Amadeus (1984)




Director:     Milos Forman.

Starring:     Tom Hulce, F. Murray Abraham, Elizabeth Berridge, Simon Callow, Roy Dotrice, Christine Ebersole, Jeffrey Jones.  

Oscar:        F. Murray Abraham for Best Support Actor for his role as Salieri. Best Picture.  Best Director. Best Screenplay.  Best Art Direction.   


Boy, that constant laughing of Mozart (Thomas Hulce) sure makes you think Mozart was pretty flaky.  No wonder Salieri (F. Murray Abraham), who worked so hard at becoming a famous composer, hated him and wanted to do in the hedonistic young musical genius who gained raves without even trying.  Jeffrey Jones does a great job as Emperor Joseph II of Austria who fancies himself a musical dilettante.  

The portrayal of Mozart, though hyperactive somewhat, seems exaggerated.

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.




Historical Background:

1713 – Maria Theresa of Austria born the eldest daughter of Charles VI.

1716 – Leopold Johann, sole male heir of Charles VI, died as an infant.

Charles VI issued the Pragmatic Sanction which guaranteed his daughter the right to succeed to the Austrian throne.

1740 (October 20) – death of Charles VI. She became Her Imperial and Royal Highness Maria Theresa, Princess Imperial and Archduchess of Austria, Princess Royal of Hungary and Bohemia.

Soon after Maria Theresa assumed the throne, the War of Austrian Succession began.

Maria Theresa was married to Francis Stephen, Duke of Lorraine, with who she had 16 children (11 daughters all with the first name "Marie" and 5 sons).

Her youngest daughter was Maria Antonia (better known under her French name Marie Antoinette) who would lose her head in the French Revolution.

Frederick II (a.k.a, Frederick the Great) invaded Silesia. Bavaria and France also invaded Austria’s western territories, but Prussia was the main threat.

1748 – France gave the Austrian Low Countries that it conquered back to Maria Theresa and, in exchange, Maria Theresa ceded Parma, Piacenza, and Guastalla to the Infante Felipe of Spain.

Maria Theresa switched allies, dropping Britain and allying with Russia and France.

1752 – she established the first worldwide military academy.

1754 – she established an academy of engineering science.

1756 – Maria Theresa felt her army was strong enough to attack Prussia. Frederick II, however, attacked first, invading Saxony, another ally of Austria, beginning the Seven Years' War.

1756 -- Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart born in Salzburg, Austria. (Haydn was 24 years older and Beethoven 15 years younger).

1760 -- at age 4 he already shows his musical gifts when he learns musical pieces. And in late 1760 he writes his earliest known compositions.

1761 -- first known public appearance, at Salzburg University, when he takes part in a theatrical performance with music by Eberlin.

1762 -- father takes Wolfgang and Nannerl to München for three weeks where they play the harpsichord before the Elector of Bavaria.

1762, Sept -- entire family goes to Vienna to perform until the end of the year. Appear twice before Maria Theresa and her consort at Schönbrunn. The Empress sent them a set of court clothes.

1763 – the Seven Years' War ended with Maria Theresa signing the Treaty of Hubertusberg which recognized Prussian ownership of Silesia.

1763 -- the Mozart family returns to Salzburg; Mozart plays the violin and harpsichord in a concert at Salzburg court. Mozart is very precocious, but is also very docile and tender, demonstratively affectionate, high-spirited. On the other hand, he was also proud and ambitious.

1763, June -- Mozart family goes to Paris and London, giving concerts as they travel: Munich, Augsburg, Ludwigsburg, Schwetzingen, Mainz, Frankfurt, Koblenz, Aachen, the Austrian Netherlands, and Brussels. Stay in Paris for five months (play at Versailles before Louis XV).

1764 -- spend 15 months in England, appearing before George III. In London they meet J.C. Bach, who is particularly friendly and goes on to have a lifelong influence on Mozart. While in England, Mozart composes his first symphonies.

1765 -- they leave London.

1765 – Maria Theresa's husband died. She dressed in mourning clothes until her own death 15 years later.

She recognized Joseph II, her eldest son, as coregent and emperor, but she allowed him only limited powers because she felt he was too rash and arrogant. She kept most of the power to herself, which created a good deal of friction between mother and son.

1765-1790  --  Joseph II served as Holy Roman Emperor.  He became a patron of the arts and was known as the "music king". He commissioned the German-language opera Die Entführung aus dem Serail from Mozart.

1766 --in The Hague first Nannerl and then Wolfgang succumb to 'intestinal typhoid'. Go back to Austria giving concerts along the way (arriving in late November).

1770 -- Entire year in Italy.

1771 -- At fifteen, Mozart becomes concertmaster in the orchestra of the Archbishop of Salzburg, but he cannot get along with the Archbishop.

1777 -- in Salzburg; writes some fugues. Leaves for Paris with mother; falls in love with 16 year-old Aloysia Weber on stopover in Mannheim.

1778 -- Heads for Paris, where his mother sickens and dies; visits Aloysia en route home to Salzburg; she rejects him.

1780  --  Joseph II visited Queen Catherine of Russia.

1780 – death of Maria Theresa, the only female to rule during the 650-year-long Habsburg dynasty. She was succeeded by her son Joseph II.

1781 -- Mozart quits his lofty position with the Archbishop and heads for Vienna, quite against his father's wishes. He goes to live with his old friends the Webers; falls in love with one of their daughters, Constanze.

1782 -- his opera The abduction from the Seraglio; marries Constanze.

1783-1791 -- six children born, but only two survive.

1783 -- First son is born and dies; brings Constanze to Salzburg to meet his father and sister; no rapport is established.

1786 -- Figaro is produced in Vienna, but dropped after nine performances.

1787 -- Goes to Prague, gets commission to write Don Giovanni, which is well-received there; his father dies; Mozart becomes depressed.

1788 -- stops performing publicly and just composes music; Don Giovanni a flop in Vienna, but Mozart writes his three greatest symphonies.

1790  -- death of Joseph II.  He was succeeded by his brother Leopold II

1791 -- writes an opera for the coronation of Leopold II and The Magic Flute for Emanuel Schikaneder, librettist; dies at age 35 of either kidney failure or rheumatic fever.

A popular tales was that his rival Antonio Salieri poisoned Mozart.  This idea is the subject of Aleksander Pushkin's play Mozart and Salieri, Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov's opera Mozart and Salieri, and Peter Shaffer's play Amadeus.


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