The famous 1984 Milos Forman film "Amadeus", based on Peter
Shaffer's play, leaves little doubt he did. But now the Vienna
museum dedicated to Mozart's legacy has launched a campaign to
burnish Salieri's reputation as a supporter of the younger
Austrian genius — and not a jealous villain.
A new exhibit at the Mozarthaus where Mozart lived and worked in
the late 18th century portrays Salieri as a good-humored,
talented and generous man who praised and honored pupils,
including Ludwig von Beethoven and Franz Schubert.
The problem, curators say, is that too many people think of
Salieri as the evil mastermind from Shaffer's 1979 play that the
Czech director Forman filmed in and around Prague, parts of
which look much the same as they did in Mozart's time.
"We want simply to enlighten people and show the authentic
Salieri, getting away from a very strongly fictionalized image,"
museum director Gerhard Vitek said on Thursday.
The talent of Salieri, who was born in northern Italy in 1750
and moved to Vienna at age 15, made him a favorite of the
imperial court. He wrote operas and other stage plays, patriotic
compositions and sacred music when not teaching.
The family's correspondence shows it was Mozart's father,
Leopold, who saw Salieri as a threat to young Mozart's career
advancement, musicologist and curator Otto Biba said.
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"With a single exception Mozart writes only positive
things about Salieri. He was irritated once but this was laughable.
Leopold grumbled constantly about Salieri, and many others. This was
someone who could stand in his son's way, and he had to make him
look bad," Biba told a media tour of the exhibit.
The generation after Mozart's death in 1791 retroactively projected
a widening split between "Italian" and "German" schools of music
onto ties between the two men, Biba added.
The crowning evidence that the musicians were close came when
Mozart's wife, Constanze, sent the son born the year Mozart died to
Salieri for training as a young talent, said Ingrid Fuchs, who also
curated the exhibit.
"I think this rebuts all the speculation. No mother would send her
son to be educated by the alleged poisoner of her husband. This is a
very powerful testimonial."
(Editing by Michael Roddy and Mark
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