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

Attempted Sabotage of Mozart (and his opera The Marriage of Figaro) by Salieri and the Emperor's Advisors:

Later, Salieri brought the news of Mozart's new opera to the Emperor's advisors Count Orsini-Rosenberg and Kappelmeister Bonno, in order to sabotage Mozart. The courtiers felt it was a betrayal of the Emperor's orders that had banned the play: "He is setting that play to music?!" As a result, Mozart was summoned to the Emperor to account for his transgression of composing the "unsuitable" play. Mozart wanted to know the source of the Emperor's information, and then discounted the charges: "Majesty, it is only a comedy." The Emperor Joseph turned serious:

Mozart, I am a tolerant man. I do not censor things lightly. When I do, I have good reason. Figaro is a bad play. It stirs up hatred between the classes. In France, it has caused nothing but bitterness. My, my own dear sister Antoinette writes me that she is beginning to be frightened of her own people.

Mozart attempted to innocently explain how he had modified the play, and taken out any offensive subject matter ("I hate politics"). The Emperor continued: "In these dangerous times, I cannot afford to provoke our nobles or our people simply over a theatre piece." Mozart further defended himself with great enthusiasm:

Majesty, this is just a frolic. It's a piece about love....And it's new, it's entirely new. It's so new that people will go mad for it. I have scenes - the end of the second act, for example, it starts out as a simple Duet, just a husband and a wife quarreling. Suddenly, the wife's scheming little maid comes in. It's a very funny situation. Duet turns into Trio. Then the husband's valet comes in. He's plotting with the maid. The Trio turns into Quartet. Then a stupid old gardener comes in - Quartet becomes Quintet, and so on and on and on - Sextet, Septet, Octet! How long do you think I can sustain that, Majesty?...Guess, guess your Majesty. Imagine the longest time such a thing could be sustained, and then double it....20 minutes. (giggle) 20 minutes of continuous music. No recitatives. (giggle) Sire, only opera can do this. In a play, if more than one person speaks at the same time, it's just noise. No one can understand a word. But with opera, with music. With music, you could have twenty individuals all talking at the same time, and it's not noise - it's a perfect harmony.

Von Swieten questioned Mozart's judgment and choice of subject matter:

Mozart, music is not the issue here. No one doubts your talent. It's your judgment of literature that's in question. Even with the politics taken out, this thing would still remain a vulgar farce. Why waste your spirit on such rubbish? Surely you can choose more elevated themes.

Already worked up about the attempted sabotage of The Marriage of Figaro, mostly by the Italians, Mozart became even more emotional, and used the F-word:

Elevated! Elevated! What does that mean? Elevated! I am fed to the teeth with all of these elevated things! Old dead legends! Why must we go on forever writing only about gods and legends?...Come on now, be honest! Which one of you wouldn't rather listen to his hairdresser than Hercules? Or Horatius? Or Orpheus? People so lofty they sound as if they shit marble! (giggle)

The group was flabbergasted by Mozart's untamed, boorish and vulgar tongue, but then were amazed when he confessed his real artistic genius:

Forgive me, Majesty. I'm a vulgar man. But, I assure you, my music is not.

Mozart's passionate words were eventually enough to convince the Emperor to allow his opera (already completed and written) to proceed: "Just let me tell you how it begins. May I just do that, Majesty? Show you how it begins? Just that?...." -- as Mozart detailed the opening act (the measurement of Figaro's wedding bed), the scene dissolved to the opera house where the first act of The Marriage of Figaro was in actual rehearsal. Meanwhile, with the Emperor's conspiratorial advisors, Salieri was counting on the Emperor becoming infuriated by Figaro's third act - a "ballet" - that had also been expressly forbidden by the Emperor.

During the third act's rehearsal, Count Orsini-Rosenberg halted the production in progress, and reminded Mozart of the Emperor's prohibition of ballet in operas. When Mozart disagreed: "This is not a ballet. This is a dance at Figaro's wedding," Orsini-Rosenberg took it upon himself to literally rip out pages of the score to eliminate the 'dance' from the opera: ("Taking out what you should never have put in"). Mozart immediately fled to Salieri for his assistance and guidance, begging for intercession: "They say I have to rewrite the opera. But it's perfect as it is. I can't rewrite what's perfect. Please. Can't you talk to him?...It's not fair that a man like that should have power over our work." Mozart was relieved when Salieri promised to speak to the Emperor on his behalf.

But then, the crafty, older Salieri revealed to Father Vogler his two-faced duplicity:

I don't need to tell you I said nothing whatever to the Emperor. I went to the theatre ready to tell Mozart, something, anything, when suddenly, in the middle of the third act, to my astonishment, the Emperor - who never attended rehearsals - suddenly appeared.

When the Emperor suddenly arrived to view the rehearsal, he appeared upset that the music had abruptly and awkwardly been removed in the third act's dance sequence. To keep to the guidelines, Mozart had maintained the dancing in the opera's 3rd Act - but in complete silence. The Emperor was immediately reminded that his own decree had ruled against ballet in opera. Nonetheless, he firmly asked for the cut music to be reinstated in the act: ("Let me see the scene with the music...Oblige me!"). The sequence dissolved into the full-scale, triumphant public performance of Figaro in 1786 - obviously, Mozart was vindicated.

The older Salieri recalled how wondrous Mozart's God-praising opera really was as he watched, with tears in his eyes:

(partial voice-over) The restored third act was bold, brilliant. The fourth was astounding. I saw a woman disguised in her maid's clothes hear her husband speak the first tender words he has offered her in years, simply because he thinks she is someone else. I heard the music of true forgiveness filling the theatre, conferring on all who sat there perfect absolution. God was singing through this little man to all the world. Unstoppable. Making my defeat more bitter with every passing bar.

And then, do you know what happened? A miracle! (The Emperor yawned) With that yawn, I saw my defeat turn into a victory. And Mozart was lucky, the Emperor yawned only once. Three yawns and the opera would fail the same night. Two yawns, within a week at most. With one yawn, the composer could still get -

After nine performances, Mozart complained to Salieri that The Marriage of Figaro had already folded - Salieri partially commiserated, but blamed the failure on "too many demands on the royal ear. The poor man can't concentrate for more than an hour. You gave him four." Personally, Salieri thought the opera was "marvelous," but critiqued it. He thought it didn't clearly cue the Viennese audiences when to clap at the end of songs. Not to be presumptuous, Salieri suggested showing his own grand opera to Mozart.

Salieri's Triumphant Opera:

The request segued into a performance of the final act of Axur: King of Ormus (1788), with Salieri conducting the orchestra - it was Salieri's greatest triumph. He was commended by the Emperor for creating "the best opera yet written," and presented with a Civilian Medal and Chain ("You are the brightest star in the musical firmament"). Afterwards, Salieri was only interested in hearing praise from Mozart - something actually offered by the musical prodigy: ("I never knew that music like that was possible").

[Note: The film was incorrect in presenting Axur performed soon after the ninth and final performance of Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro in 1786, and before the death of Mozart's father Leopold in late May 1787.]

Salieri's Dastardly Plan After Leopold's Death and Mozart's Next Opera - Don Giovanni:

When Mozart returned home that evening to party with Schikaneder (and three females), he came upon Constanze breast-feeding their baby Karl at the table, seated with two black-clad strangers from Salzburg. Constanze relayed the upsetting news to Wolfgang: "Your father is dead." There was a sharp cut to his father's grim portrait on the wall - accentuated by a loud chord from the grief-stricken Mozart's next opera, Don Giovanni.

In the concluding scene of the opera, a giant ghostly stone commander (The Commendatore (Jan Blazek)) crashed through a brick wall on stage to call out and confront libertine nobleman Don Giovanni (Karel Fiala) at his dining table. The vengeful character was familiar to Salieri (sitting in a box in the audience) - he was associated with the masked black costume worn by Mozart's father Leopold at the masquerade ball - with a cape, smiling face mask, and tricorn hat:

(partial voice-over) So rose the dreadful ghost, from his next and blackest opera. There, on the stage, stood the figure of a dead commander. And I knew - only I understood - that the horrifying apparition was Leopold raised from the dead! Wolfgang had actually summoned up his own father to accuse his son before all the world. It was terrifying and wonderful to watch.

Salieri realized that Leopold was maintaining a stranglehold on Mozart's emotions and sanity even after his death and beyond the grave (inspiring Mozart to compose Don Giovanni). He hatched a plan in his continuing and crazed quest to plot Mozart's total destruction and death:

(partial voice-over) And now, the madness began in me. The madness of a man splitting in half. Through my influence, I saw to it Don Giovanni was played only five times in Vienna. But, in secret, I went to every one of those five. Worshipping sound I alone seemed to hear. And as I stood there, understanding how that bitter old man was still possessing his poor son even from beyond the grave, I began to see a way - a terrible way - I could finally triumph over God.

In the climactic finale of the opera, after Don Giovanni refused to repent, the stone statue's icy hand gripped Don Giovanni's hand. Don Giovanni was attacked by a flaming chorus of demons (carrying torches), while another flying demon dragged him down to hell.

On a snowy day in Vienna (to the tune of Mozart's D Minor Concerto), inside the costume shop visited earlier before the masquerade ball, one of Salieri's servants purchased the dark cape, mask, and hat worn by Mozart's father, and delivered it to Salieri. Meanwhile, a sickly-looking Mozart was composing while heavily drinking wine, as Salieri (now wearing the costume) strode through the streets and stood at Mozart's door. Appropriating Leopold's identity and disguised as a mysterious benefactor, Salieri appeared to Mozart in the costume - with a now-chilling, frowning black mask. He claimed he was a messenger sent to commission Mozart to work on his final piece - "a Mass for the dead...a man who deserved a Requiem Mass and never got one." Salieri extended a hand with a bag of coins, and then instructed: "Work fast. And be sure to tell no one what you do." As he turned to leave, on the back of his head was a smiling black mask. Mozart glanced at the painted portrait of his stern-looking, disapproving father hanging on the wall - always observing and judging Mozart's actions.

Jealously plotting Mozart's death, the older Antonio Salieri spoke to a horrified Father Vogler - imagining himself at Mozart's funeral during which Mozart's Requiem Death Mass in D Minor (to be attributed to Salieri's composition) would be performed. Salieri anticipated being admired by his peers and the court for his plagiarism of the Mass, but worried if his plot to kill Mozart would fail:

My plan was so simple that it terrified me. First, I must get the death mass and then I must achieve his death....His funeral! Imagine it! The cathedral, all Vienna sitting there. His coffin, Mozart's little coffin in the middle. And then, in that silence, music! A divine music bursts out over them all. A great mass of death! Requiem mass for Wolfgang Mozart. Composed by his devoted friend, Antonio Salieri! Ah, what sublimity! What depth! What passion in the music! Salieri has been touched by God at last, and God forced to listen! Powerless, powerless to stop it! I, for once, in the end, laughing at Him!

The only thing that worried me was the actual killing. How does one do that? Hmmm? How does one kill a man? It's one thing to dream about it. Very different when, when you, when you have to do it with your own hands.

Performance of Parody of Don Giovanni:

In the next scene set at Schikaneder's Theatre at least a year later, a bawdy parody of Don Giovanni (and other Mozart operas) was being performed on stage for a more low-brow audience, with Mozart and Constanze (with two year-old son Karl) watching from one of the boxes. A large 4-person fake horse entered with a dwarf (a miniature version of the Commendatore) riding on top. A trapeze bar carrying a soprano singer sailed in from the side, begging: "Kill me" and she was promptly struck by the Commendatore's sword and killed. A chorus began singing: "We're going to make a soprano stew!" as a large boiling pot was brought to the middle of the stage to cook up the soprano. After Schikaneder rode in on a real horse, the gigantic four-person pantomime horse was fed hay, and out the back came a string of Viennese sausage. And then when an egg was fed to the horse, a white dove emerged from the tail-end - the show's finale.

After the performance, Schikaneder approached Mozart in his box and encouraged him to consider presenting his original play Don Giovanni to a non-snobby, non-Court audience ("You would have had a wonderful success - you belong here!...The more fantastic the better. That's what people want - fantasy!"): He asked Mozart to write an opera for his common-person theater:

You write a proper part for me and a couple of catchy songs, I guarantee you a triumph deluxe!

Always looking out for Mozart's financial interests, Constanze asked about payment, and Schikaneder promised "half the receipts." But she wanted to know about advance payment: "How much will you pay him now? Down payment." Schikaneder laughed: "Who do you think I am, the Emperor?" and rushed off for his next number before definitively answering. Constanze was insistent toward her husband and demanded higher ideals:

We need money now. Either he pays you now, or you don't do it....I don't trust that man, and I don't like what he did with your opera. It was common....Half the house! You'll never see a penny. I want it here in my hand.


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