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Project 2: Staging Mozart

Daniel Samaga, M.A. M.A.

Albert Lortzing’s Vaudeville Scenen aus Mozart’s Leben (1833), Franz von Suppé’s Singspiel Wolfgang und Constanze (1873), Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s chamber opera Mozart i Saljeri (1898), Marco Anzelotti’s opera seria La fine di Mozart (1898), Reynaldo Hahn’s Comédie musicale Mozart (1925), Heinrich Wolf’s play with music Mozart auf der Reise nach Prag (1954), John Neumeier’s ballet Fenster zu Mozart (1991) or Sylvester Levays musical Mozart! (1999): Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart has been one of the most popular composers in the various genres of music theater for almost 200 years and continues to be, as shown by a wide range of more or less well-known examples. These historiographical plays, operas or musicals sometimes present conflicting images of Mozart. They contribute to the canonization of the artist and his work as a form of popular music historiography and they therefore play an important role in Mozart’s reception history.


Representing Mozart on Stage: Authentication Strategies in Historiographical Music Theater on the Life of W. A. Mozart

Peter Shaffer’s play Amadeus (1981) and its film adaptation by Miloš Forman once again turned Mozart’s portrayal on stage and in film into a controversial issue. Especially the relationship between facts and fiction divided audiences, critics and musicologists. A few decades before, Karl Hartl’s film biographies (Wen die Götter lieben, 1942 / Reich mir die Hand mein Leben, 1955) as well as Sacha Guitry’s French Comédie musicale Mozart (1925), had already prompted the author Heinz Thies to write the play Mozart – Sein Leben wie es wirklich war (1957), trying to give an accurate representation of Mozart’s life. Thies uses biographical essays and quotations from letters by the Mozart family, which frame the text of the play, in order to testify for the audience that the events on stage correspond to historical facts. What other possibilities do authors and composers have to give their work the appearance of historical authenticity?

Based on recent research in public history understanding authenticity as a quality attributed by the recipients, i examine in my PhD-project examines the strategies that music theater on the life of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart uses to establish an ‘authenticity fiction’. By combining approaches from public history, narratology and the research on anecdotes and canonization, i will study how the authors position themselves in relation to historical facts, how they authenticate their representation as historically accurate and how these representations are received by the audience. In this context, i pay particular attention to the role of music, particularly to the embedding of Mozart’s compositions into the plays.

Daniel Samaga (Changed: 20 Jun 2024)  | 
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