Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was one of the most influencial composers of his time. His life from his days as young prodigy down to his relatively early death is as much a subject of his legend as was his compositions. The movie Amadeus is a flashback portrayal of his life as remembered, at least in the movie, by his rival. The film Mozart in Turkey is one third documentary and two thirds an actual staging of Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail or The Abduction from the Sergalio one of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's most popular opera's during his lifetime.
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The movie Amadeus is an English language portrayal of his tragic life. while Mozart in Turkey is an opera performance in the original language. Taken together the two movies can give an excellent look at both the life and art of Mozart. Mozart in Turkey centers around one of his earliest successes while Amadeus dwells upon his rise, his fall and his tragic end where his genius is still apparent nonetheless.
The title Mozart in Turkey would not fit if it was just a staging of the Abduction it is also a study of the history of opera's fascination with Turkish culture as well as illuminating biological information on the life of Mozart while he was composing this opera. All told it is a fascinating rendition of the opera with elements of background thrown in. One of the first things that is worth noting is that the bulk of the movie is in fact a performance of the play. No review of the movie is can be complete without a review of the Opera. Aside from the Opera itself and background information that puts context and perspective on the composition of the play the movie also dwells upon the rigors of preparing an Opera. Viewers are treated to an increased appreciation of how much preparation and effort it actually takes to perform an opera from the elaborate stages, costumes and of course the actors themselves.
Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail belongs to the genre of "Singspiel" much of the action is carried forward by spoken dialogue and much of the music is a set of numbers. The Opera is also in German even if it is set in a Turkish palace, although like all good opera, knowledge of the language in which it is set is not a precursor to appreciating the play. It is a lighthearted comedy that lacks the deep character exploration and dark mood that is characteristic of Mozart's later operas. The Turkish setting is explained in the movie as caused by the fact that during the time period in which the opera was written there was considerable contemporary interest in Turkey.
After all in the 18th century Turkey was the dominant world power in the near East yet for most of Europe it remained largely a mysterious and unknown land. Moreover until very recently Turkey was still a major military threat to the Austrian Empire. The same can be said of Shakespeare's plays which were meant for an English audience yet were set in places like Venice, ancient Rome and Denmark the better to amaze and amuse the people by showing mysterious and foreign settings to them. In both cases, even if the theme of the work is relatively simple and easy to understand it is never the less amazing to behold in part thanks to the exotic culture in which it is set. In effect, the setting is deliberate to add mystique to his work and as the movie shows it was very effective in doing so.
Not so lighthearted was the climax of Amadeus. Mozart in his early 30s was a failed and broken man. The movie shows how for most of his life Mozart successfully trounced the lesser Salieri. Both grew into famous composers in within the Austrian empire but Mozart was always named the better. Even at the early age of six he was already the family breadwinner as people would pay to see the child perform. The climax of the movie occurs when Mozart is commissioned by a masked man to compose the Requiem. Requiem would be one of his greatest works ever and what added to its mystique was the fact that he died before he could complete it and the movie alleges that Salieri both commissioned the work and later finished it for Mozart after his death. However, those allegations are false just as the allegation that Salieri poisoned his rival. Mozart towards the end was a sickly man who was heavily in debt, his ill mind put two and two together when he saw a masked man ask him to compose the Requiem. He made up his mind that Requiem would be his dying masterpiece.
Perhaps one of the greatest expressions of his genius can be seen during this stage of the movie when he was already in his death bed and Salieri was helping him complete Requiem. It is worth noting that at this stage in his life he was almost completely deaf and his was hearing his composition entirely in his mind. Salieri did not understand why he made some of the choice in instruments, for example the use of the bassoon, only when he put it down to notes did he realize the genius of Mozart in making it.
After his death, we are shown the irony of Mozart's life; A child prodigy whose early work merited audiences as high as Kings and even the Emperor. As a composer he was so skillful that the emperor himself asked him to compose a play for his mistress. Yet by the time he was in his 30s he was already a failed man. He would be buried in a pauper's grave and his death lacked the fanfare of his earlier life. Yet his influence on Opera and works would carry on his name for future generations to come.
To conclude, the movie Mozart in Turkey can seen as a view of Mozart's early success and how effective he was in combining both his powerful musical style and the exotic tapestry of foreign lands. The movie Amadeus was more circumspect but is a better view of his ending days when all his fame amounted to nothing at least with respect to his personal fortune.