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Mozart at 250: The Salzburg Festival Celebration banner
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Celebrating Mozart
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Salzburg Festival
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European MozartWays
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NPR.org: MORNING EDITION: 'The Librettist of Venice:' Mozart's Poet
Vienna Philharmonic
Daniel Harding
Hampsong: Thomas Hampson
Magdalena Kozená
Anna Netrebko
René Pape
Patricia Petibon (in French)
Michael Schade
Askonas Holt: Artists: Ekaterina Siurina


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MOZART'S SALZBURG
(continued)

The crisis point came when Mozart was commissioned to write an opera for Munich (his first great piece for the stage, "Idomeneo"). He managed to stretch a six-week leave of absence to four months. "So direct a challenge was not to be tolerated" by the archbishop, Ottaway writes. "This presumptuous young man must be disciplined." And so the stage was set for the infamous kick to Mozart's posterior.

When Colloredo was in Vienna on business, with a large retinue to attend him, he summoned Mozart and made him resume the stance of the lowly court musician, which, among other things, meant taking his meals with the archbishop's other servants. "Note that the two valets sit at the head of the table," Mozart wrote to his father, "but at least I have the honor of being placed above the cooks."

Mozart got away with as much as he could, refusing to fulfill all the little duties expected of him or to show proper respect to his superiors. Colloredo retaliated by refusing (most of the time) to let Mozart make money on the side, playing concerts for important folks in Vienna. Finally, the archbishop ordered Mozart back to Salzburg and even told him to carry a parcel of goods with him, to remind him that he was, after all, just another hired hand. That was the last straw. The composer resigned -- it took five attempts before Colloredo's chamberlain would let Mozart deliver his farewell -- and, on his way out the door for the last time, received the blow to his pride (and hindquarters). "That means that Salzburg is no longer the place for me," Mozart wrote home, "except to provide a good opportunity of giving the Count a kick on his ass in return, even if it should occur in the public street."

Fortunately, that opportunity never came. Mozart stayed in Vienna, where he flourished (artistically, if not always financially). Colloredo returned to Salzburg and, except for the part of his life that intersected with Mozart's, obscurity.

And, while Salzburg would never again rate in Mozart's book, it would grow over the decades to love (and profit nicely from) the man and his music. No better reversal of the prince-archbishop's attitude could be found than the Salzburg Festival, which attracts about 250,000 people every summer and never fails to acknowledge the genius of Mozart.

Whether that acknowledgment is always tasteful is a matter of occasional debate. There were recent years filled with radical, deconstructionist productions of his operas by exceedingly provocative stage directors (booing them became an honored tradition among audiences). But nothing has ever really diminished the Salzburg Festival's claim on Mozart devotion or its status as a cultural destination. The best singers and conductors have performed his music since the festival took firm hold more than 80 years ago (none of them has had to eat at a servants' table). That abundance of quality musicians and expressive Mozart interpreters still pours into the city.

A festival thriving so mightily in the city Mozart hated, in the very shadow of the places where his nemesis once presided so myopically, sure looks like poetic justice. It seems as if Mozart got his opportunity to give Colloredo that return kick in the ass after all.



Top banner photos: Soprano Patricia Petibon; tenor Michael Schade, conductor Daniel Harding, and the Vienna Philharmonic (photo courtesy ORF/Ali Schafler); and soprano Anna Netrebko (photo courtesy ORF/Ali Schafler).

The Felsenreitschule has been a festival venue since 1926.

The Felsenreitschule has been a festival venue since 1926.

Daniel Harding conducts the Vienna Philharmonic.

Daniel Harding conducts the Vienna Philharmonic.

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