Peter Shaffer's Amadeus (1984)

PG | 158 mins | Biography, Drama | 19 September 1984

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HISTORY

The film is commonly referred to as Amadeus, and was listed by that title in contemporary sources, but it is credited onscreen as Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus. In the print viewed for this record, all music credits are grouped with performers under the “Cast” category, and there are no listings for individual compositions, songs, operas, or orchestral movements. Music credits from the soundtrack album are noted in the Song Sources section of this entry. In cast credits, the first name of actress Lisbeth Bartlett is misspelled “Lisabeth.”
       According to production notes in AMPAS library files, playwright-screenwriter Peter Shaffer was approached by director Miloš Forman after the first stage preview of Amadeus in Nov 1979, at London, England’s National Theatre. By 17 Jul 1981, the Saul Zaentz Company had agreed to finance a feature film adaptation of the play, and Forman was set to direct, as announced in a HR news item published that day. Filming was scheduled to take place in Europe in 1982, and Peter Shaffer had been hired to write the screenplay. The following month, a 12 Aug 1981 Var report stated that producer Saul Zaentz was currently securing locations abroad with the intention of having the film finished for an Easter 1983 release date.
       Despite Zaentz’s momentum to begin production, Shaffer did not start work on the adaptation until 1 Feb 1982, when he took up residence at Forman’s CT farmhouse to write in seclusion for four months. Although Shaffer and Forman reportedly collaborated on the script, Shaffer receives sole writing credit onscreen.
       Conductor Neville Marriner consented ... More Less

The film is commonly referred to as Amadeus, and was listed by that title in contemporary sources, but it is credited onscreen as Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus. In the print viewed for this record, all music credits are grouped with performers under the “Cast” category, and there are no listings for individual compositions, songs, operas, or orchestral movements. Music credits from the soundtrack album are noted in the Song Sources section of this entry. In cast credits, the first name of actress Lisbeth Bartlett is misspelled “Lisabeth.”
       According to production notes in AMPAS library files, playwright-screenwriter Peter Shaffer was approached by director Miloš Forman after the first stage preview of Amadeus in Nov 1979, at London, England’s National Theatre. By 17 Jul 1981, the Saul Zaentz Company had agreed to finance a feature film adaptation of the play, and Forman was set to direct, as announced in a HR news item published that day. Filming was scheduled to take place in Europe in 1982, and Peter Shaffer had been hired to write the screenplay. The following month, a 12 Aug 1981 Var report stated that producer Saul Zaentz was currently securing locations abroad with the intention of having the film finished for an Easter 1983 release date.
       Despite Zaentz’s momentum to begin production, Shaffer did not start work on the adaptation until 1 Feb 1982, when he took up residence at Forman’s CT farmhouse to write in seclusion for four months. Although Shaffer and Forman reportedly collaborated on the script, Shaffer receives sole writing credit onscreen.
       Conductor Neville Marriner consented to work on the film as early as spring 1981, on condition that he be granted complete musical authority, as stated in a 7 Oct 1984 LAT column. Principal photography began on 31 Jan 1983 in Prague, Czechoslovakia, but the soundtrack was recorded before production began so Forman could play the music through loudspeakers while filming. Marriner told the LAT that Forman used this technique throughout production, even when scenes did not require opera singers or musicians to match overdubs.
       Although a 5 Nov 1982 HR brief announced that actor John Savage was the filmmakers’ top choice for the role of “Antonio Salieri,” and Patti LuPone was considered to play “Constanze Mozart,” a 30 Nov 1982 HR news item stated that musician Mick Jagger auditioned for Salieri, and various contemporary sources reported the casting of Meg Tilly as Constanze. According to a 20 Sep 1984 NYT article, Tilly was injured in Prague before shooting her scenes and Elizabeth Berridge was cast as her replacement at the last minute. Tilly remained on DV production charts for the first three months of filming, through Apr 1983, and Berridge was first listed on a 1 Jul 1983 DV production chart. A 10 Dec 1984 People article noted that actor Tom Hulce was a relative unknown when he was cast as “Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart,” and had been selected over a host of celebrities such as David Bowie and Mikhail Baryshnikov. With the help of an instructor, Hulce studied piano four hours a day for one month before production began.
       Filming took place over twenty-four weeks in Czechoslovakia, followed by one week in Italy, as reported in a 17 Aug 1983 DV column. The production marked the first time Miloš Forman, a Czech national, had returned home since leaving the country in 1967. Locations included six palaces that were furnished with real antiques, courtesy of the Czech Government and Ministry of Culture, according to production notes. Although Old Town Prague represented Vienna, Austria, the 18th-century Tyl Theatre, formerly known as Estates Theatre, was the actual venue in which Mozart conducted the world premiere of Don Giovanni in 1787. Candle-lit chandeliers weighing 700-800 pounds were supported from the ceiling with a steel and aluminum grid that was crafted specifically for the production. “Emperor Joseph II’s” palace was filmed at the Archbishop’s Palace, or Gryspek Palace, on Prague’s Hradcany Square, and the interiors of Salieri’s residence were shot at the former Palace of the Grand Prior of the Knights of Malta, or Thurn-Taxiz Palace, on Maltese Square. The production used Prague’s Barrandov Studios sound stages, where a replica of “Emanuel Schikaneder’s” 700-seat “Volkstheater” was constructed for filming the parody of The Magic Flute, as well as other sequences.
       Principal photography also took place in the eastern Zlín region of the Czechoslovakia, at Kroměříž Palace. This castle provided the location for the scene in which Salieri first meets Mozart, and the estate’s reception hall was used for the sequence in which “Leopold Mozart” has an audience with “Archbishop Colloredo.”
       According to production notes, over 1,500 wigs were created for the film at a cost of $500,000.
       While a 6 Oct 1982 Var brief published before production began listed an anticipated overall budget of $13-15 million, the 20 Sep 1984 NYT stated that the picture was made for $18 million. Principal photography ended on 20 Jul 1983, as stated in the 17 Aug 1983 DV.
       A 7 Sep 1983 Var brief announced that Orion Pictures planned to release the film on 15 Feb 1984, but the 14 Dec 1983 HR stated that the opening would be delayed for seven months.
       The film generally received praise from critics, although many Mozart purists took issue with the sensationalization of the musician’s life story, and both the 4 Sep 1984 DV and the 7 Sep 1984 HR argued that the motion picture adaptation of Amadeus was not as intriguing as the play. However, the picture was a box-office success, grossing $13,557,200 in its first two months, as reported in a 28 Nov 1984 Var advertisement. After one month of release, the Amadeus soundtrack album ranked #1 on Billboard’s pop album charts, marking the first time a classical music record had ever been listed among contemporary popular artists, according to a 25 Oct 1984 LAT column. The soundtrack also placed #3 on Billboard’s classical music charts, and Tower Records claimed that the album was the second highest seller across all genres at that time.
       Amadeus was nominated for three Academy Awards in the following categories: Cinematography, Film Editing, and Actor in a Leading Role (Tom Hulce). It won eight Academy Awards for: Actor in a Leading Role (F. Murray Abraham), Art Direction, Costume Design, Directing, Makeup, Sound, Writing (Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium), and Best Picture. It ranked #53 on AFI’s list of the 100 Greatest Movies.
       End credits state: “The producer, screenplay writer and director thank the following for their boundless assistance in our effort to present the physical authenticity and aura you have seen and felt in ‘Amadeus’: The National Theatre of Czechoslovakia and Prague’s Tyl Theatre management for allowing us to film in the Tyl sequences from the operas: ‘Abduction from the Seraglio,’ ‘The Marriage of Figaro,’ and ‘Don Giovanni.’ It was actually in this magnificiently preserved theatre that Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart conducted the premiere performance of ‘Don Giovanni’ on October 29, 1787; His Eminence Cardinal Frantisek Tomasek for his kindness in permitting us to use his beautiful residence headquarters in Prague as the Emperor’s Palace; The Barrandov Studios and CS Filmexport for their help in filming ‘Amadeus’ in Prague and in castles and palaces throughout Czechoslovakia.”
       End credits conclude with: “’Amadeus’ was originally a National Theater Production in London, then produced in America by The Shubert Organization, Elizabeth MCann/Nelle Nugent and Roger Berlind,” and, “All film editing, sound editing and Dolby Stereo® mix completed at the SZC Film Center, Berkeley, California.”
       Although they did not appear in the theatrical version of the film, actors Kenneth McMillan, Michele Esposito, Cassie Stewart, and Rita Zohar did appear in the director’s cut.
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SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
1 Jul 1983.
---
Daily Variety
17 Aug 1983.
---
Daily Variety
4 Sep 1984
p. 3, 14.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Jul 1981
p. 16.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Nov 1982.
---
Hollywood Reporter
30 Nov 1982.
---
Hollywood Reporter
14 Dec 1983.
---
Hollywood Reporter
7 Sep 1984
p. 3, 25.
Los Angeles Times
19 Sep 1984
p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
7 Oct 1984.
---
Los Angeles Times
25 Oct 1984.
---
New York Times
19 Sep 1984
p. 23.
New York Times
20 Sep 1984.
---
People
10 Dec 1984.
---
Variety
12 Aug 1981.
---
Variety
6 Oct 1982.
---
Variety
7 Sep 1983.
---
Variety
5 Sep 1984
p. 12.
Variety
28 Nov 1984.
---
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
The orchestra, Academy of St. Martin in the Fields
The choruses, Academy Chorus of St. Martin in the Fields
The choruses, Ambrosian Opera Chorus
John McCarthy
The choruses, The Choristers of Westminster Abbey
Opera soloist, The Marriage of Figaro, sung by
Opera soloist, The Marriage of Figaro, acted by
Opera soloist, The Marriage of Figaro, sung by
Opera soloist, The Marriage of Figaro, acted by
Opera soloist, The Marriage of Figaro, sung by
Opera soloist, The Marriage of Figaro, acted by
Opera soloist, The Marriage of Figaro, sung by
Opera soloist, The Marriage of Figaro, acted by
Opera soloist, The Marriage of Figaro, sung by
Opera soloist, The Marriage of Figaro, acted by
Opera soloist, The Marriage of Figaro, sung by
Opera soloist, The Marriage of Figaro, acted by
Opera soloist, The Marriage of Figaro, sung by
Opera soloist, The Marriage of Figaro, acted by
Opera soloist, The Marriage of Figaro, sung by
Opera soloist, The Marriage of Figaro, acted by
Opera soloist, The Marriage of Figaro, acted by
Opera soloist, The Marriage of Figaro, sung by
Opera soloist, The Marriage of Figaro, acted by
Opera soloist, The Marriage of Figaro, sung by
Opera soloist, The Marriage of Figaro, acted by
Opera soloist, Don Giovanni, sung by
Opera soloist, Don Giovanni, acted by
Opera soloist, Don Giovanni, sung by
Opera soloist, Don Giovanni, acted by
Opera soloist, Don Giovanni, sung by
Opera soloist, Don Giovanni, acted by
Opera soloist, Axur, sung by
Opera soloist, Axur, acted by
Opera soloist, Abduction from the Seraglio, sung by
Opera soloist, Abduction from the Seraglio, act by
Opera soloist, The Magic Flute, sung by
Opera soloist, The Magic Flute, acted by
Opera soloist, The Magic Flute, sung by
Opera soloist, The Magic Flute, acted by
Opera soloist, The Magic Flute, sung by
Opera soloist, The Magic Flute, acted by
Caro Mio Ben by Guiseppe Giordani
Opera soloist, The Marriage of Figaro, sung by
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PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
The Saul Zaentz Company presents
A Milos Forman film
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
1st asst dir
2d unit dir, Czechoslovakian crew
Asst dir, Czechoslovakian crew
Asst dir, Czechoslovakian crew
Asst dir, Czechoslovakian crew
2d asst dir, Italian crew
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
Exec prod
WRITER
Orig stage play and scr by
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Still photog
Still photog
1st cam op
Cam op
Asst cam op
Asst cam op
Steadicam op
Gaffer
Best boy
Key grip
Elec
Genny op
Rigger
Rigger
Rigger
Rigger
Rigger
Rigger
Gaffer, Czechoslovakian crew
Best boy, Czechoslovakian crew
Grip, Czechoslovakian crew
Grip, Czechoslovakian crew
2d cam, Czechoslovakian crew
3rd cam, Czechoslovakian crew
Focus puller, Czechoslovakian crew
Cam asst, Czechoslovakian crew
Cam asst, Czechoslovakian crew
Cam asst, Czechoslovakian crew
Cam supplied by, Italian crew
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir, Italian crew
FILM EDITORS
Post prod supv
Assoc film ed
Asst film ed
Asst film ed
Asst film ed
Apprentice film ed
Apprentice film ed
Apprentice film ed
Negative cutter
Loc ed, Czechoslovakian crew
Asst loc ed, Czechoslovakian crew
Negatives developed at
SET DECORATORS
Opera set des by
Prop master
Prop master, Czechoslovakian crew
Prop master, Czechoslovakian crew
Prop master, Czechoslovakian crew
Prop asst, Czechoslovakian crew
Prop asst, Czechoslovakian crew
Set des asst, Czechoslovakian crew
Set des asst, Czechoslovakian crew
COSTUMES
Cost des
Spec mus and historical consultant
Asst cost coord
Asst cost coord
Asst cost coord
Ward, Czechoslovakian crew
Ward, Czechoslovakian crew
Ward, Czechoslovakian crew
Ward, Czechoslovakian crew
Cost, Italian crew
Cost, Italian crew
Cost, Italian crew
Cost, Italian crew
Shoes, Italian crew
Cost jewelry, Italian crew
MUSIC
Mus cond and supv by
Mus coord
Mus ed
Asst mus ed
Spec mus and historical consultant
Cond, Academy of St Martin In The Fields
SOUND
Sd rec
Boom op
Supv sd ed
Supv re-rec mixer
Dial ed
Sd eff ed
Sd eff ed
Sd eff ed
Sd eff ed
Sd ed
Foley artist
Foley artist
Foley eng
Foley eng
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Apprentice sd ed
Apprentice sd ed
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Asst re-rec mixer
Sd dept, Czechoslovakian crew
Sd dept, Czechoslovakian crew
Sd dept, Czechoslovakian crew
Sd dept, Czechoslovakian crew
Sd dept, Czechoslovakian crew
Sd dept, Czechoslovakian crew
Sd dept, Czechoslovakian crew
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff by
Spec eff by, Effects Associates
Spec eff by, Effects Associates
Spec eff by, Effects Associates
Spec eff by, Effects Associates
Spec eff by, Effects Associates
Spec eff by, Effects Associates
Spec eff by, Effects Associates
Spec eff by, Effects Associates
Spec eff by, Effects Associates
Spec eff by, Effects Associates
Spec eff by, Effects Associates
Spec eff by, Effects Associates
Spec eff by, Effects Associates
Titles des by
Titles and opticals by
DANCE
Choreog and opera staging by
Twyla Tharp Dance Foundation, Dancer
Twyla Tharp Dance Foundation, Dancer
Twyla Tharp Dance Foundation, Dancer
Twyla Tharp Dance Foundation, Dancer
Twyla Tharp Dance Foundation, Dancer
Twyla Tharp Dance Foundation, Dancer
Twyla Tharp Dance Foundation, Dancer
Twyla Tharp Dance Foundation, Dancer
Twyla Tharp Dance Foundation, Dancer
Twyla Tharp Dance Foundation, Dancer
Twyla Tharp Dance Foundation, Dancer
Twyla Tharp Dance Foundation, Dancer
MAKEUP
Makeup and wig des
Old Salieri makeup by
Makeup asst
Makeup artist, Czechoslovakian crew
Makeup artist, Czechoslovakian crew
Makeup artist, Czechoslovakian crew
Wigs, Italian crew
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting, New York and Hollywood
Casting, London
Loc mgr
Prod asst, Asst to Saul Zaentz
Prod asst, Asst to Milos Forman
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Scr supv
Prod controller
Addl casting
Casting assoc
Pub relations
Catering
International air transportation
International air transportation
Film center staff
Film center staff
Film center staff
Film center staff
Film center staff
Film center staff
Film center staff
Film center staff
Film center staff
Film center staff
Film center staff
Film center staff
Film center staff
Film center staff
Scr supv, Czechoslovakian crew
Translator, Czechoslovakian crew
Translator, Czechoslovakian crew
Translator, Czechoslovakian crew
Translator, Czechoslovakian crew
Translator, Czechoslovakian crew
Translator, Czechoslovakian crew
Translator, Czechoslovakian crew
Translator, Czechoslovakian crew
Prod mgr, Czechoslovakian crew
Prod asst, Czechoslovakian crew
Prod asst, Czechoslovakian crew
Prod asst, Czechoslovakian crew
Prod asst, Czechoslovakian crew
Prod asst, Czechoslovakian crew
Prod asst, Czechoslovakian crew
Prod asst, Czechoslovakian crew
Prod asst, Czechoslovakian crew
Piano coach, Czechoslovakian crew
Driver, Czechoslovakian crew
Driver, Czechoslovakian crew
Driver, Czechoslovakian crew
Driver, Czechoslovakian crew
Driver, Czechoslovakian crew
Prod mgr, Italian crew
Loc mgr, Italian crew
Prod asst, Italian crew
Supv by
Supv by
Supv by
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col timer
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the play Amadeus by Peter Shaffer (London, 1979).
AUTHOR
SONGS
W. A. Mozart: “Symphony No. 25 In G Minor, K. 183, 1st Movement,” Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields
Giovanni Battista Pergolesi: “Stabat Mater: Quando Corpus Morietur And Amen,” Choristers of Westminster Abbey, Simon Preston, director
Early 18th Century Gypsy Music: “Bubak And Hungaricus,” arranged by Jaroslav Krcek (played on instruments of the period)
+
SONGS
W. A. Mozart: “Symphony No. 25 In G Minor, K. 183, 1st Movement,” Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields
Giovanni Battista Pergolesi: “Stabat Mater: Quando Corpus Morietur And Amen,” Choristers of Westminster Abbey, Simon Preston, director
Early 18th Century Gypsy Music: “Bubak And Hungaricus,” arranged by Jaroslav Krcek (played on instruments of the period)
W. A. Mozart: “Serenade For Winds, K. 361, 3rd Movement,” Neville Marriner, Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields
W. A. Mozart: “The Abduction From The Seraglio, Turkish Finale,” Neville Marriner, Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Ambrosian Opera Chorus, John McCarthy, director
W. A. Mozart: “Symphony No. 29 in A, K.201, 1st Movement,” Neville Marriner, Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields
W. A. Mozart: “Concerto For Two Pianos, K. 365, 3rd Movement,” Neville Marriner, Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Imogen Cooper and Anne Queffelec, pianos
W. A. Mozart: “Mass In C Minor, K. 427, Kyrie,” Neville Marriner, Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Academy Chorus, Laszlo Heltay, director, Felicity Lott, soprano
W. A. Mozart: “Symphonie Concertant, K. 364, 1st Movement,” Neville Marriner, Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Levon Chilingirian, violin, Csaba Erdélyi, viola
W. A. Mozart: “Piano Concerto In E Flat, K. 482, 3rd Movement,” Neville Marriner, Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Ivan Moravec, piano
W. A. Mozart: “The Marriage Of Figaro, Act III, Ecco La Marcia,” Neville Marriner, Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields
W. A. Mozart: “The Marriage Of Figaro, Act IV, Ah Tutti Contenti,” Neville Marriner, Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields
W. A. Mozart: “Don Giovanni, Act II, Commendatore Scene,” Neville Marriner, Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields
W. A. Mozart: “Zaide, Aria, Ruhe Sanft,” Neville Marriner, Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Felicity Lott soprano
W. A. Mozart: “Requiem, K. 626: Introitus (Orchestral Introduction), Dies Irae, Rex Tremendae Majestatis, Confutatis, Lacrymosa,” Neville Marriner, Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Academy Chorus, Laszlo Heltay, director
W. A. Mozart: “Piano Concerto In D Minor, K. 466, 2nd Movement,” Neville Marriner, Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Imogen Cooper, piano.
+
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Amadeus
Release Date:
19 September 1984
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 19 September 1984
Production Date:
31 January--20 July 1983
Copyright Claimant:
The Saul Zaentz Company
Copyright Date:
8 March 1985
Copyright Number:
PA241498
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo in Selected Theatres
Color
Lenses
Filmed in Panavision
Prints
Prints by Technicolor
Duration(in mins):
158
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
27396
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In 19th-century Vienna, Austria, aged composer Antonio Salieri attempts suicide after declaring that he killed Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. As Salieri convalesces in a sanitarium, Father Vogler believes the elderly gentleman is suffering dementia and visits Salieri’s cell for an end-of-life confession. However, Salieri feels betrayed by God and has no interest in penance. To illustrate his lack of faith, Salieri tells Father Vogel about his tormented history with Mozart: In his youth, Salieri idolizes Mozart, the prodigy, and prays to emulate the boy’s talent, but Salieri’s father forbids him from pursing his dream. When the old man accidentally chokes to death, young Salieri believes God has answered his prayers. Dedicating his life to music and God, Salieri achieves fame as Austrian Emperor Joseph II’s court composer in the 1760s, and encourages the monarch to commission an opera from Mozart. However, the austere Salieri is horrified to discover his idol is a crude and mischievous hedonist. While Salieri labors for his art, Mozart’s talent is effortless, and the young man wastes no opportunity to mock Salieri with a shrill laugh. Mozart inaugurates his Austrian tenure with the controversial The Abduction From The Seraglio, an opera about a German brothel, and Salieri is outraged that Katerina Cavalieri, the object of his affection, is cast as its leading lady. When Salieri realizes Katerina is one of Mozart’s lovers, he plots revenge. Meanwhile, Mozart’s father, Leopold, is displeased with his son’s move to Vienna and believes the young ... +


In 19th-century Vienna, Austria, aged composer Antonio Salieri attempts suicide after declaring that he killed Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. As Salieri convalesces in a sanitarium, Father Vogler believes the elderly gentleman is suffering dementia and visits Salieri’s cell for an end-of-life confession. However, Salieri feels betrayed by God and has no interest in penance. To illustrate his lack of faith, Salieri tells Father Vogel about his tormented history with Mozart: In his youth, Salieri idolizes Mozart, the prodigy, and prays to emulate the boy’s talent, but Salieri’s father forbids him from pursing his dream. When the old man accidentally chokes to death, young Salieri believes God has answered his prayers. Dedicating his life to music and God, Salieri achieves fame as Austrian Emperor Joseph II’s court composer in the 1760s, and encourages the monarch to commission an opera from Mozart. However, the austere Salieri is horrified to discover his idol is a crude and mischievous hedonist. While Salieri labors for his art, Mozart’s talent is effortless, and the young man wastes no opportunity to mock Salieri with a shrill laugh. Mozart inaugurates his Austrian tenure with the controversial The Abduction From The Seraglio, an opera about a German brothel, and Salieri is outraged that Katerina Cavalieri, the object of his affection, is cast as its leading lady. When Salieri realizes Katerina is one of Mozart’s lovers, he plots revenge. Meanwhile, Mozart’s father, Leopold, is displeased with his son’s move to Vienna and believes the young man’s talents are best served in his hometown of Salzburg, Germany. Although young Mozart was dismissed from Archbishop Colloredo of Salzburg’s court, Leopold Mozart arranges for his son to regain his appointment and travels to Vienna to collect the boy. There, Leopold is incensed upon learning that his son has married a commoner named Constanze, who is newly pregnant. Mozart drags his father to a costume ball, but Leopold is ashamed of his son’s antics, and disappointed that the boy is frittering away his talent in favor of a wanton lifestyle. Although young Mozart is penniless, he is too proud to apply for a teaching position in the emperor’s court, so Constanze secretly brings her husband’s original compositions to Salieri in the hope that he will get Mozart a job. Glancing over the sheet music, Salieri seethes with envy as he realizes that Mozart composes without making corrections. Salieri, who equates God’s grace with musical brilliance, is enraged that his hard work and spiritual devotion have not earned him greater skills than those of the audacious Mozart, and he denounces God for the oversight. Vowing to destroy his rival, Salieri anonymously sends a young maid named Papagena to the Mozart home, hoping to gain access to the composer’s confidential work. Although Constanze believes Papagena is a gift from one of Mozart’s secret admirers, Leopold Mozart is suspicious of the girl and does not respect his daughter-in-law’s judgment. When the two argue, Leopold returns to Salzburg in anger, and young Mozart is terrified by his father’s disapproval. In time, Salieri receives word from Papagena that Mozart is writing an operatic adaptation of the French play, The Marriage of Figaro, which has been banned from Austria for promoting egalitarian politics. Seizing the opportunity to force Mozart out of town, Salieri tells Emperor Joseph II about the young composer’s secret project. Mozart thwarts Salieri and convinces his Majesty to support the opera. With rehearsals underway, Mozart provokes controversy yet again by incorporating dance into the show, even though the emperor has outlawed ballet. When the monarch allows Mozart to keep the dance scenes, Salieri grows increasingly bitter, but feels vindicated when the emperor snores during the premiere of The Marriage of Figaro. As Mozart falls out of favor, Salieri rises to success with his own opera, Axur, Re d’Ormus, which the emperor honors as “the best opera yet written.” After watching Salieri receive his accolades, Mozart joins his actor friends for an evening of drunken revelry and returns home to news that his father is dead. Devastated, Mozart plummets into alcoholism and his next production, Don Giovanni, is a commercial failure. Still, Salieri attends every show and believes the opera reveals Mozart’s greatest weakness: his fear of Leopold. Remembering the costume ball in which Leopold Mozart was disguised in a black cloak and mask, Salieri dons the same ensemble and arrives at the young composer’s doorstep. Salieri identifies himself as “a messenger” and commissions Mozart to write a Requiem Mass. Terrified by the apparition of his father, Mozart busies himself with the project, and Constanze is pleased by their new moderate income. Meanwhile, Salieri fantasizes that the Requiem will be performed at Mozart’s funeral, but remains unsure if he can go through with the composer’s murder. Over time, Mozart becomes increasingly disabled by alcoholism and poverty, and agrees to compose a vaudeville opera for his actor friend Emanuel Schikaneder, the director of a common-man’s “volkstheater.” Salieri learns about the piece from his spy, Papagena, and is displeased that Mozart has turned his attention away from the Requiem. Disguised in Leopold Mozart’s costume, Salieri returns to the Mozart home and orders the composer to forsake the opera so he can finish the Requiem. Although Mozart agrees, he later confides to Constanze that the Requiem is killing him, and completing it would mean his death. However, Constanze is tired of being poor and demands that Mozart continue the Requiem to maintain their income. After they argue, Mozart goes out for a night of debauchery and returns home to find his family gone. In an effort to win Constanze back, Mozart defies the orders of his mysterious patron and finishes his volkstheater opera, The Magic Flute. During one show, Mozart loses consciousness and Salieri escorts him home. When Mozart awakens, Salieri falsely claims that the mysterious benefactor has promised to pay 100 ducats if the Requiem is complete by the following evening. Mozart believes the task is impossible, but he is desperate for money and spends the rest of the night dictating the Requiem to Salieri. By morning, the exhausted Mozart mistakes Salieri’s efforts for compassion and begs forgiveness for their rivalry. Meanwhile, Constanze, who has taken up with a wealthy nobleman in a nearby city, senses impending doom and rushes home in a carriage to find her husband near death. Suspicious of the Requiem, Constanze orders Salieri to leave and seizes the unfinished composition, but Mozart dies as she locks it away. Mozart is buried in a mass grave. Thirty-two years later, Salieri finishes his story in the sanitarium. He scoffs at Father Vogler’s religion, and muses that God is ironic and cruel. Salieri points out that God championed mediocrity and corruption by keeping him alive for so many years, and denied the world its greatest musical talent by taking the life of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Still, Mozart is more popular than ever, and Salieri laments that his own music has become extinct. As Salieri is escorted away by an attendant, he chuckles that he is the “patron saint” of talentless, second-rate commoners. He offers absolution to his fellow inmates, and to Father Vogler, whose faith has been shaken by Salieri’s story. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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