Filmsite Movie Review
Amadeus (1984)
Pages: (1) (2) (3) (4)
The Story (continued)

Mozart's Audience with Emperor Joseph II:

The next month in the presence of Emperor Joseph II in his palace's dining room, two court officials and advisors offered their differing opinions on Mozart's work, as Salieri listened to their debate:

  • Baron Van Swieten (Jonathan Moore) - The Imperial Librarian: "He's remarkable, Majesty. I heard an extraordinary serious opera of his last month. Idomoneo, King of Crete...the most promising work I've heard in years"
  • Count Orsini-Rosenberg (Charles Kay) - Opera Director: "A most tiresome piece...A young man trying to impress beyond his abilities. Too much spice. Too many notes"

The Emperor proposed making an effort to acquire and commission German composer Mozart for Vienna with a tempting offer to write an opera for the National Theatre - in the native tongue of the people - German. Although Count Orsini-Rosenberg insisted that Italian was the "proper language for opera" (and Kappelmeister Bonno (Patrick Hines) concurred with him: "German is too brute for singing"), the Emperor's Chamberlain, Count Johann Von Strack (Roderick Cook), disagreed: "It's time we had a piece in our own language. Plain German for plain people." Court composer Salieri predicted that Mozart's employ in Vienna would really "infuriate" the Archbishop. So it was decided that the Chamberlain would arrange for Mozart to be summoned to the palace, and then the Emperor summarily dismissed everyone with his repetitive and frequent catchphrase utterance:

"Well, there it is."

In his apartment's bedroom/study, Salieri was before a forte-piano - struggling as he worked on a musical march composition and wrote notes on a piece of paper with a quill pen. He briefly glanced and smiled at a Jesus crucifix hanging on the wall ("Grazie, Signore"). Meanwhile in Vienna, in preparation for his audience before Emperor Joseph II, Mozart was in a wig-maker's shop trying on various samples of the main whigmaker's (Karl-Heinz Teuber) products, and couldn't decide on just one ("They're all so beautiful. Why don't I have three heads?").

In the royal palace, the Emperor, his courtiers, and Salieri had gathered for Mozart's arrival. Court composer Salieri proposed playing his composition: "a little march of welcome in his honor," but then the Emperor suggested that he would play the primitive 'March of Welcome' tune as Mozart entered. The famed composer, wearing a bright purple coat and one of the white-powdered wigs from the perruquier's shop, was slowly directed into the room, as the Emperor struggled with the notes. After some bowing (to the wrong individuals) and kissing of the Emperor's hand while on his knees, Mozart was formally introduced to everyone, including the "illustrious" Salieri. The Emperor recalled Mozart at six years of age playing at a concert held in the same room many years earlier. Mozart also told Salieri that he had modified one of his melodies (Mio Caro Adone) - and undercut the compliment with an annoying jab: "A funny little tune, but it yielded some good things."

After the Emperor went on to propose commissioning Mozart to write an opera - the composer begged: "Please let it be German." Mozart had already found a libretto (opera text or story-line) for the piece, set in a harem (seraglio) in Turkey. When Baron Van Swieten questioned the appropriateness of the subject matter for the National Theatre, Mozart replied:

Why not? It's charming. I mean, I won't actually show concubines exposing their, their (giggling) - It's not indecent! It's highly moral, Majesty. It's full of proper German virtues.

Mozart argued for the German virtue of "love" while soundly criticizing Italian opera, to their amazement: "I mean, watching Italian opera, all those male sopranos screeching, stupid fat couples rolling their eyes about! That's not love - it's just rubbish." The monarch was left with the decision - and selected German as the opera's language. Mozart declined taking Salieri's musical score with him: "It's already here in my head," and was asked to prove that he had already memorized the piece. At the piano, he skillfully played the first half, then noted that the second half was just a repetition of the first half. After faulting the piece: "That really doesn't work, does it?" he suggested improvements - a few other more spritely alternative endings ("Better? What do you think?") - to Salieri's complete embarrassment and consternation.

[Note: Mozart's altered and transformed version would become his celebrated “Non Più Andrai” march from his opera The Marriage of Figaro.]

The scene ended with Salieri sulking in his apartment. Now, he bitterly rejected God as he growled sarcastically and hatefully toward his hanging Jesus crucifix. With the same phrase, he thanked God - but now with a grumbling tone: "Grazie, Signore."

The older Salieri was back in Father Vogler's presence:

(voice-over) All I ever wanted was to sing to God. He gave me that longing and then made me mute. Why? Tell me that. If He didn't want me to praise Him with music, why implant the desire, like a lust in my body? And then deny me the talent?

Again in flashback, soprano singer Madame Caterina Cavalieri - one of Salieri's pupils, arrived for her music lesson, wearing an elaborate dress, hat and low-cut bodice - she claimed: "It's Turkish. My hairdresser says that everything this year's going to be Turkish!" The prevailing gossip was that "Herr Mozart" had been commissioned to write an opera. As she bent down to reveal her full breasts, she asked enticingly: "Is there a part in it for me?" Salieri attempted to discourage her from the part by revealing its setting - a harem ("a brothel") - and also tried to dissuade her further interest in Mozart himself: "Looks and talent don't always go together, Caterina." She responded annoyingly: "Only talent interests a woman of taste."

Mozart's Performance of "The Abduction from the Seraglio":

The scene of Caterina's high-pitched practice of notes dissolved to a view - much later - of her on-stage performance of an aria (singing voice of Suzanne Murphy) - she was the star of conductor-composer Mozart's premiere performance of Die Entführung Aus Dem Serail (1782) (aka The Abduction from the Seraglio). In his private theatre box, Salieri sat by himself - coldly suspicious of Caterina's involvement with Mozart:

Older Salieri: There she was! (voice-over) I don't know where they met or how. There she stood. On stage, for all to see. Showing off like the greedy songbird she was. (In-person) Ten minutes of ghastly scales. Arpeggios! (voice-over) Whizzing up and down like fireworks at a fairground.

In another box, Frau Weber (Barbara Bryne) sat with her three daughters: Constanze, Josefa and Sophie. The older Salieri continued his complaints with Father Vogler:

Understand, I was in love with the girl. Or at least in lust. But I swear to you, I never laid a finger on her. All the same, I couldn't bear to think of anyone else touching her, least of all the creature.

After the rousing Turkish dance finale, the Emperor bounded onto the stage to congratulate the cast, and to deliver a bouquet of flowers to Caterina ("You are an ornament to our stage"). He then praised Mozart for "a good effort," but offered a mixed review: "It's very good. Of course now and then, just now and then, it seemed a touch, uh...too many notes..." Mozart reacted to the faulty observation: "This is absurd," although the Emperor continued with praise for the young prodigy: "Your work is ingenious. It's quality work. And there are simply too many notes, that's all. Just cut a few and it will be perfect." Mozart naturally asked: "Which few did you have in mind, Majesty?" - followed by an awkward pause.

They were interrupted by calls of "Wolfgang!" from Frau Weber, Mozart's pushy landlady, who was on the main floor of the theatre. She introduced her daughter Constanze as "the fiancee of Herr Mozart." The astonished Caterina (presumably sleeping with Mozart) shot a dagger-eyed glance at Mozart, who uncomfortably giggled. The composer haltingly explained that the marriage date hadn't been set, due to needing his father's consent. The Emperor encouraged the 26 year-old Mozart to marry the "charming young lady" and remain in Vienna - causing Frau Weber to faint to the floor. With a mean look at Mozart, Caterina swatted him in the face with her flower bouquet and marched off the stage.

Salieri's fears of Mozart's promiscuity and seduction of his object of "lust" were confirmed - he spoke passionately to Father Vogler:

Older Salieri: (voice-over and in-person) At that moment, I knew he'd had her. The creature had had my darling girl. It was incomprehensible! What was God up to? My heart was filling up with such hatred for that little man. For the first time in my life, I began to know really violent thoughts.

In the Palace in Salzburg, Mozart's father Leopold was harshly told by the Prince-Archbishop Colloredo that Mozart wouldn't be invited back: "Your son is an unprincipled, spoiled, conceited brat." Leopold agreed and attempted to shift the blame to himself for too often indulging him, and was fortunately granted another opportunity.

Mozart's Disobedient Marriage to Constanze:

In voice-over, Leopold described in a letter his upcoming visit to his son in Vienna, and stressed that Mozart should delay his plans for marriage to his fiancee Constanze. However, in the next scene, the camera descended upon an altar and the matrimonial ceremony for Mozart and Constanze. Afterwards, Mozart wrote to his father in a return letter:

(voice-over) Most beloved father. Remember how you've always told me Vienna is the City of Musicians. To conquer here is to conquer Europe? With my wife, I can do it. And one day soon when I am a wealthy man, you'll come and live with us, and we'll be so happy.

The somber Leopold crumpled up the letter from his disobedient son Wolfgang. The rustling sound of the crumpling of the letter appeared to scare off startled deer in a park - but was only a transition to the next scene.

Constanze's Attempted Bribery of Salieri:

The Emperor was engaged in a hunting party on horseback with his entourage, including his young 13 year-old teenaged niece Princess Elisabeth. He requested advice from Salieri about a "suitable musical instructor" for her - the Court Composer quickly discouraged Mozart as a possibility: ("My concern is to protect you from any hint of favoritism"). Salieri's off-screen idea was to create a committee, led by the Chamberlain (and the biased Italian courtiers), to review samples of work from prospective teachers. Mozart was angered and cried foul, claiming immodestly that he was the "best" composer in Vienna, and that the committee members were "musical idiots." Mozart adamantly refused to submit to the committee's rules.

In secret and without Mozart's knowledge or assent ("This was my own idea"), a veiled Frau Constanze Mozart intervened by bringing original samples of her profligate husband's work to Salieri's salon, so that he could be considered for the royal appointment. She insisted that he look at her husband's work in her presence, claiming that they were "desperate - we really need this job - My husband spends far more than he can ever earn...He's not practical. Money simply slips through his fingers." Changing the subject, Salieri offered her some "refreshment" - he suggestively reached for a bowl of 'Nipples of Venus' (Cappezzoli di Venere) - glazed Roman chestnuts in brandied sugar.

Constanze again stressed how she couldn't leave the originals of Mozart's work with him: "Wolfgang would be frantic if he found those were missing. You see, they're all originals...He doesn't make copies." Salieri had an astonished reaction: ("Originals?...These are originals?"). As he held the hand-written musical scores in a leather portfolio, he imagined the music in his head. In the asylum, the older Salieri described his response:

(voice-over and in-person) Astounding! It was actually, it was beyond belief. These were first and only drafts of music. But they showed no corrections of any kind. Not one. He had simply written down music already finished in his head! Page after page of it, as if he were just taking dictation! And music, finished as no music is ever finished. Displace one note and there would be diminishment. Displace one phrase and the structure would fall. It was clear to me that sound I had heard in the Archbishop's palace had been no accident. Here again was the very voice of God! I was staring through the cage of those meticulous ink-strokes at an absolute beauty.

When he dropped the cascading sheaf of manuscript papers in orgasmic amazement, the perplexed Constanze cried out: "Is it not good?" Stunned and almost speechless, Salieri replied: "It is miraculous!" After she asked: "So you will help us?," Salieri completely ignored Constanze and abruptly walked from the room without another word, as she began to pick up the papers from the floor.

The older Salieri was enraged and exasperated. He railed at God and his crucifix, and vowed to destroy Mozart :

(voice-over and in-person) From now on, we are enemies. You and I. Because You choose for your instrument, a boastful, lustful, smutty infantile boy, and give me for reward only the ability to recognize the Incarnation. Because You are unjust, unfair, unkind, I will block You! I swear it! I will hinder and harm Your creature on earth as far as I am able. I will ruin Your Incarnation.

The younger Salieri grabbed the wooden crucifix from the wall and placed it on burning logs in a fireplace.

Mozart's Father Leopold with Mozart and Constanze - at Masquerade Party - Mocking Salieri:

In the next scene, the struggling and embattled Mozart was drinking from a bottle of alcohol in the bustling streets of Vienna. As he entered his house, his father (wearing a menacing long black robe and crescent hat) was standing at the top of the staircase landing, silhouetted in front of a window. Mozart greeted his "Papa" with an embracing hug. Inside the untidy living room, Leopold was disturbed by views of empty wine bottles at Mozart's door, uncleared plates of food, half-emptied wine glasses on the piano, and playing cards strewn about. He asked why Mozart looked so thin, and was startled that Mozart's wife was still in bed, looking tired. Mozart admitted: "You know me, I'm such a pig. It's not easy cleaning up after me." Leopold brought up an uncomfortable subject: "How is your financial situation?...They say you have debts." Mozart stated that teaching pupils only took away from composing - but he assured his father that he was working on his latest secret masterpiece ("It's going to be the best thing I've ever done").

Mozart's father noticed that Constanze was expecting, and then Mozart suggested that for fun, they attend a masquerade ball party. On the way, they stopped at a costume shop to try on and rent various masked outfits:

  • Wolfgang: a blue-eyed white unicorn's head
  • Leopold: a double-faced (smiling and frowning) black mask with a billowing black cape, and a tricorn hat
  • Constanze: a beautiful white swan's head

During the frenzied merriment, games, and dancing at the masked party, they participated in a 'musical-chairs'-type game with penalties, known as Forfeits. Mozart was delighted to watch as Constanze was given a punishment: "Show us your legs!" But then as he suddenly looked over at the back of his father's head (the frowning black mask), he was forced to stifle his laugh. When his father turned to show off the side of the mask with a smile, Mozart again resumed laughing, until his father removed the mask and revealed a real stern frown! Mozart tried to lighten the mood: "It's just a game, Papa."

Salieri (disguising himself behind a small, hand-held black eye-mask) was also in attendance, noticing Mozart when he heard his distinctive giggle from afar. During the continuing game when Mozart was the next player to lose, Mozart's father was given the task of naming his son's penalty: "I want you to come back to Salzburg with me, my son." But Mozart could not comply: "The rule is you can only give a penalty that can be performed in the room." By now, Leopold had tired of the game and wished to quit, but Mozart was insistent: "I've got to have a penalty!" It was proposed by Emanuel Schikaneder (Simon Callow), the game's impresario and dramatist dressed as a Joker, that Mozart's penalty would be to "play our little tune in the manner of Johann Sebastian Bach" on a forte-piano keyboard.

And then as an extra, more challenging penalty, Mozart was also ordered to play the tune backwards (over his head). Other guests suggested further penalties: "Gluck...Handel" - and then the masked Salieri suggested that Mozart play Salieri himself. Mozart responded insultingly: "Now that is a challenge. That is a challenge." In a parody of Salieri's own playing style, with exaggerated and tortured deliberation, Mozart pounded out "Vivat Bacchus" (from his own opera, Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail (Abduction from the Seraglio)) as a banal, unimaginative tune. After thoroughly amusing the crowd, he ended his clowning impersonation with loud flatulence while raising his coat-tails from his extended behind, and climaxed his act with another shrill giggle. The older Salieri remembered the hurt of the mocking and offensive humiliation:

Go on! Mock me! Laugh! That was not Mozart laughing, Father. That was God. That was God laughing at me through that obscene giggle. Go on, Signore, laugh. Laugh. Show my mediocrity for all to see. One day I will laugh at You. Before I leave this earth, I will laugh at You!

Salieri expertly spit at his candlebra, extinguishing the middle candle - clearly symbolic of his vengeful plot to snuff out Mozart's 'light'.

Lorl's Spying on Mozart - and Leopold's Break With His Son:

In his workroom, Mozart was jotting down notes for a musical score, while resting his elbows on the top of a billiards table and playing with the colored balls. His pregnant wife mentioned that a young visitor was at the door - identified as a maidservant named Lorl (Cynthia Nixon). She offered her services, pre-paid by an anonymous donor and "great admirer" of Mozart, to be their household maid. Mozart's father Leopold asked: "Is this some kind of joke?" The domineering Leopold argued that the couple, who was more receptive to the idea, could not accept the generous offer: "But you cannot possibly accept her without references." Constanze was unconcerned about letting a "perfect stranger" share their home.

With the door shut on the maid, Constanze told her critical father-in-law how exasperated she was with him in the household: "I'm sick to death of it. We can't do anything right for you, can we?" Offended by the outburst, Leopold stated: "I'm leaving!" He also added how their house was a "mess like this everyday...a pigsty," where they held parties many nights with dancing and drinking, and he implied that Constanze was a "bad housekeeper." Mozart escaped to the billiards room to continue composing amidst the argument.

It was revealed that Salieri was the mysterious benefactor who had hired Lorl to spy on them and report back. Salieri questioned Lorl about their extravagant spending even while they had no visible means of financial support. All she could say was that Mozart worked "all day long...He just sits there writing and writing," but the dense girl had no specifics. Salieri wanted to know more details, and eventually had his opportunity to snoop in the house when Lorl informed him of their absence for an outdoor orchestral garden concert (that featured Mozart's Piano Concerto in E-flat), hosted by the Emperor. A carriage brought Lorl and Salieri to Mozart's home, where Salieri entered into Mozart's private workroom with a quiet curiosity and reverence. After touching Mozart's quill-pen, Salieri discovered a recent musical manuscript - an Italian opera that Mozart was composing based on the French play The Marriage of Figaro.

Previous Page Next Page