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Based on the biography of world-renowned Austrian composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, this hit production by VBW shines a new light on a legend: far from the established cliché, MOZART! presents the brilliant artist as a complex and ambiguous character, haunted by his own genius while struggling with life’s cruel challenges.
Building on the successful strategy by VBW to integrate historical biographies into musical concepts, MOZART! presents another celebrity of Austria’s rich history as the lead character of an exceptional musical production: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 – 1791), one of the most celebrated classical composers of all time, famous for his masterful melodies and infamous for his extravagant lifestyle–reminiscent in many ways of modern pop star antics –, who, after an unprecedented and feverishly rapid career, died a premature death at the age of only 35.
Following ELISABETH (1992) and predating RUDOLF – AFFAIRE MAYERLING (2006), MOZART! is based on a related narrative idea, dedicated to a protagonist who is at odds with the world that surrounds him. Although set in the historical world of the 18th century, 21st-century audiences will have no problem instantly sympathizing with the obstacles faced by the main protagonist and will recognize many familiar elements from their own life experience. MOZART! deals with a fate that no one can escape – the drama of growing up and growing older – and as such is a timeless and touching tale.
MOZART! – a rock star in a Rococo world. This collision of styles sums up the approach taken by Michael Kunze and Sylvester Levay in their smash hit musical. The clash of the irreconcilable – the past and the present – reflects the ambiguity of the main protagonist. Mozart, the man, feels stifled by the conventions of life in Salzburg: as an artist he is little more than a lackey at the service of the nobility. But he longs for artistic and personal freedom to live his own life, dreaming, drinking, playing cards and pursuing love. Amadé, the prodigy he once was and the impersonation of his genius, relentlessly pursues him in the guise of a haunting “porcelain child” who writes music almost incessantly and is visible only to him and the audience.
This thrilling psychological ambiguity is greatly underlined by Sylvester Levay’s musical concept: the score integrates powerful modern styles such as ballads, ragtime and rock with the delicate original Rococo themes by Mozart, played whenever Amadé, Mozart’s nagging, puerile alter ego, sits at the piano.
Instead of focussing on the prevalent myth and the genius Mozart, the musical presents the legendary composer as a flawed, fragile and thus very tangible human being. MOZART! aims to free the figure of Mozart from the clichés and superficial adoration that attach to him and allows the audience to sense, as they leave the theater, having caught a glimpse on Mozart, the real man, as a living and breathing person.
Success Story & Production Notes
Almost 2.5 million tickets sold worldwide
Performances in 9 countries and 7 languages
A timeless subject personified by a historical figure
The show premiered in Vienna in October 1999 at the Theater an der Wien under the direction of world-renowned stage director Harry Kupfer (Komische Oper Berlin, over 220 productions in 11 countries). Its run lasted until May 2001.
To date, almost 2.5 million visitors have been captivated by Mozart’s inner struggle for personal and artistic freedom in productions in Belgium, China, the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Japan, South Korea and Sweden.
In keeping with the timelessness of the subject, the costumes also form a link between the past and the present: the historical costumes are authentic and sometimes garish, while Mozart himself appears wearing clothing in a young modern style.The sets by internationally acclaimed set designer Hans Schavernoch (Vienna State Opera, FREUDIANA) follow the show’s dynamics, alternating between dark and empty stages and brilliantly colourful recreations of palaces, streets, state rooms and gardens, transporting the audience into an enchanted world.
“This perfect show is the result of two decades' experience of musicals on the part of the Vereinigte Bühnen Wien.”
“Kupfer has created a show full of ambience and dynamic pace.”
“The musical MOZART! deals with the genius from a modern perspective, showing the problems of growing up, of pressure from society and the family and the longing for limitless freedom.”
“A performance of dreamlike effects […] enjoyment guaranteed.”
“Cements Vienna's reputation as Europe's capital of musicals.”
“The splitting of Mozart into the genius and the lusty bon vivant has a charm of its own. Visual attractions with ingenious ideas.”
“A sweeping success.”
“Cheers and standing ovations.”
“A visual feast.”
“Wonderfully catchy melodies that range from ragtime to rock to ballads. This work is more grand opera than musical, it is serious, tragic and problematic. Its charm stems from characters who, unusually for the genre, are not good or bad but always both.”
“The rapturous applause at the end dispelled any last doubts: the musical MOZART! promises to be a major success.”
“The direction allows no time for boredom, because 'somewhere there’s always a dance', as Mozart’s Constanze sings.”
“In Vienna Amadeus becomes a pop star.”
Credits & Keyfacts
- World premiere:
1999 Austria / Vienna (Theater an der Wien/VBW)
- Book & Lyrics:
- Music & Orchestration:
Harry Kupfer, Dennis Callahan (Co-Director 2015)
- Set Design:
- Costume Design:
- Lighting Design:
Franz Peter David (1999), Jürgen Hoffmann (2015)
- Sound Design:
Tony Meola (1999), Thomas Strebel (2015)
- Video Design:
Thomas Reimer (2015)
- Musical Director:
Caspar Richter (1999), Koen Schoots (2015)
- Total visitors worldwide:
over 2,5 million
- Shows worldwide:
Austria, Belgium, China, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Japan, South Korea, Sweden
- Language versions:
Czech, Flemish, German, Hungarian, Japanese, Korean, Swedish
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Mozart is trapped by his past as the child prodigy Amadé during which he was trained to be disciplined and respectful. Now, a grown man, he lives a life of wild abandon, desperately seeking artistic freedom and liberation from his possessive father. Despite this, he still needs his father’s approval and is devastated by the latter’s coldness and lack of understanding. Mozart is impulsive, vulgar, stubborn, chaotic and insolent but also naïve: for example, he lets himself readily be taken advantage of by the Weber family, his wife’s greedy relatives.
The “porcelain child”–the personification of Mozart’s genius–is the composer’s constant shadow who never speaks or sings, remaining eerily silent. Amadé is almost permanently busy writing music, no matter what the adult Mozart is doing. Mozart’s genius is both a hindrance and a help in the harsh reality of the world: while Amadé does not help him shake off his father’s influence or escape the constraints placed on him by Archbishop Colloredo, he tries to protect him from unscrupulous money-grabbers and hangers-on by coaxing, and later driving, him to compose. Amadé makes constant demands of Mozart, using his lifeblood to write–until he literally kills him.
Only moderately successful as a composer on his own behalf, Mozart’s father is a possessive, domineering character and a hard taskmaster, driving the young Amadé to the point of exhaustion. Later, he is torn by remorse at allowing Mozart to leave Salzburg, feeling that he is too naïve for this wicked world. He advises him to hide his true feelings and toe the line. Though he wants his son to succeed, he is also motivated by his own financial and social benefit. He is bitterly disappointed at the thought that Mozart may never return to Salzburg and devastated once his son is a success, since it means he is no longer needed.
Hieronymus Colloredo, Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg
Highly intelligent, a man of education and sophistication and a supporter of the Enlightenment, the Archbishop is at the same time a moral hypocrite and keeps a mistress. The ambiguity of his character also appears in the fact that he is deeply impressed by Mozart’s extraordinary talent yet still treats him as little more than a lackey at his court. In the end, he demands nothing but discipline, diligence and respect from those around him. Mozart’s impudence and unreliability so infuriate him that in his rage he rips up a new piece the composer has written for him. The foundations of all he holds dear are shaken when he realizes that music has the power to go beyond reason and logic.
Coming from a hard school of life, Mozart’s wife is an outright pleasure-seeker, interested only in having a good time. She loves the wild life her husband leads, and truly loves her husband as well. But she also has an eye for a quick profit, which shows in the fact, for example, that she is only willing to lead people to her late husband’s grave for a fee. Still, she has a distinct sense of decency, angrily tearing up the deceitful contract her mother forces Mozart to sign.
Mozart’s sister is very close to her brother and is the only person interested in his wellbeing from purely selfless motives. She was also a child prodigy but, as a woman, is resigned to playing the only role society will allow her: looking after her father and raising a family.
Constanze Weber’s mother is a tough and greedy woman, always on the lookout for financial support to sustain her family. Before Mozart casts an eye on her younger daughter, Constanze, she sets him up with her firstborn daughter, Aloysia to screw money out of him. Later, she blackmails Mozart with allegations of having seduced Constanze, forcing him to either marry her daughter or to pay her lifelong expenses.
Baroness von Waldstätten
Mozart’s patroness who helps him move from Salzburg to Vienna. She has his best interests at heart and sees that he needs help in Vienna to prevent him from being exploited.
Living by the credo “all that counts is entertainment and the audience,” Emanuel Schikaneder is a well-known German impresario, dramatist, actor, singer, theater director and composer. He was the founder of Vienna’s world-renowned Theater an der Wien and the librettist of Mozart’s highly acclaimed opera The Magic Flute. In the garden of his theater, Schikaneder hands Mozart the libretto to the later masterpiece (which the prodigy Amadé takes while Mozart heads to a garden pavilion to amuse himself with an actress) and urges him to write many catchy melodies, for he desperately needs a success.
Count Karl Joseph von Arco
Chamberlain at the court of Prince-Archbishop Colloredo, Count Arco is among the aristocratic circle of patrons of Mozart’s talent, yet is highly skeptical regarding the young man’s lack of discipline and his unbridled temper. When Mozart defiantly confronts the Archbishop, Arco is forced on his master’s behest to literally kick the rebellious composer out of the Archbishop’s quarters.
“How do you shake off your own shadow?”
A wunderkind and a naïve genius
Wolfgang Amadé and his sister, Nannerl, both child prodigies, are taken round Europe by their father to perform for high society. As an adult, Mozart is unruly and defiant. He angers his patron, Prince-Archbishop Colloredo, with his unpunctuality and insubordination. He wants to lead his own life, but his genius, embodied in the “porcelain figure” of the child Amadé, is always with him, composing incessantly at his father’s behest.
Wolfgang asks why his father cannot love him as he is. Mozart, fed up with being ordered around in Salzburg, leaves to seek his fortune elsewhere. Leopold worries that Mozart is too innocent for the wicked world, and sure enough the young man is ensnared by the impoverished Weber family and their four daughters, who take all his money.
Love and the illusion of freedom
When he hears of this, Leopold is appalled and orders Mozart to leave for Paris immediately. Mozart obeys, but continues to send the Webers money, although he and his mother, his only companion, are now destitute. When his mother dies in Paris, Mozart returns to Salzburg, chastened. Leopold tries to regain control over him by showing him how much money he owes. Colloredo orders Mozart to Vienna, promising him an audience with the Emperor.
In Vienna Mozart meets the Webers again and falls in love with Constanze, one of the daughters. Leopold suspects he will stay there forever now and feels betrayed. Colloredo, who regards Mozart as his chattel with whom he can do as he pleases, breaks his promise to present him to the Emperor and orders him back to Salzburg. The furious composer confronts the Prince-Archbishop and is booted out by his chamberlain, Count Arco.
Initially relieved to be free of his engagement, Mozart soon realizes he is not free at all. His genius, the porcelain child Amadé, continues to dog him and is increasingly turning into a demon. The bitter struggle between the genius and the man becomes more intense.
Constanze has fled to her lover Mozart after a family quarrel, but her mother finds her and accuses Mozart of seducing her. She and her new partner see this as a chance to blackmail Mozart and force him to sign a contract, binding him to marriage and lifelong payment of maintenance to her mother. Constanze, enraged by this scheming, tears up the contract.
Colloredo, enchanted by a score by Mozart, asks Leopold whether he has passed on his offer to reinstate the composer. Leopold advises him to forget Mozart, promises him a new wunderkind and is promptly dismissed. After years of separation, Leopold visits his son in Vienna. Mozart, now successful, wealthy and respected, tries in vain to make peace with his father. But seeing his son’s success, Leopold realizes he is no longer needed.
The genius destroys the man
Mozart is so shocked and confused by this final rejection that he temporarily loses his mind. The struggle with his genius reaches new heights. The Webers, having taken all of Mozart’s money, now want him to write begging letters to his friends and patrons. He refuses. Their furious quarrel is interrupted by the news that Mozart’s father has died in Salzburg. Mozart, while still in shock at this news, is commissioned to write a requiem.
A little later he begins to work on The Magic Flute, but is unable to enjoy the spectacular success of the work for long, as he falls ill. Amadé sits on his sickbed, composing the requiem. The conflict between the genius and the man has become a life-and-death struggle. When Amadé runs out of ink he sticks his quill into Mozart’s arm and continues writing with his blood. Eventually Amadé stabs the quill into Mozart’s heart. The composer dies, and with him Amadé disappears.
Time and space merge. The composer’s dead body is robbed by souvenir hunters. Figures from his life appear and stand about his bed. In St. Marx Cemetery Nannerl finds a mysterious casket and opens it. A little melody sounds as a reminder of his days as a wunderkind.