didn’t want to put off any longer.

“I'm 66. I had four friends die in a week in the fall, and I'm like, this could be me! I want to get this done before I croak,” he said.

Assuming said croaking is many years off, both Cadwalader and Andersson are hopeful the show will have a future, as well … maybe a summer run a couple of years out or a repertory run or maybe productions by other companies along the coast. They might even take it to Sweden.

“We talked about putting it up in the school where I work [Stockholm’s Kulturama, sort of the FAME school of northern Europe], because they have musical classes both in high school and for the adults; they do a production every year, it could happen,” Andersson said.

One reason “Is Mozart in Maine?” may have a future beyond this world premiere production is the quality of its music, according to its musical director.

“It's great music, it's that high a quality, melody-wise and lyric-wise, it could really work on a professional stage, and I believe in the story and the music,” Andersson said. “I've worked on a lot of shows in Sweden, professionally and in the school, and the quality of the material here … it's a really good show.”

Cadwalader said he feels “worshipfully blessed” by the talent that has shown up to be part of this production, despite its unknown nature and the late winter/early spring weather.

“You know, people say yes and they wanted to and then they couldn't do it and we kept losing people, couldn't get traction. But then it was like the ‘Seven Samurai’ or something, where the people you needed sort of rode into town,” he said.

In the show, Mozart is transported to a small Maine town in a more mysterious way — but the show does begin with the arrival of a nor’easter, mixed with stormy sound effects and, appropriately enough, the overture of “Don Giovanni.”

“It's a musical for all tastes. And it's a love story to Maine,” Cadwalader said, “for everyone who makes this place the marvelous point in the universe that it is.”

Performances are Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m.; and Sunday at 3 p.m. Tickets are $20, $15 for senior citizens and $12 for children, available online at camdenoperahouse.com; and at the opera house box office, which opens an hour before curtain. The auditorium doors will open a half-hour before the show starts.