Sunday, November 28, 2010

Amadeus: A Pinnacle of Cultural Corruption

Many wiser minds have written about the failure of statist economics, the fraud of “social parity,” the scam of anthropogenic climate change, and the injustice and guaranteed poverty inherent in a policy of “spreading the wealth around a little.” But, why does not the wisdom exhibited in these essays circulate as rapidly as does gossip, or hearsay, or scandal? Why is it so difficult to impart a general acceptance that the truisms burst in these essays were indeed lies, frauds, and deceptions?

These and other very old progressive balloons are being burst, or at least they are losing their buoyancy without the slightest prick of the needle. So many were floated with great ballyhoo and celebration, yet when they reach a certain altitude and nearness to the sun of rational scrutiny, they inevitably fall to earth, their fallacies escaping like helium through the expanded pores of the balloons’ material. Their shapeless forms litter the landscape everywhere.

Allied with these phenomena are certain cultural “truisms,” such as the intrinsic value of abstract and anti-art, or the noise and obscenity of rap “music” as legitimate modes of expression, or the semi-literacy that can be had in obtaining a degree in English in a community college. There are certain cinematic icons, also, that stand as truisms, such as Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus. Salieri murdered Mozart, right?

From my childhood through adolescence and well into adulthood, I was moved by film to glean much of my knowledge of history. Having seen a film about some historical person or event, I would repair almost immediately to history books and biographies, to learn the truth. It was not that I doubted the truth of what a film conveyed. It was a hunger or a need for proof of the existence of heroism, of the exceptional, of the grand scale, of the larger-than-life. If a story contained an element of Romanticism in it – that is, a conflict requiring heroism – my disappointment in finding instead a contrary account or record, or a mass of banal irrelevancies, was balanced by the fact that the heroism or the significance of an event remained in the film and could not be altered. It remained an Aristotelian ought. It was of value in the culture and so one could have a kinship with that culture. It was important that I could see evidence of heroism in the real world as well as in the imaginary. It still is.

So, it never mattered to me, for example, that in Michael Curtiz’s 1936 The Charge of the Light Brigade, the Indian Mutiny and the Crimean War were transposed in time, or that George Stevens’s 1939 Gunga Din was a very liberal adaptation of Kipling’s poem. I could cite dozens of instances.
Little did I realize that the benign fiddling with historical facts and literary works was but an innocent overture to the conscious and deliberate abandonment or disparagement of facts, and to the use of past literary and artistic accomplishments to denigrate those very facts and accomplishments in pursuit of a nihilistic agenda. As good-intentioned as they may have been in another era, these little white lies in the following era sanctioned the wholesale commission of big black ones.

As the years passed, the more “realistic” this genre of film became, the less it had to do with fact or even a suggestion of truth. At the same time, heroic spectacles largely devolved into spectacles without heroism (such as HBO’s TV miniseries, John Adams). I noticed how carefully the new generation of movie makers attended to historical minutiæ, regardless of the period – such as clothing styles, etiquette, manners, modes of transportation, and so on – while abandoning, betraying, or omitting the truth. The “realism” hid lies, falsities, fabrications, and literary gerrymandering to accommodate political prejudices and multiculturalism. The kinship I had with the culture waned, grew cold, and finally expired. It grew into revulsion and an intolerance for what was passing for “art.”

I grew to distrust the depiction in film of the life of any historical person and most adaptations of literary works. After all, I reasoned, if one is dramatizing the life of Beethoven, Edison, Patton, or even of Stalin, one must invent actions and dialogue and ascribe them to the subject. This is true even if one’s purpose is benign and one does not intend to demean or whitewash the character of the subject. To present a just depiction of the subject one would need a transcript of every word and action of the person. No such record could exist or even be communicated. All one can rely on are the recorded highlights of a person’s life and trusted biographies and strive for something consistent with the record or reputation. Such depictions can be illuminating if a writer or director is able to discern a person’s fundamental character and possesses the skill to dramatize it. One of the best practitioners of this art was Terence Rattigan, whose dramas about T.E. Lawrence, Alexander the Great, and Lord Nelson are nonpareil delvings into the make-up of exceptional men.

But otherwise, exercising one’s literary imagination in the dramatizations of especially the lives and careers of actual historic persons necessarily involves making things up and is fraught with the risk of error and subjectivism. Literary imagination is more properly applied to Aristotle’s ought, and not to his is.

Aristotle, in The Poetics, noted: “This is why poetry [or fiction] is more philosophical than, and is superior to, history – for poetry tends to speak of universals, but history particulars.” Or, as novelist-philosopher Ayn Rand, put it, in discussing Romanticism in art: “Romanticism is the conceptual school of art. It deals, not with the random trivia of the day, but with the timeless, fundamental, universal problems and values of human existence. It does not record or photograph; it creates and projects. It is concerned—in the words of Aristotle—not with things as they are, but with things as they might be and ought to be.”*

“Everything you’ve heard is true,” ends the narrator of the trailer for Amadeus. Well, not everything. In fact, not much is. I recall hearing the same thing said about Bonnie & Clyde, and any number of other “realist” films. In Amadeus, Shaffer neither recorded nor photographed the “particulars” of recorded history, but made things up to conform to the bile that constitutes his philosophical premises.

I make an example of Amadeus here because, of all the literary and esthetic felonies and larcenies committed by politically-motivated mediocrities in the 20th century in the name of “realism,” Amadeus is by any measure one of the pinnacles of cultural corruption. This particular corruption was consciously instigated, propagated, and legitimized. It is a literary crime. The purpose of this essay is to bring some justice to the subjects of the abomination. It is by no means exhaustive; I may someday turn it into a longer, deeper study in which Amadeus will be but one of many instances. I am no steadfast fan of opera; I can enjoy some parts of it. This essay will focus on the biographical aspects of the composers’ lives and not the esthetic merits of their work.

One need not be a musicologist, or an authority on 18th century music to argue that Amadeus is not a true retelling of the Mozart-Salieri rivalry, because even a cursory investigation of the lives of the two men and their careers would reveal that no such rivalry existed. Peter Shaffer’s play** and film (for which he wrote the screenplay) are fraudulent, untruthful, a disgrace, and an injustice to both men. The truth about Mozart and Salieri was as readily available in the pre-Internet period of 1979 and 1984, when the play and film debuted respectively, as it is now. There was no excuse for the studied literary libel of both composers. The enormity of the lie cannot be excused by “artistic license.”

From a literary standpoint, the problem with dramatizing a historical person or event is that one is limited by fact; one is not in control of what actually happened or what a person actually said or did. So one is faced with a decision: does one exaggerate or fabricate something about the person, or abandon the project? Of course, if the playwright or screenwriter adhered to the record, he would find one of two things: nothing to “dramatize” or to develop; or actions and/or characters whose dramatization is possible but which will be governed by his philosophical premises, the nature of his esthetics, and by his political leanings.

In the critical raves about Amadeus, the story is described as “highly fictionalized” and “loosely based.” Shaffer could very well plead “artistic license” when he wrote the play and screenplay. In no way could he have “fictionalized” the alleged rivalry between the two composers, no way he could take license with what was not there.

Here is a list of all of the principal characters in Amadeus, and brief notations on their actual, historical roles:

Antonio Salieri (1750-1825), like his compatriot and librettist, da Ponte, was born in Venice. Amadeus has been responsible for the resurrection of his reputation as a prolific and more than competent composer of the 18th century. Several biographies of him were inspired as rebuttals to Shaffer’s malign portrayal of him in his play and film, and his works have seen a revival. The lie became a vehicle of justice. Salieri was married in 1774, as well, and fathered eight children, hardly proof of a vow of “chastity” to God in exchange for musical talent to become as famous as Mozart.

Count Franz Xaver Wolfgang von Orsini-Rosenberg (1723-1796), the unofficial director of Hapsburg Emperor Joseph II’s operas, was an early champion of Mozart, and did not try to block Mozart’s appointments in the court or censor his work. He was also a career diplomat. In the film, among other actions he takes, he tears the score of the “ballet” from the sheet music of Figaro during a rehearsal because ballet had been banned by Joseph II. That much was true. Lorenzo da Ponte, Mozart’s librettist, persuaded Joseph to attend the dress rehearsal. Seeing the dancers performing without music, Joseph asked why, and da Ponte explained. Joseph ordered the music restored. So, the conflict was not fundamentally between Rosenberg and Mozart (with Salieri managing it in the background), but between Rosenberg and da Ponte. Other than that episode, Rosenberg was not a mortal enemy of Mozart.

Count Johann Kilian von Strack (no biographical information extant) was a “groom of the chamberlain,” or chamberlain of Joseph II. In short, the emperor’s personal valet. “…. Strack, we are told, was an unofficial but indispensable participant in the daily music sessions as well.” There is evidence that he was a cellist. In the film, he is shown as a toady and hostile to Mozart. Strack’s actual attitude towards Mozart is unknown.

Baron Gottfried van Swieten (1733-1803) throughout the film is depicted as an admirer of Mozart, upbraiding him only once for his choice of Pierre Beaumarchais’s The Marriage of Figaro as the subject of a new opera, and expressing shock at a vulgarism spoken by Mozart in the presence of the emperor. In reality, van Swieten, a diplomat and librarian, was a true friend and patron of Mozart, and there is no evidence that he questioned Mozart’s taste in literature. In the play, Swieten condemns Mozart for revealing and mocking Masonic rituals in The Magic Flute.

Kappelmeister Giuseppe Bonno (1711-1788), in the film, the aged, rotund Italian figure who had difficulty expressing himself, was in fact a friend of the Mozart family, no stranger to Mozart’s abilities, and had been in the imperial court for decades, having composed operas and oratorios. It is presumed that Bonno could speak fluent German. When he died in 1788, Salieri was appointed Kappelmeister to replace him.

The portrayal of Count Hieronymus Joseph Franz de Paula Graf Colloredo von Wallsee und Melz, or the Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg (1732-1812), was roughly consistent with the record. He regarded talented musicians appended to his court as mere servants. He disliked Mozart’s independence and ultimately dismissed him, an action Mozart welcomed.

Katerina Cavalieri (1755-1801), an opera singer, is portrayed as a pupil of Salileri’s who somehow contrives to play the lead role of Constanze in Mozart’s Abduction from the Seraglio. She sang in a number of Mozart’s and Salieri’s operas. There is no evidence that she landed the role of Constanze in Abduction by sleeping with Mozart, a conclusion of Shaffer’s Salieri, though there is strong evidence that she was Salieri’s mistress.

The portrayal of Leopold Mozart (1719-1787), Wolfgang’s father, in the film is barely consistent with the record – he was a “control freak” of his son and his career – although no explanation is given why. He does not appear in the play version of Amadeus, and was written into the film version to lend credibility to Shaffer’s linkage between Don Giovanni, Mozart’s illness, and Salieri’s ruse to drive him to death by secretly commissioning the Requiem Mass in the evocative persona of Mozart’s vengeful father.

Constanze Mozart (1762-1842) hardly resembled the vapid wife of Mozart in Amadeus. In the film she is depicted as the only daughter of Mozart’s landlady, when in fact two of her older sisters were noted opera singers, while her father was a violinist. One of her sisters, Josepha, appeared as the first Queen of the Night in Mozart’s The Magic Flute. She lived for half a century after Mozart’s death in 1791, and promoted his music. She married Georg Nissen, a Danish diplomat, and arranged to have her late husband’s Requiem Mass finished by Franz Xaver Süssmayr, an associate of Mozart’s whose subsequent plan to claim the work as his own was foiled by Constanze. For an excellent recounting of the facts behind the composition of the Requiem and its disposition after Mozart’s death, Wikipedia has a long article on the subject.

Emanuel Schikaneder (1751-1812) was a talented and ambitious impresario, composer, Shakespearean actor, and dramatist. He wrote the libretto for Mozart’s The Magic Flute and appeared in it as Papageno. He built The Theater an der Wien, which still stands. It is not likely that Schikaneder “got physical” with Mozart, as he does in the film, for not having put The Magic Flute on paper. And while his troupe of actors and singers put on farces, it is not it likely, either, that he produced a parody or burlesque of Mozart’s music, as occurs in the film. Nor is it likely that if he had, and Mozart saw it, Mozart would have approved.

Emperor Joseph II (1741-1790) of Austria (his full name and full titles would together occupy half a page) was the “musical king” of Austria, reformist, and enlightened despot. In the film he is portrayed as hesitant, slow-witted and open to influence by his toady entourage. In fact, he could not only read music, but play it as well as the next amateur, and not like an unpromising novice, as he was depicted playing Salieri’s “March of Welcome” to Mozart in the film. Further, the film leaves one with the impression that his chief calling was to attend operas and play favorites among Vienna’s composers. His political life absorbed most of his energies, and other than a brief mention of the alleged danger of staging Mozart’s Figaro, not much of his politics is evident in the film. And, there is no hint that he would predecease Mozart in 1790, exhausted from a failed military campaign against Turkey and resistance to his reforms.

Lorenzo da Ponte (1749-1838) wrote the librettos for three of Mozart’s most famous operas and for a number of Salieri’s. He was a Venetian republican, an admirer of Benjamin Franklin, and much like him in the character of his politics and virtuosity in various realms of culture and science. He fled the Venetian Inquisition and found work as a librettist in Vienna. In 1805, he emigrated from Britain to the United States where he lived a successful and productive life. This remarkable man is not mentioned once in either Shaffer’s play or the film.

Count Franz von Walsegg (1763-1827) does not appear, either, as a character in Amadeus. He was, however, an amateur musician and the actual mysterious commissioner of Mozart’s Requiem Mass. There is evidence that, once the Requiem was finished, he, too, intended to pass it off as his own in honor of his late wife. It appears that this was a regular habit of Walsegg’s. Theft from composers was a common practice in that period. So, it was not Salieri who planned to work Mozart to death composing the Requiem. Shaffer, at the end of the play, through Salieri alludes to the “mysterious” commission to compose it, but does not name Walsegg.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) has been the subject of dozens of biographies and articles. It would be fruitless to cite any one of them for they are of varying merits (and demerits). The biography I relied on most, aside from the vast sources of information on the Internet, was Piero Melograni’s Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: A Biography, translated by Lydia G. Cochrane (University of Chicago Press, 2007).

What was the purpose of mounting such an enormous and complicated lie about historical personages, except to destroy the good?

I can speculate only to a certain point about what moved Shaffer to choose to write about Mozart and Salieri. The subject of their alleged rivalry and poisoning was not original. Alexander Pushkin in 1830 wrote a verse story about it. Another Russian, composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, expanded the story into a one-act play in 1898. As with his imaginary Salieri, Shaffer had no imagination, no genius or creativity, and settled for an apocryphal old wives’ tale to spread an untruth about two genuine creators. It is elevating gossip to the level of historical fact. This is a sign of artistic bankruptcy. But what is worse is a culture that would sanction and reward it. Shaffer simply expanded on Rimsky-Korsakov’s libretto and dialogue. He was a third-hander in the transmutation of back-fence gossip into a grand-scale fraud.

The scam was extremely successful. Today, “everybody knows” that Salieri envied Mozart for his creative genius, and planned and carried out Mozart’s early death. No one disputes the “fact.” What was the purpose of misrepresenting Mozart and Salieri? Surely, neither Shaffer, nor Milos Forman, nor Warner Brothers would have lavished so much in the way of time, sets, cast and expense to perpetrate a lie. So, it must be true.

In Honors Due, a detective novel in which Chess Hanrahan investigates the murder of one of his favorite historians, J. Forbes Munro, and why his name paradoxically appears in the credits of a film farce about Galileo, whom the historian revered, he encounters the man’s philosophy of history and biography:

“…Mine is not a unique approach to writing history and communicating its value. It is, frankly, traditional, but traditional only because I believe it is the single proper and profitable approach. It is at sharp odds with current approaches which, generally, seek to present historical persons and events as either nuggets of predestination or snapshots of some school’s dialectical process. The modern approach denies man one of his most unique assets -- indeed, his sole defining and distinguishing asset -- his volition. And it denies us our critical judgment and even our purpose; it robs an individual of all recognition, of credit, of discredit, of moral approbation, as the case may be. It reduces both subject and historian to the level of programmed ants.

“Galileo was not fated to write The Starry Messenger; nor was Cardinal Bellarmine fated to straddle an ecclesiastical fence. Napoleon need not have decided to escape from Elba; and Gordon need not have elected to remain in Khartoum. Whatever the reasons and reasoning behind it, there is no single major or minor historical event that cannot be ascribed to a conscious decision by an individual. An event, after all, is simply an action….The school that would elevate a single individual as an iconic chalice brimming with mysterious forces, and the school that would reduce him to a nearly insensate drone of a myriad of exocausative urgings, are but two sides of the same coin. I reject both.”

Amadeus is an example of the first school of history disputed by Munro. It elevated Mozart into an “iconic chalice brimming with mysterious forces,” namely the ability to write great music, a phenomenon that drives the Shaffer Salieri mad because he cannot understand it.

In order to destroy the good, it was necessary to introduce a paradox. It would have been difficult for Shaffer to portray Mozart as a genius with no important, exploitable “flaws” and have Salieri envy him to the point when he would plot Mozart’s murder. That would have required that Shaffer portray Salieri as a true villain, contemptible and repulsive to the core. But moral judgments are the bane of ethical relativists. So Mozart had to be portrayed as a fluke, a paradoxical contradiction, and as such earn Salieri’s sanctionable and comprehensible envy and hatred. We are supposed to forgive Salieri because he could not understand why God “blessed” the buffoonish, obnoxious, filthy, vulgar, dissipated Mozart – who somehow has the ability to write “divine” music – but denied that ability to the chaste, mediocre Salieri, who was “implanted” with the desire to honor God with great music, but could never match Mozart’s music. In the film, Salieri winds up blaming and hating God, as well.

The purpose was to present a contradiction that could not be resolved except by reference to the unknown and the unknowable, God and God’s whimsical will: Mozart, the brilliant, creative artist who wrote glorious music, but who is portrayed as a self-absorbed narcissist, a boasting bore concerned with what others think of his work – in other words, a completely shallow vessel of nothing – and God’s joke on Salieri, and, by implication, on the world.

Salieri, on the other hand, is portrayed as a wronged man moved to vengeance not only on Mozart, but on the God who allegedly blessed Mozart with an ability He denied Salieri. As a consequence, we are supposed to sympathize, if not empathize, with Salieri.

The final consensus, then, that is communicated is that both men were contemptible, perhaps even laughably so, leaving the paradox of the source of great music unknowable and unresolved. This non-resolution satisfies only two categories of minds: those who hate greatness, who say, “What’s the big deal about it? It’s a gift no one else has, why credit anyone with it, he didn’t develop the skill, it was given to him” – and those who don’t hate greatness but who wish to apologize for it and grovel before a paradox.

One of those motives was Shaffer’s.

Only one example of Salieri’s work is shown in the film, the finale of Axur, re d’Ormus, which follows after excerpts from Mozart's Figaro. A short excerpt of an aria from it is shown in the beginning when Salieri is reminiscing about his career. This was his Italian rendition of his successful Paris opera, Tarare. Lorenzo da Ponte wrote the librettos for Axur and other of Salieri’s works, as well as for Mozart’s most famous operas. The longer excerpt of Axur in the film demonstrates that the genuine Salieri was certainly capable of composing glorious if not divinely inspired music.

Among the plot anomalies in the film, much is made of Mozart using ballet in Figaro in violation of Joseph II’s ban of ballet in his operas. Yet, in the excerpt of the finale of Abduction from the Seraglio, which precedes the excerpt of Figaro, there is a vigorous, extended dance or ballet of whirling dervishes and couples, choreographed by Twyla Tharp, and in a modern style I do not think was imaginable in Mozart’s time. Yet, in the film, no objection is made to it by Rosenberg or by anyone else.

And in all the film, there is only one potential, dramatic conflict: When Mozart and the Emperor meet onstage after the finale of Abduction, Joseph remarks that there “are too many notes. Just cut a few, and it’ll be perfect.” Mozart, at first eager for the Emperor’s approval, answers petulantly, “Which few did you have in mind, Majesty?” (The question is not asked in the play version.) Shaffer saved himself the bother of a conflict by resorting to a deus ex machina in the form of his future mother-in-law and her pratfall.

If there was a rivalry, it was not a bitter, personal one. It was professional one whose resolution depended on the decisions of Joseph II. But the silliness and vulgarity of Mozart could not be omitted from either the play (which underwent six versions or revisions, including the film version); that silliness and vulgarity (and the whole paradox) were absolutely necessary to Shaffer. Reading some of Mozart's correspondence, even his close-to-death correspondence, and this was hardly a man who lent himself to silliness and vulgarity in his mature years. Shaffer had to have known this.

Another author, in an earlier period, might have made something of Mozart's sanity. But, according to Shaffer's metaphysics and esthetics, there is nothing "dramatic" in sanity. So he had to make Mozart a sphinx, in Salieri's mind and in the minds of Shaffer's audiences.

I think he consciously chose to demean Mozart and Salieri. All of his plays are malevolent. The one he is most famous for after Amadeus is Equus, also made into a film. I remember thinking, when I lived in NYC and it opened on Broadway there, why would anyone want to write a whole play around a disturbed person who blinded a stable of prize horses? Most of his plays have a nihilist theme, saying more or less that without religion, man is a beast, and his "instincts" struggle against the necessity of religion.

In the film, but not in the play, probably the most benevolent character was Baron Swieten (the character with the long black hair). But in the play, he turns against Mozart because he claims Mozart revealed the Masons' “secret” rituals in The Magic Flute and mocked the Freemasons. But in both the play and the movie, his opposition to Mozart's choice of subject in Figaro is interesting. When Mozart protests, "How can we go on forever with these gods and heroes?" Swieten answers in both versions, "Because they go on forever. They represent the eternal in us. Opera is here to ennoble us, you and me just as well as the Emperor. It is an aggrandizing art! It celebrates the eternal in Man and ignores the ephemeral. The goddess in Women and not the laundress."

But, one could take Swieten's answer and position as championing Romantic art and literature (or what passed for it in that period, the Classicist school), and Shaffer choosing to reject it, because, in his eyes, man is a beast and his pursuit of the “noble” and "eternal" is a pretense. In his metaphysics, Mozart the vulgarian is the norm, regardless of the period or era. His only salvation is to accept the will of God, come what may, and to not protest that man is corruptible and mean and small. His only salvation lies in selflessness and sacrifice. Mozart was obnoxiously selfish and greedy. And so in Amadeus, Salieri's fighting God's inexplicable and arbitrary will can only lead to his madness. The sole comprehensible thing is "mediocrity." The "divine" is beyond man's comprehension, and when it occurs in life, such as in a miracle, or exhibits itself in a person like Mozart, it cannot be understood.

I do not think Shaffer is just a "victim" of his education. His literary track record is consistently malevolent. A person who chooses to make a career of mocking man and commiserating in literature about man’s misery and failings is not necessarily a "victim." He must feel at home in the received wisdom he never questioned. He chose to remain in it. Moreover, he was encouraged by the culture. Shaffer has been amply rewarded by it (Oscars, Tonys, the British equivalent of them, and numerous other accolades), and, as Rand put it, when she was criticizing the second-handers who were exploiting Ian Fleming’s Bond novels by turning them into farces, with piles of money.***

And in the film production, Milos Forman is a partner in the libel. He knew as well as did Shaffer what the true story could have been, but chose the old wives' tale to develop and lavish with money and talent. And, as I remarked earlier, if it were not for the old wives' tale, Shaffer probably would not have chosen to write Amadeus. These men are not ignorant. They knew what they were doing.

In the film’s opening dialogue between Salieri and the priest, Salieri asks the priest if he knows who he is. The priest answers that it makes no difference, all men are equal in God's eyes."Are they?" replies Salieri. That establishes the theme for the rest of the story. Salieri was saying, "Well, they aren't all equal in His eyes. He bestows ability to compose great music on some, and not on others, which is unjust. He cheated me, the virtuous man dedicated to His glory, and rewarded 'the creature' who was not dedicated to His glory. But I showed Him. I murdered Mozart. Or, at least, I drove him to his death. The devil didn't make me do it. God himself did by betraying me, mocking me. But, even then, God cheated me, by foiling my plans to be credited with the Requiem that was to be played at Mozart’s funeral.”

And not once, in either any of the play versions or the film version, does Shaffer allow Salieri to say it was true that he murdered Mozart.

Two articles can be found online that address the propagated “truisms” of Amadeus. One is A. Peter
Brown’s “’Amadeus’ and Mozart: Setting the Record Straight,” originally published in The American Scholar in 1992. Brown thoroughly bursts most of the balloons that surround the myth of Mozart, Salieri, and the murder hypothesis. A second article is Albert Borowitz’s “Salieri and the ‘Murder’ of Mozart,” an essay on the Tarlton Law Library Legal Studies Forum site, published in 2006. Among the many conspiracy theories discussed by Borowitz are the 19th century cottage industry of “proving” Salieri’s poisoning of Mozart and the “contract” put out by the Freemasons on a disobedient member, Mozart.

An additional treasure trove of information about Mozart’s relationship with the Viennese court can be found in Dorothea Link’s “Mozart’s Appointment to the Viennese Court.”

Amadeus is the sack into which the reputations of both Mozart and Salieri were sewn by Peter Shaffer and Milos Forman, tossed ingloriously into the common grave of the undifferentiated, and sprinkled with generous shovelfuls of the lime of Critical Theory.

Well – there it is.

*”Introduction to The Fountainhead,” The Objectivist, March 1968, p. 1.
**Amadeus, A Play by Peter Shaffer. 1979. (New York: Harper Perennial, 2001).
***”Bootleg Romanticism,” in The Romantic Manifesto, 1965. (New York: New American Library, 1971), p. 137.

© 2010 by Edward Cline


Teresa said...

You have done a thorough job of proving the corruptness of this movie. Regardless of how thrilling it was to hear Mozart's great music in a movie and to see the outstanding acting, if it was all done to humiliate the source of the great music, Mozart himself, then it was indeed a demonstration of hatred of the good for being the good.

Randy said...

I am ashamed that I am among those that took for granted that this was an historical account. If I remember correctly, this film was presented to me in a high school classroom with no caveats about it's historical accuracy and that is a worse crime than that I committed by not fact checking this movie. Thank you for opening my eyes, again.

Anonymous said...

Randy: You shouldn't be ashamed of having been duped or misled by your high school teacher about this film. One can't "fact-check" every piece of historical information one encounters in school or even outside of school classes. It used to be that one implicitly trusted that one's teachers were presenting truth and facts. Under the current progressive school regime, that assumption is no longer valid. It was bad enough when I was of high school age (the 1960's); it's even worse now.


Anonymous said...

I was duped too. I remember seeing this film in junior high music class. I'm a huge fan of Mozart. I find his music to be exhilarating. As I got older, I realized something wasn't right. I rented through Netflix. Afterwards I did some research, I could not reconcile the music this man worked hard to create to the buffonery and narcissism that was presented in the film.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous: Happy to oblige. Someone asked me why I critiqued a movie that came out in 1984. I answered that Amadeus is as much a cultural "icon" now as are Grapes of Wrath, It's a Wonderful Life, Lawrence of Arabia, and other films (good and bad). Amadeus is particularly objectionable because of the libels about Mozart and Salieri it propagated. I hope you clicked on the highlighted links to read my backup documentation. I could've gone on for ten more pages.


Anonymous said...

Nice work, Mr. Cline. By the way, the musicologist Paul Henry Lang also wrote a very good piece debunking Shaffer's vile propaganda "back when", and it first appeared in the old High Fidelity/Musical America magazine. I've got the original--somewhere around here....