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Amadeus: The Genius of Insanity

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Riley Cahiggula

on 14 May 2014

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Transcript of Amadeus: The Genius of Insanity

Amadeus: The Genius of Insanity
Character Study: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
From his very birth, Mozart was trained rigorously by his father, Leopold Mozart, and by the age of 5 he was already composing his own original works. His father was himself a court composer and the Mozart family would travel to courts all around Europe to perform for Popes and Kings. He wrote music obsessively throughout his whole childhood and at 17 he moved from Salzburg to Vienna in order to solidify an independent career. This is where the story of Amadeus takes place. Unlike Salieri, who was a court composer and therefore subject to patronage, Mozart was a freelance musician, making money off of lessons and performances. This meant that his musical talent soared at the cost of his financial stability.
"Amadeus" follows the extreme life of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) told in the form of flashback by his rival composer, Antonio Salieri. The movie starts out with Salieri attmepting to kill himself, set stylishly to Mozart's Symphony 25 in G minor, K 183, movement 1: Allegro con brio (Italian musical term for "moving quickly with spirit and vigor.) This shows the obsession that Salieri has with Mozart already because even though it's a traumatic event in his life, the music of Mozart is playing, as opposed to his own music. The rest of the movie takes place in a mental asylum, where Salieri is being comforted by a priest, whom he shares his experiences of interacting with Mozart.
The German opera that Joseph commissions in the movie is "The abduction from the seraglio", which is set in a Turkish harem and performed in a German libretto (sing-talk used in an opera). Historically, it was very successful and paved a way for the commissioning of his next opera.
Le nozze de Figaro (The marriage of Figaro)
Originally a play of a controversial subject matter, Mozart gave the script to his libretto writer Lorenzo Da Ponte, who turned it into an opera within 6 weeks. What made it such a touchy subject matter was it's ideas of classicism and elitism, which were already causing uprisings and revolutions in France. Despite Joseph's worries, the opera was performed and is one of the most recognizable operas to this day.
Don Giovanni
Mozart's darkest and most epic of operas, Don Giovanni is based on the Spanish legend of Don Juan, a lustful libertine who would travel all over Europe and seduce hundreds of women before being chased out of town by a mob of angry husbands and fathers. Just how many women did the Don sleep with? His sidekick, Leporello, explains:
Values and Beliefs
Character Study: Antonio Salieri
Antonio Salieri (1750-1825) was the court composer in Vienna during Mozart's time, and although his antagonism towards Wolfgang is highly dramatized in the movie, it is historical fact that they competed for the favor of Joseph II. Despite being richer than Mozart monetarily, he is widely recognized to this day as being inferior to him in musical talent. To prove my point, let me ask you: have any of you ever heard of Salieri? No? Well neither has this guy:
Recognizing the superiority of Mozart and his own mediocrity, Salieri, out of pure contempt and jealousy, spends the entire movie trying to "silence the voice of God".
Character Study: Joseph II
The emperor of Austria at the time, Joseph, appointed Salieri as his court composer and personal piano teacher. When he had heard of Mozart's arrival, however, he decided to commission a German opera from him to display his national patriotism. Unlike Salieri, Joseph never gave Mozart full patronage, which allowed Mozart to write music without having to conform to the court's rules. Despite his title as an enlightened despot, he was not very gifted musically, unlike Mozart, who was seen more or less as a "performing monkey" whose musical skills were beyond compare.
Operas referenced in the movie
Die Entführung aus dem Serail (The abduction from the seraglio)
Die Zauberflote (The Magic Flute)
If Don Giovanni was "The Dark Knight" of operas, then The Magic Flute would be the 1960's Adam West Batman TV series: campy, colorful and incredibly entertaining. A vaudeville comedy in two acts that uses ideas from Freemasonry (in which Mozart was a prominent member) the story follows standard fairy tale format of a prince who must rescue a beautiful princess from an evil wizard, accompanied by his goofy bird-catching sidekick. In the second act, however, all is not what it seems: the "blazing star queen" who seemed like a protagonist at the beginning turns out to be a wicked witch, the evil wizard Sorastro turns out to be a benevolent king who promotes forgiveness and understanding and Papageno, the foolish bird catcher who complains about being lonely throughout the whole opera, is happily married by the end.
In the finale of the opera, depicted in this next scene, the ghost of one of the Don's many victims visits him at his manor and tells him to repent his villainous ways or else suffer the torments of hell. When the Don refuses, claiming that "No man shall ever call me a coward!" the ghost tells him that his "final hour has come" and the Don's dining hall suddenly becomes engulfed in flames, with demons and wicked spirits appearing before him to drag him down into the very pits of hell itself to be punished for his sins. Also, this opera was sold as a comedy.
He may be seen as a vulgar, annoying, unbearably childish human being, but the point of the movie is that if you look past his flawed personality and see the sacrifices he's made for his art, it becomes clear that the main belief that Mozart carried, both in real life and in the movie, is that he puts his music above all else, making sure that it is perfect for his audience despite the great toll it has taken on his life. Dying at the young age of 35, Mozart lived a full and prosperous life, leaving behind a legacy that will never be forgotten.
Historical significance
The main demographic for this movie is actually not musical historians due to it's dramatizations and inaccuracies, but rather it is aimed at the average movie-goer as a chance to experience the funner side of 18th century life and to realize the extreme lifestyles of antiquated composers.
"My dear lady, this is a list
Of the beauties my master has loved,
A list which I have compiled.
Observe, read along with me.
In Italy, six hundred and forty;
In Germany, two hundred and thirty-one;
A hundred in France; in Turkey, ninety-one;
In Spain already one thousand and three."
Characters & Settings
Full transcript