The triumphant premiere of “Don Giovanni” took place in Prague. And despite the fact that Italy, England and Germany were also instrumental in forming the young musician’s gifts, it was Vienna, where Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart achieved true musical genius.
There remain sites in Vienna that can claim to have been honoured by Mozart’s living presence “in these rooms”, “in this palace” or “in this church”. The one obvious exception is St. Marx cemetery, where he is buried.
While still a child Mozart was already mingling with the social elite. In 1762, when Mozart was just six years old, the “prodigy from Salzburg” was already the talk of the town, and a performance for the Habsburgs is arranged at Schönbrunn Palace — albeit with a little help from father Leopold, himself a well-known musician in the service of the Archbishop of Salzburg. The “family business” scored a big success: Mozart’s playing in the Hall of Mirrors in the imperial summer residence delighted the “mother of the nation” Empress Maria Theresa, and she was even more charmed when the six-year-old, as the story goes, jumped up on to her lap after the performance.
Six years later, in 1768, Mozart, a well traveled veteran although still only 12 years old, met Maria Theresa again on two separate occasions. At the Wiener Hofburg the Empress granted him a two-hour audience; and at the consecration of Waisenhaus Church attended by the Empress he conducted the Waisenhaus Mass which he had written specially for the occasion. Incidentally, this commemorative mass is still performed every year on the date of the church’s consecration (December 8). Much later, in 1781 to be precise, Mozart was even invited to spend Christmas Eve in the imperial apartments at the Hofburg as a guest of Austria’s enlightened Emperor Joseph II.
In 1786, Mozart faced a more serious challenge in the Schönbrunn Orangerie. The 30-year-old composer, at the zenith of his career, was called upon to square up to the court Kapellmeister Antonio Salieri under the critical gaze of Emperor Joseph II. Mozart performed “The Impresario”, which Salieri countered with “Prima la musica e poi le parole”. Even if posterity shakes its head at the Emperor’s willful decision, Salieri won. The verdict only confirmed Mozart’s aversion to court society and its strict ceremonial.
Mozart did not just move in Vienna court society, however. The fun-loving composer, who was forever challenging society’s conventions, also had a private life. This included the worries of parenthood, as is illustrated by his efforts to secure a place for his eldest son Karl Thomas at the school of the Piarists. In a letter to his wife Constanze on October 9, 1791, he wrote, “…at 10 o’clock I’m going to the offices of the Piarists because Leitgeb told me I’ll be able to speak to the principal then.” Visitors today can enjoy ‘Kapaundl mit Morcheln’ (capon with morels), one of Mozart’s favorite dishes, at the excellent Piaristenkeller restaurant.
Following a dispute, Salzburg’s head chamberlain Count Arco literally booted Mozart out of the Deutschordenhaus (House of the Teutonic Order) in 1781 (“sent out the door with a kick up the rear”), ending his employment with the prince-archbishop. Left to his own devices, Mozart turned once again to the Viennese aristocracy and their patronage. As a child, he had already performed with his sister under the watchful eye of father Leopold at the Auersperg, Harrach, Kinsky and Pálffy palaces. In 1786, at the age of 30, he conducted a private performance of “Idomeneo” at the Palais Auersperg.
On the subject of patronage, Gottfried van Swieten, director of the Austrian National Library and son of Gerhard van Swieten, Maria Theresa’s personal physician — immortalized to this day on the monument to Maria Theresa between the Naturhistorisches Museum and the Kunsthistorisches Museum — invited Mozart in 1786 to a “Sunday academy”, or in other words a concert. Van Swieten junior has gone down in history as one of Mozart’s most important supporters and patrons.
The best place to find out about the private, happy Mozart is at the Mozarthaus Vienna, which is currently being refurbished and is scheduled for reopening on January 27, 2006, to coincide with the start of Mozart Year. The composer of “The Magic Flute” (1791) and “The Abduction from the Seraglio” (1782) spent what were probably his happiest and most successful years, from 1784 to 1787, on the second floor of the building at Domgasse 5 in the heart of Vienna. Visitors to this apartment, with its four large and two small rooms and separate kitchen, can still feel the aura that surrounded its occupant. It was here, too, that Mozart composed “The Marriage of Figaro”, perhaps his most enjoyable opera, in 1786. The 2,000 square feet memorial apartment is currently being converted, and the house will reopen on January 27, 2006 as a museum occupying almost 11,000 square feet.
Another site that must have had fond memories for the Mozart family is St. Stephen’s Cathedral, where Wolfgang married his beloved Constanze (Weber) in 1782. Even if Mozart scholars tell us that the newly wed husband was somewhat lukewarm in his appreciation of his wife’s appearance (“she is not ugly, but also far from being beautiful”), there can be no doubt about her zest and loyalty during the difficult moments in Mozart’s career. The strong bond between them is further illustrated by their six children — only two of whom survived infancy. The “Steffl”, as the Viennese affectionately call their cathedral, also played a role at the end of the musician’s life: Mozart died on December 5, 1791, and his body was blessed in the Crucifix Chapel there.
Mozart died at Rauhensteingasse 8 in the heart of the city. The house where he died has long since vanished, and today the site is occupied by Kaufhaus Steffl, one of Vienna’s most well known department stores. It was in this house that he started to compose the famous unfinished Requiem — his musical legacy to the world, so to speak.
St. Marx Cemetery was the final lonely resting place of Europe’s greatest musician, the composer of numerous operas, masses and unforgettable melodies. The exact location of his grave is unknown to this day. As was customary at the time, Mozart was buried together with four or five others in an unmarked plot.
Mozart’s resurrection began just a few days after his untimely death. A requiem service was held at St. Michael’s Church on December 10 at the instigation of Emanuel Schikanender, director of Theater an der Wien, who had commissioned “The Magic Flute” in 1791. Mozart’s last work, the unfinished “Requiem”, is believed to have been heard at this service for the first time.
Even if Mozart did not always receive the acclaim that was his due while he was alive, the situation changed radically after his death. “The Magic Flute” (1791) was soon seen to be an unsurpassed stage work, and his many other compositions were increasingly acknowledged for the masterpieces they are. Prominent among the many sites dedicated to the composer is the Mozart Memorial in the Burggarten, which was erected in 1896. At the Central Cemetery, Vienna’s largest burial ground, a further Mozart memorial was erected in 1891 in the section devoted to prominent artists and politicians (“Ehrengräber”), next to other great composers such as Beethoven and Strauss. Also worth a look is the Mozart Fountain — or Magic Flute Fountain as it is often called — built in 1905 and featuring a bronze statue of the two main protagonists of the opera, the flute-playing Tamino in the embrace of his beloved Pamina. For those in need of consolation and sustenance, the great musician can also be remembered at the Café Mozart near the Vienna State Opera.
Haus der Musik (House of Music) takes a different approach. The room devoted to Mozart not only shows original artifacts from his life but also has an infotainment installation that allows visitors to conduct an unforgiving Vienna Philharmonic orchestra as it plays “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik” (1787).
Vienna's Mozart Year 2006
A look at the current status of Vienna Mozart Year 2006 shows more than 50 different productions or events with 2,600 performances.
Here are the highlights of the coming Mozart Year.
The Theater an der Wien — scene of the world premiere of Beethoven’s “Fidelio” in 1805 — has been a venue for musicals for some decades, but in 2006 it will return to its former role as a Mozart opera house. Mozart fans can look forward to more than 80 performances spread over the whole year. Star conductors due to appear include Seiji Ozawa, Nikolaus Harnoncourt and Sir Simon Rattle, who will play Mozart’s last three symphonies with the Vienna Philharmonic in December. Other highlights include an opening concert with Plácido Domingo and Julian Rachlin on January 8, and star tenor Neil Shicoff under the baton of Seiji Ozawa in a co-production of “Idomeneo” with the Vienna State Opera. Vienna’s OsterKlang (Sound of Easter) festival in April will feature Mozart’s oratorio “Die Schuldigkeit des ersten Gebots” (“The Obligation of the First Commandment”) and the KlangBogen summer festival will stage Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” and a contemporary opera, “Flammen” by Erwin Schulhoff.
A feature of the Mozart Year in Vienna will be the reopening on January 27, 2006 of the former Mozart apartment in the heart of the city, to be renamed "Mozarthaus Vienna". An all-new Mozart exhibition will offer fascinating insights into the eventful life of the greatest European musician of the past 200 years, displayed in some 11,000 square feet of space on six floors. Apart from Mozart’s works, some of which visitors will be able to listen to, the exhibit explores his family and world, friends and his enemies in the Vienna of the late Baroque. The location at No. 5 Domgasse, right behind St. Stephen’s Cathedral, is ideal since it was there that Mozart experienced the happiest and artistically prolific years of his life and wrote “The Marriage of Figaro”. The focus of this new multimedia experience is, of course, the maestro himself, with all the many sides to his personality.
The Albertina, the palace art gallery next to the Vienna State Opera, will host “Mozart 2006“, an exhibition covering Mozart’s life and work. This outstanding show, designed by acclaimed architect Zaha Hadid, focuses on the composer’s ideas and his enduring influence. Precious artworks and exciting virtual-reality installations will chronicle Mozart’s life from his beginnings as a six year-old child prodigy through to his emergence as a world famous artist.
The exhibit will also explore the many clichés that surround Austria’s most important “cultural export“. Other themes include the spiritual and intellectual world of this unconventional free spirit. One of the more unusual exhibits will be a modern interpretation of a Montgolfière — a hot-air balloon like those that fascinated Mozart.
The Vienna State Opera under Music Director Seiji Ozawa and the Vienna Volksoper will stage Mozart’s greatest operas. Performances of “The Magic Flute”, “Don Giovanni”, “The Marriage of Figaro”, “La Clemenza di Tito” and ”Così fan tutte” are planned, and a co-production of “The Abduction from the Seraglio” between the State Opera and Vienna’s Burgtheater is sure to be a big talking point. The day of Mozart’s death, December 5, will see Christian Thielemann conduct Mozart’s unfinished Requiem at the State Opera. Mozart operas, mostly in German, will also be playing at the Volksoper. The house, with 1,400 seats, already has a name for outstanding Mozart productions.
The Musikverein, famous for the annual broadcasts of the Vienna Philharmonic’s New Year’s Concert from the magnificent Golden Hall, will host Anne-Sophie Mutter — already described by Herbert von Karajan as one of the world’s greatest violinists early in her career — playing Mozart’s violin sonatas. Nikolaus Harnoncourt will conduct Mozart’s C-Minor mass along with the musical play “Der Schauspieldirektor” (“The Impresario”) and “La betulia liberata” (“The Liberation of Betulia”). The famous Vienna Boys’ Choir, formed more than 500 years ago, will also be holding concerts at the Musikverein in 2006, billed as “Mozart and more”. Mozart’s piano concertos will be the focus of the Vienna Festival concerts, which are among the highlights of the Vienna musical year. The performances will feature another former child prodigy of the classical music scene, Rudolf Buchbinder, who will play 12 of Mozart’s piano concertos with the Vienna Philharmonic in the Golden Hall.
The Vienna Festival will likewise feature Mozart’s works. As always, the festival will open on the Rathausplatz (City Hall Square), this time on May 12. Daniel Harding, who has worked under Sir Simon Rattle and Claudio Abbado, will conduct “The Magic Flute” and “Così fan tutte” — the latter in a production by Patrice Chéreau — at the Theater an der Wien.
In July and August the Music Film Festival on the Rathausplatz will again offer free screenings under the stars on warm summer evenings. Films of various Mozart opera and concert performances from the world’s greatest venues will make for atmospheric evenings of the square, and the experience will be rounded off by culinary delights from around the world.
“New Crowned Hope”, the Mozart festival planned by U.S. star director Peter Sellars for late 2006, will not be “the frozen food department in the supermarket“ but it promises an intellectually challenging feast for all senses. New Crowned Hope was the name of the Masonic lodge Mozart helped to found in 1791. This festival will bring together artists from a wide range of disciplines to explore Mozart’s work and personality. Themes taken by Sellars from “The Magic Flute”, “La Clemenza di Tito” and the Requiem will be the starting point for new productions. The Museum for Ethnology and the Kunsthalle Vienna will be among the venues for the festival. Architecture, film and the visual arts will be just as important as music.
Mozart sites in Vienna
Location of the house where Mozart died (demolished, now Steffl department store) Rauhensteingasse 8, 1st district
St. Marx Cemetery
St. Stephen’s Cathedral
Deutschordenshaus (House of
the Teutonic Order)
Palais Auersperg - Auerspergstrasse 1, 8th district - www.auersperg.com
Palais Harrach - Freyung 3, 1st district
Palais Kinsky - Freyung 4, 1st district - www.palais-kinsky.com
Palais Palffy - Josefsplatz 6, 1st district - www.palais-palffy.at
Mozart Fountain - Mozartplatz, 4th district
Piarist Church - Piaristengasse 45, 8th district - www.piaristenkeller.at
Café Mozart - Albertinaplatz 2, 1st district - Opening hours:Daily from 8 a.m. to midnight www.landtmann.at
St. Michael’s Church -
Haus der Musik -
Seilerstätte 30, 1st district
We are grateful to Vienna Tourism for providing this information.