Saturday, 21 January 2012

How to hate Mozart

A season of Mozart's Da Ponte operas at the Royal Opera House started with Don Giovanni. Two casts : Finley, Karnéus, Regazzo or Schrott, Donose, and Esposito (my prefered, I think). For fun, I've been watching the rarely seen Mozart movie, Whom the Gods Love (Basil Dean, 1936).Mozart (played by Stephen Haggard of the Rider Haggard clan) is chatting with a bunch of brain dead bimbos (the Weber family and conveniently, Schikaneder), when they spot a "queer fish". "He looks like a marionette!" squeals Constanze. "Allow me to introduce myself" says the gaunt figure. "I'm Lorenzo da Ponte".

In the next scene Haydn tells Joseph II that Mozart's good. "In that case we shall have him write an opera". The script is based on Constanze's memoirs, coloured as they were by time and vanity. Also, the film was meant as a vehicle for the director's wife, Victoria Hopper. So the emphasis is on Constanze's charms and maipulativeness. One wonders about relationships in the Dean household. Mozart's pretty much in the background, portrayed as an effeminate, stupid child.  Mozart was odd, but this film doesn't go into that. When his mother dies he flaps about and postures "Is this Death?", hand raised to his forehead, the frame shot in diagonal, like a parody of art movie. Needless to say, the scenes about the Requiem and the Magic Flute are high camp.

The film isn't very good and isn't commercially available, but it's significant from an educational point of view, and needs to be known. Just as Miloš Forman's Amadeus transformed Mozart and Salieri's public image, many would have taken this earlier film at face value. And it's much better than the portrait of Schubert in Lilac Time, which even Tauber, who appeared in it, thought a joke. That's the nature of movies about composers. They're fiction, not fact. Only the very greatest lift the genre, when they're perceptive about the music and the artistic persona behind it. But many more people see movies than go deeper into the subject.  Shallowness sticks. This soundtrack uses clips from Beecham's Mozart and elaborate costumes to give it credibility (especially with 1930's British audiences). But Mozart, it ain't. The answer? Always keep listening, keep learning. Composers, like all human beings, are infinitely complex. Watch the film HERE, it's a public service.

Lots more on this site about music on film, music in movies, documentaries and art film. Some are genuine art, others like The Flying Dutchman meets Carmen and naked Ava Gardner.

No comments: