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Teaching Materials

Amadeus (1984)


The life, success and troubles of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, as told by Antonio Salieri, the contemporaneous composer who was insanely jealous of Mozart’s talent and claimed to have murdered him.

18th Century Europe, Austria.

  • The Austrian composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born in 1756 in Salzburg to the family of Capellmeister and composer Leopold Mozart. One of the most important representatives of the Vienna Classical School, he mastered the art of music from his father. At the age of four, Amadeus composed music, from the age of five he played the piano, and at the age of six – the violin. In 1763, Mozart began a three-year journey to Western Europe, where he is said to have performed for the Pope himself. After Italy the Austrian genius became known famous Europe.
  • The process of creating new genres and forms in 18th-century European music took a perfect shape at the “Vienna Classical School” (1780-1827). Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Joseph Haydn and Ludwig van Beethoven are among the “Vienna Classicist”. Mozart’s move from Salzburg to Vienna played a decisive role in the creation of the Vienna Classical School.
  • Classicism has dominated art for almost a century (from 1730 to 1820). The forerunner of classicism was the glorious Baroque era, and after its completion, Romanticism began in the history of art (particularly in music).
  • Mozart’s most popular operas are The Marriage of Figaro and The Magic Flute. A few weeks after the premiere of the latter, he became ill and died at the age of 35. There are numerous versions of his death. According to one (legend) he was poisoned by Italian composer Antonio Salieri.
  • Before his death, Antonio Salieri repeated the words: “I can admit everything, but I did not kill Mozart.”
  • Winner of 8 Oscars, “Amadeus”, film by American director of Czech origin, Milos Forman, is based on a 1979 play by English playwright and screenwriter Peter Shaffer. In the film, the musical world of the 80s of the 18th century, the political-social-cultural background is thoroughly reconstructed. The starting point for the director became the life of Mozart seen through the eyes of Antonio Salieri.
  • Antonio Salieri is the undisputed favorite of Emperor Joseph II, as other musicians of Italian descent, all of whom initially showed an antagonistic attitude towards the young Mozart.
  • In 1781, Mozart was offered to teach music to Princess Elizabeth of Austria, but the task was eventually entrusted to the Emperor’s Kapellmeister Antonio Salieri
  • It is said that in 1785, Mozart and Salieri wrote a joint cantata, which was considered missing until 2016.
  • The whole film is based on the relationship between Mozart and Salieri. Who do you think is the main character of the film?
  • How decent is Salieri, pay attention to how he was treating young composer at the beginning of the film. What do you think, why and how did his attitude to Mozart change after?
  • What is the character of Mozart, how exaggerated is the character of the composer and how acceptable is such a brave interpretation of director?
  • History is sometimes unfair to people. The myth created about Antonio Salieri became the reason for the fact that he is not portrayed as a positive character in the film. Using biographical references, discuss what kind of person could Salieri have been?
  • Does Forman’s film reflect the historical, social, political reality? In what ways and means does he convincingly reconstruct the epoch?
  • What is the character of Mozart’s father? According to legend, Mozart received an order from an unknown person to write his last work – Requiem. In the film, this “Unknown Man” is combined with the character of Mozart’s father (აctually Leopold Mozart visited his son twice in Vienna). What do you think, what was the reason of Milos Forman’s decision ?

Write about this film
Salieri is considered a fan of Mozart’s creations. Mozart’s works have always deserved sincere emotions and recognition from him. Salieri conducted Mozart’s works. It is known that Constanze Weber, Mozart’s wife, brought her son to Antonio Salieri for musical education. When considering epoch-making contexts, consider all possible options for the relationship between Salieri and Mozart, and when writing a review, focus on a bold interpretation of real characters. What is the main message of Milos Forman, why the American director of the 80s was interested in the work and life of the great composer. How relevant and fashionable are biographical films today?

For Individual work
Find more biographical information on the lives of Mozart and Salieri. Let’s consider them in the context of a specific historical era. Pay attention to how realistic Foreman’s film is, how the director reflects objective reality, legends and myths, it is advisable to read additional literature and documentary material about the life and work of Mozart and Salieri.

Group work/additional activities
Curriculum links: Music

Mozart worked in the era of classicism. Find out what was characteristic of the art of this period, what were the basic principles and aesthetic categories of literary or musical works. Discuss the similarities and differences between musical works of the Baroque, Classicism and Romantic eras. For each argument, consider the example of a specific author (Bach, Mozart, Beethoven).

Additional activities:
After discussion and group work, students can visualize the narrative material. Create a wall newspaper or presentation where you will present representatives of the Viennese Classicism Composers, attach the narration to the piece of music, using specific examples and interpreting them in historical, political, social and cultural contexts.

Expected Results

As a result of the subsequent discussion and review of the film, in which it is necessary to use the epoch-making contexts and the above recommendations, student will know more about 18th century European music, in particular the Vienna classics and Mozart’s biography.


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