‘Mozart’ captures tragic tones of composer’s inner struggles
By Zhang Qian
WITH blond tussled hair and an electronic guitar in hand, the tempestuous Mozart who now struts the stage in Shanghai is hardly the legendary 18th-century virtuoso whom most people imagine.
Composing at the age of five, writing symphonies by nine, and completing his first opera at 11, Mozart is regarded with saint-like reverence in the classical music world. Yet, as playwright Michael Kunze sees it, Mozart’s genius led him to tragedy rather than happiness. He died alone at only 36.
“I believe that Mozart was eager to devote himself to a life filled with happiness and love, which can be discovered in his memoirs; but he could not do it. He saw it as his responsibility to make full use of his talents,” says Kunze, “He was torn between this conflict throughout his life. It’s been estimated that it would take seven years to copy all of his scores by hand. You can imagine how he’d been working constantly.”
The Austrian musical “Mozart,” staged at SAIC Shanghai Culture Square until January 15, is meant to help audiences understand the tumultuous inner world of the great composer. Since its premier at Theater an der Wien in Vienna, the musical has toured seven counties and been seen by more than 1.9 million people.
“Everybody knows about Mozart as a musical genius with a short life. But hardly anyone knows him as a real person. How did he die? How did he move from Salzburg to Paris and Vienna? How did he get along with his father, mother and wife?” asks Andrea Friedrich, producer of the musical.
In the German-language show, Mozart is more than just a gifted musician, but also a young man with a rebellious heart and an intense longing for freedom. To win his self-respect, he broke with the archbishop who had long sponsored his work. He went to Vienna to build his career but failed to win his father’s approval. He married a loving woman yet lost her due to his relentless devotion to music.
On stage, Mozart’s talent is represented by a boy in a red court costume and traditional wig, while the grown Mozart is depicted much like a rock star. The boy is named Amade and he carries a mysterious box throughout the show.
“Amade is part of Mozart, while the mysterious box symbolizes his gift, the source of his inspiration and possibly the whole musical world. Without his gift, Mozart would not have been the famous Mozart, but it was also this gift that ruined his life,” says Kunze.
As show reaches its tragic climax, Amade starts to compose with Mozart’s own blood, and in the end stabs his pen into the adult composer’s heart to get the final drops out of him.
According to Oedo Kuipers who plays Mozart in the musical, it is quite a demanding task to enter the role every night.
“Mozart is a dramatic character with rich emotions like joy, sorrow, love, jealousy and fear. I am experiencing his rise and fall every night,” he says. “And it’s very difficult to balance between acting and singing. I cannot roar while singing even if the emotion leads me there.”
The music in the show was composed by Sylvester Levay, who infuses the musical with pop, jazz and rock. Excerpts from Mozart’s composition are also used throughout the play.
Though the story is set in 18th-century Austria, the costumes for the characters vary from traditional Baroque dress to ripped jeans in an attempt to connect the real-life historical drama with modern sensibilities.
Mozart appears throughout the show in a pure white suit. His outfit sets him apart from the colorful cast, just as his gifts and passions made him a misfit during his short life.