Bertramka's sala terrena, an intimate concert space, adorned with original 18th Century murals. Photo by Sherry Davis. My article,...Monday, October 29, 2012
The Plight of Mozart's Eden: Saving the Villa Bertramka
|Bertramka's sala terrena, an intimate concert space, adorned with original 18th Century murals. Photo by Sherry Davis.|
|A pair of opera glasses owned by Josefa Dušek, the owner of Bertramka during Mozart's visits. They are exemplary of the precious artifacts that were once displayed in Bertramka's Museum. Photo by Sherry Davis.|
Bertramka remained in its original state until a fire emerged from an outbuilding resulting in extensive damage to the villa on December 31, 1873. The outbuilding was destroyed as well as Bertramka's shingle roof. Miraculously, Mozart's study and its beautifully ornate beamed ceilings were untouched. The renovation work undertaken by owner Adolf Popelka unfortunately reflected a 19th Century aesthetic and although there were attempts in the following decades to restore it to its original state before the fire, it has never been fully achieved. The industrial revolution also changed the landscape surrounding Bertramka, and now only the original wall contains remnants of the former estate once known to Mozart.
The Czech Mozart Society purchased Bertramka from the Mozarteum in 1929 and had begun restoration efforts, concerts and exhibitions, but this ended with the Nazi occupation and subsequent Communist rule. They were pressured to turn over Bertramka to the State and they did so in 1986, but they applied for restitution a few years later after the Communist regime collapsed. During the lengthy litigation process, Bertramka was rented, operated and maintained by Comenius (the Pan-European Society for Culture, Education, and Scientific and Technical Cooperation). In 2009, the Court finally ruled in favor of the Czech Mozart Society after 18 years of litigation.
|A room in Bertramka displayed a fortepiano believed to have been played by Mozart. Photo by Sherry Davis.|
Bertramka was unrecognizable. All of the major fixtures in the bathroom and kitchen along with all other electrical and lighting fixtures and furniture had been removed with great recklessness. The previous tenant had taken most of these items, and although it’s unknown as to who was responsible for extricating all of the artifacts, instruments and portraits from the museum, the Municipality of Prague 5, the Czech Museum of Music and the former tenant are strongly implied. Some of these items are now in the National Museum and the Czech Museum of Music is also claiming ownership of Bertramka’s treasures. It’s difficult to trace this ownership back as many of the people who would have remembered are now gone. Old politics and alliances have come into play. There will inevitably be another round of litigation over the ownership and restitution of these exhibition items. Watch a tour video of the museum prior to the restitution incident.
|Photos of the ailing Bertramka taken by Dr. Libin during her visit in summer 2012.|
In addition to losing everything in the museum, the Czech Mozart Society also lost the majority of their archival records. While Bertramka was being rented by Comenius, they did not have access to their archives for the past seven years, which were stored in an outbuilding. When they opened it in 2009 during the restitution, they found that their documents and chronicles had been strewn everywhere and the building had been inhabited by martens. Their archives had been virtually destroyed.
“When they could not in the end stop the Court Decision that Bertramka must be returned to the Mozart Society, then “they” were only about one thing – to plunder it, damage it, in order that Bertramka could not serve for a long time as an important cultural monument of Prague. And they might even be successful in this, because we have been able to restore only the concert room at present,” said Dr. Tomislav Volek, President of the Czech Mozart Society, in the Czech TV segment, On The Restitution of Bertramka.
In response to the incident, Dr. Libin founded the Friends of Bertramka, an organization devoted to working with the Czech Mozart Society to restore the property, its museum, concerts and initiatives. In summer 2012, Dr. Libin visited Bertramka to donate the funds thus far collected to Dr. Volek. She reported to me that Bertramka was not in good condition as the Society had not been able to afford even basic maintenance. The villa had endured a few difficult winters since 2009 and parts of the facade were crumbling. The garden was also in a state of disarray.
|Dr. Libin and Dr. Volek at Bertramka in summer 2012. Photo by Milada Jonášová.|
Sherry Davis began her authorship of The Chronicles of a Modern-Day Mozartian as an avenue to re-imagine the manner in which the life and music of Wolfgang Amadé Mozart is communicated, shared and defined. By enhancing the history through a change in presentation to create accessibility, excitement and relevance in the contemporary, her platform connects audiences to Mozart through engaging narrative, historical insight and playful banter. From managing a theatrical release to scripting a television program, developing an app for mobile devices and dedicating her efforts to the restoration of an historic landmark, Sherry has become an authority on championing the Mozart name. Pioneering a professional identity as Mozart Preservationist, she creates awareness of the history’s musical, musicological and cultural significance to cultivate sustainability through appreciation and patronage. Her work is respected and consulted by music educators, arts professionals and general enthusiasts. From scholarship to popular culture, Sherry brings Mozart into perspective via the 18th Century, the latest and greatest, and everything in between.