Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Celebrating the 30th Anniversary of Amadeus


On the 30th anniversary of its premiere, Amadeus has reached a new threshold. It no longer has to justify itself to the academician or the purist. It has surpassed the argument, having succeeded in procuring more Mozart admirers than music professionals dare imagine. When Mozart is mentioned in the everyday, Amadeus follows shortly in conversation. It has helped eradicate the elitist stigma associated with the classical genre. New reviews of the film are published regularly and social media platforms are full of new viewers who are on a quest to discover the man beyond the proscenium. It is a known component of music education curricula. And in regards to the fans themselves, well, few films enjoy such a brand of loyalty. In 2014, Amadeus truly lives on its own terms and no longer needs permission to be what it is, in Peter Shaffer's words, "...a fantasia based on fact."

On June 11, 2013, Milos Forman was honored with the Golden Mozart Medal, the highest distinction awarded by the Mozarteum, for the film's contribution to Mozart's legacy. The film didn't require this particular recognition to have achieved emancipation, but the reconciliation between Hollywood and the governing institution of Mozart heritage indeed set the precedent on the eve of its 30th anniversary.
Matthias Schulz, Executive Manager and Artistic Director, released this statement: "The conversations during our meeting with Milos Forman last week showed once again what enormous efforts and what seriousness went into the making of this film and that above all music had a major role to play. This honor was long overdue."

In the years leading up to the film's recognition by the Mozarteum, the most compelling work of vindication by academia was written by Robert Marshall. Film as Musicology: Amadeus was published in 1997 by The Musical Quarterly. "Furthermore, and now comes the really good part since people were baffled and could not get enough of the movie, or Mozart, or his music, they turned to the members of this profession for answers and guidance. More significantly, by far, in the wake of Amadeus, enrollments in college music courses nationwide, especially courses about WAM himself, saw unprecedented increases. That movie, then, had become our most potent ally. I would submit that it became the most potent ally of everyone engaged in the enterprise of cultivating and promulgating classical music performers, scholars and teachers. So, two thumbs up here for Amadeus!"

Matthias Schulz presents Milos Forman with the Golden Mozart Medal. June 11, 2013. Image: ClassicalSource.com.

Amadeus is indeed magical in the way that it can turn an unacquainted or casual listener into a dedicated Mozartian. When my teacher played the film for my 5th grade music class, it ignited an inquisitiveness that would play a role in driving my passion, and per Robert Marshall, I know I'm not alone. If we could gather every individual who has ever undertaken at least one pursuit (amateur or professional) based on inspiration from the film, be it in music, literature or another discipline, I think the quantity would truly astound. Amadeus is unique from other films in its ability to sustain audiences through inspiring their ongoing engagement with its subject. No other film compares in this regard.

As the 30th anniversary year began in January 2014, I contacted the Saul Zaentz Company to request permission to organize a screening of Amadeus to benefit Friends of Bertramka, a group of dedicated scholars and enthusiasts working to save and restore the endangered Mozart landmark in Prague. Given Prague's significance to Milos Forman as his native city and to the film in providing its overall 18th Century aesthetic through its preserved period architecture, I thought it would be an ideal homage. The Estates Theatre, which was beautifully utilized in the film's opera scenes, and Bertramka, are two of the most significant Mozart landmarks still in existence today. My inquiry received a response directly from Paul Zaentz, Saul's nephew, who kindly offered his support for the screening. I discussed the possibilities with the organization and different venues, but had to forgo plans due to timing and availability.

Nonetheless, I still wanted to move forward with a shared social experience to celebrate the film, so I decided to create a worldwide watch party on September 6th, the 30th anniversary of its Westwood premiere. Given that Amadeus experienced great losses in its Academy award-winning creative team in 2014 with Producer Saul Zaentz, Make-Up Artist Dick Smith, and most recently, Art Director Karl Cerny on September 5th, the celebration would be bittersweet, but one that charged us to celebrate even more for the memory of these remarkable individuals who enriched our lives through film.

To mark the occasion, I invited fans to submit a photo capturing their watch party experience and the resulting pictorial is appropriately playful and artful! Fans gathered with family and friends, celebrating with their favorite confections, costumes and characters. The watch party even inspired Greta Di Raimondo (Italy) to create an original drawing of Mozart and Ela Rusinek-Szmigiel (Poland) to organize a lovely outdoor screening event for 50 guests near the Oder River. These individuals represent what is so special and enduring about Amadeus and the artist behind the title who continues to elevate and alleviate our world through his music and his story.

Sherry

Sherry Davis (That's me, attempting to channel the film's ominous cover art!). USA.
Greta Di Raimondo. Original Artwork. Italy.

Anna Leticia Domenico Maso. Brazil. 

Ariela Haro von Mogel. USA.

Laura Helena Rautiainen. Finland.

Sheryl Davis. USA.

Ela Rusinek-Szmigiel. Poland.

Lynette Erwin. USA.

Karl Haro von Mogel. USA.

Sandy Alzubi. USA.