He lived in the golden age for Dutch art and before he was thirty he became the most popular painter in Amsterdam. His speciality was portraits into which he invested spiritual quality by chiaroscuro that was as unique as the Dutch landscape art where the light and water gave painting an ethereal quality. Where his contemporaries specialized into still life, intimate domestic scenes street scene or animals Rembrandt achieved unusual felicity in giving whichever the subject matter he chose, his genius. In order to commemorate his engagement in 1633 to Saskia he drew her portrait in silverpoint, a Renaissance technique in which his state of mind can be seen in the loving care of his lines. Rembrandt was a prolific draughtsman excelling in etching and most of his drawing were spontaneous and quick studies done with consummate skill. Between his self-portrait with Saskia of 1635 and self-portrait of 1669 reveal the arc of his personal fortunes from high to low. His self-portraits to us seem like a diary of a man who had seen success and disappointments and as he stares at us we are given a feeling that he had seen and have come to accept the ravages of age and penury with equanimity.
One great loss was the death of his mother in 1640 and Saskia in 1642. By the 40s Rembrandt had given up portraiture which brought him great reputation and his interest turned to religious paintings that did not brig him income as he was used to. Saskia who was never robust and after many miscarriages died soon after the birth of Titus. In 1647 he lived with Hendrijke Stoffels, a servant 20 years younger to him, who had entered into his household as a servant in 1642. Due to a clause in the will of Saskia remarriage forfeited his share of the estate.
In 1656 he was declared a pauper.
Having moved to modest quarters in a poorer district he worked with renewed energy in 1861 he painted more dated paintings than in any year since the early 1630s. His late masterpieces take their place among the greatest works of art ever created.
Despite his success there were many personal tragedies stalking him. His beloved Hendrickje died in 1663 and his son Titus in 1668.
His grand daughter was born in March 1669 and Rembrandt had not much time left. He died that October. He was 63.
Posts Tagged ‘genius’
Posted in personalities, tagged art, Benny Thomas, chiaroscuro, genius, Hendrickje Stoffels, pen portraits, Saskia, The Anatomy lesson of Dr.Tulp(1632), The Night Watch(1642), Titus on October 14, 2012 | Leave a Comment »
“The time has come,” the walrus said, “to talk of many things: Of shoes and ships – and sealing wax – of cabbages and kings”(Lewis Carroll)
I hope I shall not stray from the point I want to make here. Suppose one has made an inventory of Picasso’s entire output and accounted for every day and circumstances in which he lived it would give us an insight into his life, the man his art. Would it not? Even so the real Pablo Ruiz Picasso shall remain less than the True. The point is that the physical man is only one aspect. His genius of course is drawn from the synergy that is incident on the natural Man. Even so it is not all there is to the man.
Synergy of the Golden Pagoda touched Picasso and the stuttering English Mathematics Don,- Lewis Carroll differently. Their works are even now followed as though they are alive. Lewis Carroll shall be remembered through his Alice series even after some 150 years.
Man has a physical and an abstract side the latter you may say a spiritual side or a thinking side according to your persuasion.
Essence of a man is not in either but somewhere between and betwixt. It is his true signature, the mass that gives him his place in Cosmos.
This is defined as soul.
It is like the very private rainbow of the previous post, It is not the white light or synergy within the Golden Pagoda but how it is dispersed according to the position you hold within the Pagoda.
Genius of Picasso and Carroll holds different shades of meaning and significance to us. The latter wrote some abstruse books on Mathematics apart from children’s classics. Alice is read by both old and the young alike. So a man cannot be mechanically constructed as a painting by numbers. The golden Pagoda is the free masonry of all life forms where Soul gives man a certain level of knowledge as in the case of Free Masonry.
Dylan Thomas (1914-1953) English
A poet is a mythmaker who finds inspiration like the Delphic pythia from vapors surrounding him and he may not be aware of the full import of what he utters. The life of Dylan Thomas combines Orphic myth with cautionary tale. By the time he left school at 16 he knew he was a poet and he would escape ‘the smug darkness of a provincial town’- and he meant his native town Swansea, Wales. In another letter he also revealed his dictum’ There is no necessity for the artist to do anything… he is a law unto himself.’ In that tragic short life-he lived 13 days past his 39th birthday, he set out to live according to his artistic principle. This entailed shameless exploitation from which no intimates, acquaintances or strangers were excluded. But he was disarmingly charming, and was famous that funded his steady foray into alcoholic binges. He had promised his wife before marriage ‘You’ll never, I’ll never let you grow wise, and I’ll never and you shall never let me grow wise, and we will always be young and unwise together.” He got at least half his wish. ‘Sadder and older’ he , like Peter Pan, remained untouched by the demands of the world or unwilling to change. After WWII his fortunes improved but the more he earned the more he seemed to owe. No one possibly could have lived as he did utterly given to a life of indulgence and of irresponsibility but his life ever on a downward spiral had something a line from Shelley, ’I fall upon the thorns of life! I bleed!’ This impractical dreamer may have lost out in the harsh realities of life and proved wrong in many things but no one is left in doubt of his poems that shall endure as with of Keats or of Shelley. One of his finest poems ‘And death shall have no dominion’ could well be his epitaph.
Thomas’s father, a school teacher gave the poet an early awareness of the native Welsh traditions, as well as the classics of English literature.
Thomas began writing poetry when he was eleven years old his earliest recorded piece is a humorous poem. He was soon very much into it and he would in later years return to them, reworking many of them for inclusion in later publications.
Thomas’s first book of poems was published in 1934 when Thomas was twenty years old. Thomas went on to publish three more books of poetry, as well as a final collection of his poems near the end of his life. He wrote poetry which often used traditional forms of rhythm, rhyme, and meter. He was also one of the modern writers who helped return English poetry to its roots in its own language. (cf.Chaucer) Rather than choosing long words derived from foreign languages, he preferred strong, short words from native English. “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night” is one poem that has stood the test of time.
Trivia: Thomas’ father gave him the name “Dylan” after the name of a sea god in Celtic mythology, and the name was not as popular as it is today. Bob Dylan is another who has adorned the name with credit.
Michelangelo Buonarroti(1475 – 1564) Italian
Sculptor, painter, architect, poet.
A giant in an age of giants ‘the man with four souls’ who has crowned a lifetime of work with achievements of highest rank in architecture, sculpture, painting and poetry, was born at Caprese on March 6, 1475.
The Buonarroti were a Florentine family of ancient burgher nobility brought to straitened circumstances. With his father’s death the boy was put out to nurse with a stonecutter’s wife. “I drew the chisel and the mallet with which I carve statues in together with my nurse’s milk”. Later he was taught to read and write his native Italian, but art became his dominant passion.
In 1488 he was apprenticed to two leading artists of the day: He turned to nature and his works soon outshined those of his masters.
Next he turned to sculpture in the school formed under the patronage of the Great Lorenzo de Medici. Soon he came under the eye of the Great Lorenzo himself. Forthwith the boy was taken into his household where he remained until Lorenzo’s death in 1492.
(bronze bust by Volterra. done in charcoal, 1978)
A style was being developed on the classical Greek lines; Paganism gave way to Christian piety as he came under the spell of that fierce prophet Savanarola.
In poetry and philosophy Dante provided the inspiration; in his own realm of art, he was very familiar with the styles of Ghirlandais, his early tutors, Ghiberti, Grotto and Donatello.
In one of the scuffles with a fellow student, he got a blow on his nose which marked him for rest of his life. His deeper emotions – for he was in and out of love – he found expression in a series of exquisite sonnets, bulk of which was addressed to V.C…..
After his patron’s death he travelled about Venice, Bologna, Florence and Athens to Rome. The year 1499 marks his first real work of Christian sculpture ‘Pieta’. From then onwards he was prolific. In 1504 he carved out ‘David’ from a spoilt block of Carrara marble, nine cubits in height. In eighteen months he had carved out the masterpiece, a statue of amazing beauty.
Next year he was summoned to Rome by Pope Julius II who set him to work on the construction of his own tomb. This task dragged on for years, causing trouble and bitterness between the sculptor and the pope’s executers: It was never completed, but the famous ‘Moses and the Group of Slaves’ were part of the scheme.
Three years later Michelangelo accepted the commission to decorate the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. A work of more power and loftier conception is hard to find. His agony and the ecstasy is the quientessence of the artist in the throes of creation.
The next decade saw Michelangelo busy on the work for Julius’ tomb and on the colossal figures for the Medici Chapel. After a brief entry in Florentine politics, in 1534, he left Florence for Rome.
In his sixtieth year he was appointed as the chief architect, sculptor and painter to the Vatican by the order of Pope Paul IV.
In the same year he began his fresco in the Sistine chapel, ‘The last Judgement’ which took him seven years to complete. In 1547 he was made architect of St. Peters, whose cupola is his great contribution to architecture. The same year saw the passing of one oasis in his troubled life – the widowed poetess Vittorio Colonna, who was the only woman in his ascetic life and whose love was cerebral as well as spiritual. The bulk of his sonnets – statues in words, roughhewn and beautiful in their rugged vitality – are addressed to her.
Another seventeen years had to pass before he could join her. He had lived long years alone, wedded to his art, “a wife who was too much for him”. A generous man to others and a mean one to himself, he lived frugally. He was irritable, quick tempered and arrogant, but the creative fire in him made him lead an ascetic life only for art! He has enriched the world with what he could carve out of his tormented soul.
I have a son who is a genius. The day Chuck was born I knew it for a fact. Didn’t he say, simplex munditis at 10 months? The first phrase he ever spoke was not in mother tongue as though he sensed he was making history of sorts.
The occasion was simple though. He lay in his crib and between drinking his constitutional and wetting the bed he had freed himself from his blankets. When his mother picked him up and wanted to tuck him back he just backed off to say, ‘elegant in simplicity’. His dimpled smile was right and his baby fat made him a dumpling. Later it seemed to me he didn’t have the patience to say the old blankets chafed him and in his birthday suit he felt great and like a brick of gold. Naturally he had to express his joy at being comfortable with a quote from Horace. Horace, no less!
At the age of four Juvenal and Goethe were jockeying for a spot in his intellectual firmament. Before he hit the five he knew Nietzsche was speaking his own lingo.
While his mother and I went from speculation to handouts.
Chuck was getting ahead till he had a title that was impressive. His bonus was phenomenal that spoke volumes than speaking 10 languages like a native.
One comfort we had in the cash strapped times was that dialects of the world were not in the immediate danger of extinction. From South America to Fiji our son Chuck had collected them all just in case.
One week end he dropped in to see us. He said he liked what he saw about us. Next thing he wanted to move in with us.
Before I could ask what was the idea he hinted the company was downsizing so he was on transition.
I was incredulous. I asked, ‘Son what with all your education?’
He was over educated he said and it was working against him. He shrugged and said, ‘Never mind Pop, I will find a way to brand my over-achievement into edutainment space.’
After fixing himself a sandwich he added: ‘meanwhile garbage is piling up on my elbow’. ( Later it struck me garbage was his pile of resumes returned unread.)
He was somewhat moody that he had not the bandwidth besides his language skills.
He said, ’Employers don’t want to wrap around their heads but park their behinds on shmucks who do not know their onions.
It was then I realized Chuck was a genius to his own hurt. I ought to have known: since the time he quoted from Horace by a spark of inspiration he was heading for disaster.
I gently patted him on his back and said ‘ Courage, son. You opened your life with such a stirring phrase far remarkable than Longfellow’s Excelsior. You quoted simplex munditis, unaided. I am certain Horace was at your bedside.’
My son’s eyes sparkled and faded. With downcast eyes he muttered, ’semel insanivimus omnes’*( We all have played fool once.)
Yes Chuck was right. He had played the fool to rely on his superior intelligence; just as his mother and I had warmed in our knowledge his genius was of a superior mode. The trouble was that the world only needed one with just enough skills to prove he wasn’t a moron.
DAVID (WARK) GRIFFITH (American) (1875 - 1948)
A stage actor and aspiring playwright who entered the cinema in 1908, Griffith is generally acknowledged as the father of the cinema, the man who invented everything from cross cutting to the close-up. Though rival claims may be pressed – for Louis Feuillade and Benjamin Christenan, among others – the fact remains that Griffith, with his unbounded ambition and taste for grandeur, did more than any one else to make the cinema realise its own potential. His two more famous films ‘Intolerance’ (1916) and ‘Birth of a Nation’ (1915), still stun with their epic scale, fantastic set pieces and almost biblically lofty sentiments. It is a pity that the inspirational claims of these masterworks have tended to overshadow the more endearing merits of the small, unassuming sagas of rural America such as ‘True Heart Susie’. Here, inimitable Griffith preserved an age of lost innocence, a world of white fenced houses and sunlit orchards where ragged youths and demure maidens with rose bud lips dreamed their dreams of pure romance.
Théophile Gautier himself no mean writer has left this account of Balzac’s attempt to write a play. Hard pressed for cash the celebrated author Honoré de Balzac got the advance for a play, which was to be on Vautrin, a character from Père Goriot. Hartel, the manager of Porte-St.Martin Theatre, as luck would have it was in need of a play. Père Goriot was already a success and M. Hartel agreed. Frédérick Lemaitre(who figures in the film Les Enfants du Paradis-1945) was to play the title role. Gautier and a few others were roped in to hear the reading of the play.
At last they assembled on the premises of the tailor Buisson, in the rue de Richelieu where a room was furnished for the purpose.
‘So here is Théo at last!’ Balzac cried,’Lazy and late as ever. You should have been here an hour ago…I’ve got to read Hartel a five act play tomorrow.’
‘And you want our opinion?’ we asked setting ourselves in our armchairs with the air of men preparing for a long session.
Perceiving from our attitude Balzac said with perfect simplicity: ‘It isn’t written.’
‘For Heaven’s sake!’I exclaimed, ‘In that case you’ll have to postpone the reading for six weeks.’
‘Not a bit of it. We’re going to knock off this dramorama and raise the wind. Just now my arrears are pretty heavy.’
‘But we can’t do it between now and tomorrow. There won’t be time to copy it.’
‘This is how I arranged it. You’ll do one act, Ourliac another, Laurent- Jan the third, de Belloy the fourth and I’ll do the fifth-and I’ll read it by midday tomorrow as agreed. One act of play is only four or five hundred lines and anyone can write five hundred lines of dialogue in a day and night.’
‘Well, if you’ll tell me the subject and give me the scenario and let me know something about the characters, I’ll get to work,’ I said not a little alarmed.
‘Oh Lord,’ he cried, with a look of superb astonishment and magnificent scorn, ‘if I’ve got to tell you what it is all about we shall never get it done!’
Needless to say it was not done in time.
Compiler: benny( Prometheus: the life of Balzac by André Maurois)
What is in a man that his reputation outlives his narrow circumstances,- misfortunes and triumphs alike, and should glow all the more brighter when he has hit the dust? What is in him that his genius is more clearly understood in the imaginations of generations for whom it was not intended in the first place? The name of Jesus readily comes to our mind. The name Of Mozart is another. It must be not without reason PI Tchaikovsky qualified him as ‘musical Christ’. He certainly transcended his times and the film Amadeus is to be seen as a fitting paen to the Austrian composer.
The film focuses on the last phase of the composer’s life, ten years he spent in the city of Vienna (1781-1791). ‘By electing not to progress in the direction of a traditional bio-pic, director Milos Forman and screenwriter Peter Shaffer have crafted an amazing portrait of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, filled with rich details, powerful drama, and a commanding score.’(2003 James Berardinelli).
The story is told entirely in flashback by Antonio Salieri. Hence let me sketch the real ‘villain’ of the piece before I go onto the plot.
Salieri has been vilified unjustly because of the untimely demise of Mozart and malicious gossip that had gained currency even while the two rivals were alive. Perhaps Salieri himself set the rumor mill going because of his Italian temperament and never learned to keep his mouth shut. He certainly got bad press.
Salieri had great many students who later became famous in their own right. He was a better teacher than composer, a fact which no less a composer than Beethoven had acknowledged.
Granting that the film holds a few inaccuracies and has distorted facts in the name of dramatic license, the film is still a crowning achievement of Shaffer-Forman team in melding music and the man in just proportions so much so every piece chosen for the film is apt and natural. One cannot imagine one without the other.
Heart of the matter
The basic premise of the film explores the connection between man and his work that is of transcendental kind. There’s a very dramatic moment in Amadeus when court composer Antonio Salieri (F. Murray Abraham) wanders through a crowded salon to search out the musical prodigy whom he has only known by hearsay. Inspecting each young musician, he looks for some outward sign of genius. Perhaps the ‘man who had written his first concerto at the age of four, his first symphony at seven, and a full-scale opera at 12’ shall have some distinguished trait radiating from his person. Salieri is in for disappointment. (Mozart was so indistinguishable in real that not a single portrait that is faithful to him exists.) Being a child prodigy and bundled off by his father to perform before kings, queens and prelates of Europe, we might say his childhood was stolen from him. His penchant for scatological references, puns and tantrums must all owe to that deprivation. At one point in the film Mozart admits to Joseph II thus: ‘Forgive me, Majesty. I am a vulgar man! But I assure you, my music is not’.
This in my opinion is the key to the film.
The film opens with an aborted attempt by Salieri at suicide. He is discovered by his valet in time crying, ‘ Mozart! Mozart, forgive your assassin! I confess, I killed you…’
It is around 1820’s. Salieri, now aged and confined in an insane asylum is visited by Father Vogler, a priest. Instead of offering a confession he recalls the events leading to the diabolical plan that he had set in motion to bring down Amadeus (literally meaning beloved of God). Salieri: He was my idol. Mozart, I can’t think of a time when I didn’t know his name. But he came from a family, which didn’t appreciate music.
‘While my father prayed earnestly to God to protect commerce, I would offer up secretly the proudest prayer a boy could think of: Lord, make me a great composer.’ He vowed chastity and’ my industry, my deepest humility, every hour of my life, Amen’.
But when he had a chance to see his idol for the first time he is devastated to see the boy whom God had blessed with musical gifts was ‘a boastful, lustful, smutty, infantile boy.’ As time passes his envy is raised to a fever pitch especially considering his own talents despite his keeping to his vows remained far below that of Mozart. He burns the crucifix in a rage vowing, ‘ Because You are unjust, unfair, unkind, I will block You, I swear it. I will hinder and harm Your creature on earth as far as I am able’.
The film dwells at length how Salieri sets about to check the career of Mozart at every turn and the diabolical plan with which he brings about his death. In disguise he calls on Mozart and commissions him to write a mass for the dead. He wanted this to be kept a secret.
Salieri: My plan was so simple. It terrified me. First I must get the death mass and then, I must achieve his death.
Father Vogler: What?
Salieri: His funeral! Imagine it, the cathedral, all Vienna sitting there, his coffin, Mozart’s little coffin in the middle, and then, in that silence, music! A divine music bursts out over them all. A great mass of death! Requiem mass for Wolfgang Mozart, composed by his devoted friend, Antonio Salieri! Oh what sublimity, what depth, what passion in the music! Salieri has been touched by God at last. And God is forced to listen! Powerless, powerless to stop it! I, for once in the end, laughing at him!
Salieri: The only thing that worried me was the actual killing. How does one do that? Hmmm? How does one kill a man? It’s one thing to dream about it; very different when, when you, when you have to do it with your own hands.
This secret commission comes to Mozart when he is haunted by the death of his father and is in the midst of financial worries. As anticipated by Salieri, the life of Mozart goes downhill but with great struggle he manages to complete one last opera for his friend Emmanuel Schikaneder. Things are pretty desperate at home that his wife heads for a cure leaving him alone. While staging The Magic Flute he is stricken ill and Salieri is on hand to lend assistance. He also acts as his secretary to write down the score for the unfinished Requiem. Mozart too ill to go on and takes a breather. When Constanze returns home it is too late. Mozart is dead. The man who hated him most is asleep on a couch in another room. She turns him out.
Father Vogler is too distraught after hearing the rambling confession of Antonio Salieri. He quickly finishes his tasks and leaves him. The hospital attendant comes in to take care and as he wheels Salieri through the insane asylum he speaks the last lines.
Salieri: Mediocrities everywhere… I absolve you… I absolve you… I absolve you… I absolve you… I absolve you all.
[Reflecting upon a Mozart score]
Salieri: I was staring through the cage of those meticulous ink strokes – at an absolute beauty.
Katerina Cavalieri: I heard you met Herr Mozart.
Salieri: News travels fast in Vienna.
Katerina Cavalieri: And he’s been commissioned to write an opera. Is it true?
Katerina Cavalieri: Is there a part in it for me?
Katerina Cavalieri: How do you know?
Salieri: Do you know where it’s set, my dear?
Katerina Cavalieri: No.
Salieri: In a harem.
Katerina Cavalieri: What’s that?
Salieri: A brothel!
Katerina Cavalieri: Oh-h-h-h.
Salieri: Come. Let’s begin.
Katerina Cavalieri: What does he look like?
Salieri: Mozart? You might be disappointed.
Katerina Cavalieri: Why?
Salieri: Looks and talent don’t always go together, Katerina
Katerina Cavalieri: Looks don’t concern me, maestro. Only talent interests a woman of taste.
Emperor Joseph II: Well, there it is.
Emanuel Schikaneder: Look, I asked you if we could start rehearsals next week and you said yes.
Mozart: Well, we can.
Emanuel Schikaneder: So let me see it. Where is it?
Mozart: Here. It’s all right here in my noodle. The rest is just scribbling. Scribbling and bibbling, bibbling and scribbling.
Mozart: I actually threw the score on the fire, he made me so angry.
Salieri: You burned the score?
Mozart: No, no. My wife took it out in time.
Constanze Mozart: Is it not good?
Salieri: It is miraculous.
Salieri: Are you sure you can’t leave these and, and come back again?
Constanze Mozart: It’s very tempting sir, but it’s impossible, I’m afraid. Wolfgang would be frantic if he found those were missing, you see they’re all originals.
Constanze Mozart: Yes, sir, he doesn’t make copies.
Salieri: These, are originals?
Salieri: But they showed no corrections of any kind. Not one. He had simply written down music already finished in his head. Page after page of it as if he were just taking dictation. And music, finished as no music is ever finished. Displace one note and there would be diminishment. Displace one phrase and the structure would fall.
Salieri: Mozart, it was good of you to come!
Mozart: How could I not?
Salieri: How… Did my work please you?
Mozart: [hesitantly] I never knew that music like that was possible!
Salieri: [uncertainly] You flatter me.
Mozart: No, no! One hears such sounds, and what can one say but…”Salieri.”
Salieri: I heard the music of true forgiveness filling the theater, conferring on all who sat there, perfect absolution. God was singing through this little man to all the world, unstoppable, making my defeat more bitter with every passing bar.
Emperor Joseph II: Your work is ingenious. It’s quality work. And there are simply too many notes, that’s all. Just cut a few and it will be perfect.
Mozart: Which few did you have in mind, Majesty?
Mozart: “Confutatis maledictis” – when the wicked are confounded. “Flammis Acribus Adictis.” How would you translate that?
Salieri: Consigned to flames of woe.
Mozart: Do you believe in it?
Mozart: A fire which never dies, burning you forever?
Salieri: Oh yes.
[addressing a crucifix]
Salieri: From now on we are enemies, You and I. Because You choose for Your instrument a boastful, lustful, smutty, infantile boy and give me for reward only the ability to recognize the incarnation. Because You are unjust, unfair, unkind, I will block You, I swear it. I will hinder and harm Your creature on earth as far as I am able.
Mozart: Forgive me, Majesty. I am a vulgar man! But I assure you, my music is not.
Father Vogler: Oh, that’s charming! I’m sorry, I didn’t know you wrote that.
Salieri: I didn’t. That was Mozart.
[addressing the complaints about the "improper" libretto for "Figaro"]
Mozart: Come on now, be honest! Which one of you wouldn’t rather listen to his hairdresser than Hercules? Or Horatius, or Orpheus… people so lofty they sound as if they shit marble!
Salieri: Your… merciful God. He destroyed His own beloved, rather than let a mediocrity share in the smallest part of His glory.
[about Emperor Joseph II's musical tastes]
Salieri: Actually, the man had no ear at all. But what did it matter? He adored my music.
[trying on wigs]
Mozart: They’re all so beautiful. Why don’t I have three heads?
[to the priest]
Salieri: I will speak for you, Father. I speak for all mediocrities in the world. I am their champion. I am their patron saint.
Salieri: While my father prayed earnestly to God to protect commerce, I would offer up secretly the proudest prayer a boy could think of: Lord, make me a great composer. Let me celebrate Your glory through music and be celebrated myself. Make me famous through the world, dear God. Make me immortal. After I die, let people speak my name forever with love for what I wrote. In return, I will give You my chastity, my industry, my deepest humility, every hour of my life, Amen.
[the Emperor offers the sheet music of Salieri's welcome march to Mozart]
Mozart: Keep it Majesty, if you want. It’s already here in my head.
Emperor Joseph II: What? On one hearing only?
Mozart: I think so, Sire, yes.
Emperor Joseph II: Show us.
[Having played two pieces of music to the priest, who doesn't recognize either]
Salieri: Can you remember no melody of mine? I was the most famous composer in Europe. I wrote 40 operas alone.
Katerina Cavalieri: Is that woman still lying on the floor?
Mozart: That doesn’t really work, does it?
Salieri: You don’t mean to tell me that you’re living in poverty?
Mozart: No. But I’m broke.
Constanze Mozart: [to Mozart's father] May I offer you some tea, Herr Mozart?
Mozart: Tea? Who wants tea? Let’s go out! This calls for a feast. You don’t want tea, do you, Papa?
Constanze Mozart: Wolfie…
Mozart: I know, let’s go dancing! Papa loves parties, don’t you?
Constanze Mozart: Wolfie!
Mozart: What? How can you be so boring? Tea…
[Mozart loses at musical chairs]
Emanuel Schikaneder: Herr Mozart, why don’t you name your son’s penalty?
Mozart: Yes, papa. Name it. Name it, I’ll do anything you say. Anything.
Leopold Mozart: I want you to come back to Salzburg with me, my son.
Mozart: Papa, the rule is you can only give a penalty that can be performed in the room.
Leopold Mozart: I’m tired of this game, I don’t want to play anymore.
Mozart: But my penalty!
[jumping up and down like an angry child]
Mozart: I’ve got to have a penalty!
Mozart: Why must I submit samples of my work to some stupid committee just to teach a thirteen-year-old girl?
Count Von Strack: Because His Majesty wishes it.
Mozart: Is the emperor angry with me?
Count Von Strack: Quite the contrary.
Mozart: Then why doesn’t he simply appoint me to the post?
Count Von Strack: Mozart, you are not the only composer in Vienna.
Mozart: No. But I’m the best!
Mozart: [of his great opera, "Figaro"] Nine performances! Nine, that’s all it’s had! And withdrawn!
Salieri: I know, I know, it’s outrageous. Still, if the public doesn’t like one’s work, one has to accept the fact gracefully.
Mozart: But what is it that they don’t like?
Salieri: I can speak for the emperor. You make too many demands on the royal ear. The poor man can’t concentrate for more than an hour… you gave him four.
Mozart: What did you think of it yourself? Did you like it at all?
Salieri: I thought it was marvelous.
Mozart: Of course! It’s the best opera yet written, I know it… Why didn’t they come?
Salieri: I think you overestimate our dear Viennese, my friend. You know you didn’t even give them a good bang at the end of songs, to let them know when to clap?
Mozart: I know, I know, maybe you should give me some lessons in that…
Mozart: [about the royal composer's position he did not get] Whom did they choose?
Salieri: Herr Zummer.
Mozart: Herr Zummer? But the man’s a fool, he’s a total mediocrity!
Salieri: No, no, he has yet to achieve mediocrity.
Mozart: It’s unbelievable, the director has actually torn up a huge section of my music. They say I have to rewrite the opera. But it’s perfect as it is! I can’t rewrite what’s perfect!
Constanze Mozart: Wolfie, I think you really are going mad. You work like a slave for that idiot actor who won’t give you a penny. And here, this is not a ghost! This is a real man who puts down real money. Why on earth won’t you finish it? Can you give me one reason I can understand?
Mozart: It’s killing me.
Salieri: All I wanted was to sing to God. He gave me that longing… and then made me mute. Why? Tell me that. If He didn’t want me to praise him with music, why implant the desire? Like a lust in my body! And then deny me the talent?
Salieri: Leave me alone.
Father Vogler: I cannot leave alone a soul in pain.
Salieri: Do you know who I am?
Father Vogler: It makes no difference. All men are equal in God’s eyes.
Salieri: [leans in suspiciously] *Are* they?
Salieri: My father, he did not care for music. When I told him how I wished I could be like Mozart, he would say; “Why? Do you want to be a trained monkey? Would you like me to drag you around Europe, doing tricks like a circus freak?”
[Salieri chuckles ruefully]
Salieri: How could I tell *him*… what music meant to me?
Mozart: Sire, only opera can do this. In a play if more than one person speaks at the same time, it’s just noise, no one can understand a word. But with opera, with music… with music you can have twenty individuals all talking at the same time, and it’s not noise, it’s a perfect harmony!
Mozart: I am fed to the teeth with elevated themes! Old dead legends! Why must we go on forever writing about gods and legends?
Baron Van Swieten: Because they do. They go on forever. Or at least what they represent. The eternal in us. Opera is here to enoble us. You and me, just the same as His Majesty.
Salieri: On the page it looked nothing. The beginning simple, almost comic. Just a pulse – bassoons and basset horns – like a rusty squeezebox. Then suddenly – high above it – an oboe, a single note, hanging there unwavering, till a clarinet took over and sweetened it into a phrase of such delight! This was no composition by a performing monkey! This was a music I’d never heard. Filled with such longing, such unfulfillable longing, it had me trembling. It seemed to me that I was hearing the very voice of God.
Mozart: [speaking backwards] Say I’m sick. Say I’m sick!
Constanze Mozart: Yes, you are. You are very sick.
Mozart: No! Say it backwards, shitwit!
Constanze Mozart: Stop it!
Mozart: I am stopping it! Slowly. There? See? I’ve stopped. Now we’re going back.
Constanze Mozart: No!
Mozart: Yes, yes! You don’t know where you are! Here, everything goes backwards. People walk backwards, dance backwards, sing backwards, and even talk backwards.
Constanze Mozart: That’s stupid.
Mozart: Why? People fart backwards.
Constanze Mozart: No. I’m not going to marry you. You’re a fiend!
Mozart: [speaking backwards] Ooy vol I tub. Ooy vol I tub!
Constanze Mozart: Tub, but. I. Vol, love… But I love you?
Mozart: [nods, mouths] I love you.
Count Orsini-Rosenberg: A young man trying to impress beyond his abilities.
Count Orsini-Rosenberg: Italian is the proper language for opera. All educated people agree on that.
Mozart: The whole thing is set in a harem, Majesty. In a seraglio.
Count Orsini-Rosenberg: You mean in Turkey?
Mozart: Yes, exactly.
Count Orsini-Rosenberg: Then why especially does it have to be in German?
Mozart: It doesn’t, especially. It could be in Turkish if you really want.
Archbishop Colloredo: Your son is an unprincipled, spoiled, conceited brat!
Emperor Joseph II: Is it modern?
Salieri: So rose the dreadful ghost from his next and blackest opera. There, on the stage, stood the figure of a dead commander. And I knew, only I understood that the horrifying apparition was Leopold raised from the dead! Wolfgang had summoned up his own father to accuse his son before all the world!
Salieri: That was Mozart. That! That giggling dirty-minded creature I had just seen, crawling on the floor!
Salieri: The restored third act was bold, brilliant. The fourth… was astounding.
Salieri: Through my influence, I saw to it that Don Giovanni was played only five times in Vienna. But in secret, I went to every one of those five. Worshipping sounds I alone seemed to hear.
Salieri: As I stood there understanding how that bitter old man was still possessing his poor son even from beyond the grave, I began to see a terrible way I could finally triumph over God.
Constanze Mozart: What are you doing here?
Salieri: Your husband took ill. I brought him home.
Constanze Mozart: But why you?
Salieri: Because, madam, I was at hand.
Emanuel Schikaneder: What’s so intelligent about writing a Requiem Mass?
Salieri: That was God laughing at me. Through that obscene giggle…
F. Murray Abraham … Antonio Salieri
Tom Hulce … Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Elizabeth Berridge … Constanze Mozart
Roy Dotrice … Leopold Mozart
Simon Callow … Emanuel Schikaneder / Papageno in ‘Magic Flute’
Christine Ebersole … Katerina Cavalieri / Constanza in ‘Abduction from the Seraglio’
Jeffrey Jones … Emperor Joseph II
Charles Kay … Count Orsini-Rosenberg
Kenneth McMillan … Michael Schlumberg (2002 Director’s Cut)
Kenny Baker … Parody Commendatore
Lisabeth Bartlett … Papagena in ‘Magic Flute’
Barbara Bryne … Frau Weber
Martin Cavina … Young Antonio Salieri (as Martin Cavani)
Roderick Cook … Count Von Strack
Milan Demjanenko … Karl Mozart
Peter DiGesu … Francesco Salieri
Michele Esposito … Salieri’s Student
Richard Frank … Father Vogler
Patrick Hines … Kappelmeister Bonno
Nicholas Kepros … Archbishop Colloredo
Philip Lenkowsky … Salieri’s Servant
Herman Meckler … Priest
Jonathan Moore … Baron Van Swieten
Cynthia Nixon … Lorl
Brian Pettifer … Hospital Attendant
Vincent Schiavelli … Salieri’s Valet
Genius of Mozart or any other would be in that singlemindedness to lay aside circumstances and personal idiosyncracies to tap into inner self so inspiration is merely letting the channels already cut (by training and discipline), flow by an act of will. We get a glimpse of the working style of Mozart: there is a scene when he is caught in the middle of domestic bickering between Constanze and his father. We see him writing the score for Marriage Of Figaro while hunched over the billiards table. (If composing came all finished in his head for Mozart the case of Beethoven was altogether different. Both were geniuses undoubtedly).While I am at it let me cite the case of Albert Einstein whose ideas completely rewrote our understanding of the universe. Some 25 years were spent by scientists to analyze his brain and it seems there was nothing special about it in terms of size or shape. ( In fact it is smaller than an average adult!)
* Cast member Simon Callow originally portrayed the part of Mozart in the 1979 stage production.
* When Mozart upstages Salieri by modifying the march Salieri wrote for the emperor, the modified piece is Mozart’s “Non Piu Andrai, Farfallone Amoroso” from The Marriage of Figaro.
* Mel Gibson auditioned for the role of Mozart.
* Jeffrey Jones replaced Ian Richardson.
* Several real (or at least apocryphal) events from Mozart’s life were incorporated into the screenplay, including the interlude between the child Mozart and Marie Antionette, and the Emperor’s comment that “Abduction from the Seraglio” had “too many notes”.
* Sets and costumes for the operatic productions were based on sketches of the original costumes and sets used when the operas premiered.
* Entire film was shot with natural light. In order to get the proper diffusion of light for some scenes, the DPs covered windows from the outside with tracing paper.
* The performance of Don Giovanni in the movie was filmed on the same stage where the opera first appeared.
* The concept for Mozart’s annoying laugh was taken from references in letters written about him. One described his laugh as “an infectious giddy” while another described it as “like metal scraping glass”.
* Milos Forman and Peter Shaffer spent four months adapting the very stylized play into a workable script. They added characters such as the priest, maid, archbishop, and mother-in-law; Mozart’s character was enlarged beyond Salieri’s perceptions; and Salieri’s monologues were reworked visually.
* Prague (Milos Forman’s native city) was ideal as a stand-in for Vienna, as modern television antennas, plastic and asphalt had rarely been introduced under Communist rule.
* Only four sets needed to be built: Salieri’s hospital room, Mozart’s apartment, a staircase, and the vaudeville theater. All other locations were found locally.
* The music was pre-recorded and played in the background as scenes were filmed. Tom Hulce practiced four hours a day at the piano to appear convincing.
* Tim Curry auditioned for the role of Mozart (and played Mozart on Broadway).
* Mark Hamill also played the role of Mozart on Broadway and lobbied heavily for the role in the film.
* Originally, a very young Kenneth Branagh was cast as Mozart, but Milos Forman changed his mind and decided to go with American actors for the principal roles.
* Vincent Schiavelli was informed by director Milos Forman after one take of him walking that, “Television is ruining you.”
* In one scene, Mozart refers to Gluck as “boring” and says, “I don’t like him,” regarding Handel. However, Gluck and Handel were two of Mozart’s favorite composers.
* Several professors of music stated, after studying all of the musical keys struck on pianos throughout the film, that not one key is struck incorrectly when compared to what is heard at the exact same moment. In other words, what you see is exactly what you hear.
* During the opening scene, where Salieri is carried through the snowy streets, he is carried past a large extravagant mansion-like building where a party is in progress. According to Milos Forman, this building is, in reality, the French embassy in Prague.
* Peter Shaffer shares his name with the original set designer (for the premier) of Mozart’s opera “Die Zauberfloete” (The Magic Flute).
* The “Don Giovanni” scene was being shot in part on the Fourth of July. During one take, upon Milos Forman’s call of “Action”, a large American flag unfurled from the ceiling. 500 extras stood up from their seats and begun to sing “The Star Spangled Banner”. The only extras that did not stand up were about thirty people, scattered throughout the theater- at first thought to be normal people, but it was deduced that these thirty were the secret police.
* The piece of Mozart’s music with the oboe and clarinet themes, whose score Salieri so deeply admires in one of the earliest sequences, is the Adagio, or third movement, of the Serenade No. 10 in B-flat, KV361, also known as “Gran Partita”.
* Elizabeth Berridge, during the Nipples of Venus scene, did not know she could spit out the candy (which was really lumps of marzipan) between takes and ate about 15 whole pieces. She later describes how she thought that they were disgusting and that she eventually made herself sick.
* In preparation for some aspects of the title role, actor Tom Hulce studied footage of John McEnroe’s on-court tennis tantrums
* The play, on which the film is based, was first performed on November 2, 1979 at the National Theatre in London.
* According to Milos Forman’s autobiography, one studio offered to provide funding for Amadeus on the one condition that Forman cast Walter Matthau (a reported Mozart enthusiast) for the role of Mozart. Forman refused the offer, considering Matthau to be too old for the role.
* When shooting the scene in which Salieri is writing down death mass under Mozart dictation, Tom Hulce was deliberately skipping lines to confuse F. Murray Abraham, in order to achieve the impression that Salieri wasn’t able to fully understand the music he was dictated.
* According to John Harkness’s book “The 1999 Academy Awards Handbook”, Maurice Jarre, in his speech accepting the 1984 Best Original Score Oscar for A Passage to India, expressed his gratitude that Amadeus had not been Oscar-nominated for Best Original Score. Maurice Jarre’s comment was obviously a joke, since none of Amadeus’ score was original.
* As Mozart, having fainted, is carried out of the middle of the opera ‘The Magic Flute’, you see three small boys with wings half following him. This is a reference to the Three Boys (Drei Knaben) who play a significant part in the opera.
* Amadeus opened at the Broadhust Theater on December 17, 1980 at ran for 1181 performances starring Ian McKellen and Tim Curry.
• Patrick Hines’ final film.
check out my appreciation of another Forman film in cinebuff.wordpress.com.