Separating Mozart from “Amadeus”

Professor of music and lecturer for the core Roye E. Wates recently published a book covering the reality and fiction surrounding Mozart, titled Mozart: An Introduction to the Music, the Man and the Myths.  Wicked Local interviewed Professor Wates on the book, and it sheds some insight into how Amadeus may be more hurtful than helpful to the reality of Mozart and his father’s relationship to him:

Wates says the book was needed because there’s so much misinformation about Mozart, in part because of the popular film “Amadeus.” In both the book and our conversation, Wates makes it clear that the music world owes a debt of gratitude to Mozart’s father, Leopold Mozart, a brilliant man who home-schooled Mozart, “engaged his son’s imagination,” and devoted himself to the career of his child genius.

If you recommended one of Mozart’s operas to a first-time listener, which one would it be and why?

One of two. In my own teaching, “Don Giovanni” makes an immediate and powerful impact. You don’t have to know about opera to enjoy it. The story is about Don Juan. Every woman has had to deal with a Don Juan, and every man wants to be one. So there’s a connection to this fascinating mythological character. And Mozart’s portrayal of him is irresistibly charming, and at the same time terrifying. And, interestingly, the lead character has no arias that explain who he is. Some people regard that as a flaw. Others say that’s perfect; he’s a mystery man.

My other recommendation is “The Abduction from the Seraglio.” I taught it one year, and it turned out to be a really good introduction to what opera is about. The music is beautiful, and it’s very touching at the end.

If you were on a desert island and you could only have one piece of Mozart music, what would it be?

“The Marriage of Figaro.” (Pause) And the Mass in C Minor. Both of those have a good deal of Mozart’s pastoral music, which I believe was his most distinctive personal idiom. The way Mozart wrote pastoral music was unlike any other, except Bach. It’s so powerful and so moving that I’m not sure I could live without it.

You can read the full story here.  Is Amadeus doing more harm than good? Or is a bit of over-dramatization okay if it drums up interest?  Feel free to comment below.

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