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The incredible story of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, told by his peer and secret rival Antonio Salieri - now confined to an insane asylum.
Antonio Salieri: [reflecting upon a Mozart score] On the page it looked nothing. The beginning simple, almost comic. Just a pulse. Bassoons and basset horns, like a rusty squeezebox. And then suddenly, high above it, an oboe. A single note, hanging there, unwavering. Until a clarinet took over and sweetened it into a phrase of such delight! This was no composition by a performing monkey! This was a music I'd never heard. Filled with such longing, such unfulfillable longing, it had me trembling. It seemed to me that I was hearing the voice of God.
[last lines] [Salieri is wheelchaired through the insane asylum] Antonio Salieri: Mediocrities everywhere... I absolve you... I absolve you... I absolve you... I absolve you... I absolve you all.
Antonio Salieri: All I wanted was to sing to God. He gave me that longing... and then made me mute. Why? Tell me that. If He didn't want me to praise him with music, why implant the desire? Like a lust in my body! And then deny me the talent?
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Forgive me, Majesty. I am a vulgar man! But I assure you, my music is not. Emperor Joseph II: You are passionate, Mozart, but you do not persuade...
Antonio Salieri: Leave me alone. Father Vogler: I cannot leave alone a soul in pain. Antonio Salieri: Do you know who I am? Father Vogler: It makes no difference. All men are equal in God's eyes. Antonio Salieri: [leans in mockingly] *Are* they?
Antonio Salieri: [addressing a crucifix] From now, we are enemies... You and I. Because You choose for Your instrument a boastful, lustful, smutty, infantile boy and give me for reward only to recognize the incarnation. Because You are unjust, unfair, unkind, I will block You, I swear it. I will hinder and harm Your creature as far as I am able. I will ruin Your incarnation.
Antonio Salieri: [to Father Vogel] I will speak for you, Father. I speak for all mediocrities in the world. I am their champion. I am their patron saint.
Antonio Salieri: [reflecting upon a Mozart score] Astounding! It was actually, it was beyond belief. But they showed no corrections of any kind. Not one. He had simply written down music already finished in his head! Page after page of it as if he were just taking dictation. And music, finished as no music is ever finished. Displace one note and there would be diminishment. Displace one phrase and the structure would fall. It was clear to me that sound I had heard in the Archbishop's palace had been no accident. Here again was the very voice of God! I was staring through the cage of those meticulous ink-strokes at an absolute beauty. [he drops the pages] Constanze Mozart: Is it not good? Antonio Salieri: It is miraculous!
Emperor Joseph II: My dear young man, don't take it too hard. Your work is ingenious. It's quality work. And there are simply too many notes, that's all. Just cut a few and it will be perfect. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Which few did you have in mind, Majesty?
Antonio Salieri: My plan was so simple. It terrified me. First I must get the death mass and then, I must achieve his death. Father Vogler: [stares in horror] What? Antonio Salieri: His funeral! Imagine it, the cathedral, all Vienna sitting there, his coffin, Mozart's little coffin in the middle, and then, in that silence, music! A divine music bursts out over them all. A great mass of death! Requiem mass for Wolfgang Mozart, composed by his devoted friend, Antonio Salieri! Oh what sublimity, what depth, what passion in the music! Salieri has been touched by God at last. And God is forced to listen! Powerless, powerless to stop it! I, for once in the end, laughing at him! [beat] Antonio Salieri: The only thing that worried me was the actual killing. How does one do that? Hmmm? How does one kill a man? It's one thing to dream about it; very different when, when you, when you have to do it with your own hands.
Antonio Salieri: [to Father Vogel] While my father prayed earnestly to God to protect commerce, I would offer up secretly the proudest prayer a boy could think of: "Lord, make me a great composer. Let me celebrate Your glory through music and be celebrated myself. Make me famous through the world, dear God. Make me immortal. After I die, let people speak my name forever with love for what I wrote. In return, I will give You my chastity, my industry, my deepest humility, every hour of my life, Amen." And do you know what happened? A miracle!
[Having played two pieces of music to Father Vogel, who does not recognize either] Antonio Salieri: Can you remember no melody of mine? I was the most famous composer in Europe. I wrote 40 operas alone! [suddenly inspired] Antonio Salieri: Here, what about this one? [he plays the first few bars of "Eine kleine Natchmuzik" while Father Vogel hums along] Father Vogler: Yes, I know that! Oh, that's charming! I'm sorry, I didn't know you wrote what. Antonio Salieri: I didn't. That was Mozart. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Father Vogler: [smile fades] The man you accuse yourself of killing.
Antonio Salieri: I heard the music of true forgiveness filling the theater, conferring on all who sat there, perfect absolution. God was singing through this little man to all the world, unstoppable, making my defeat more bitter with every passing bar.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: I actually threw the score on the fire, he made me so angry. Antonio Salieri: You burned the score? Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: No, no. My wife took it out in time.
Antonio Salieri: Are you sure you can't leave these and, and come back again? Constanze Mozart: It's very tempting sir, but it's impossible, I'm afraid. Wolfgang would be frantic if he found those were missing, you see they're all originals. Antonio Salieri: Originals? Constanze Mozart: Yes, sir, he doesn't make copies. Antonio Salieri: These, are originals?
[repeated line] Emperor Joseph II: Well, there it is.
Antonio Salieri: Mozart, it was good of you to come! Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: How could I not? Antonio Salieri: How... Did my work please you? Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: [hesitantly] I never knew that music like that was possible! Antonio Salieri: [uncertainly] You flatter me. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: [insincerely] No, no! One hears such sounds, and what can one say but... Salieri!
[addressing the complaints about the "improper" libretto for "Figaro"] Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Come on now, be honest! Which one of you wouldn't rather listen to his hairdresser than Hercules? Or Horatius, or Orpheus... people so lofty they sound as if they shit marble!
[the Emperor offers the sheet music of Salieri's welcome march to Mozart] Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Keep it Majesty, if you want. It's already here in my head. Emperor Joseph II: What? On one hearing only? Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: I think so, Sire, yes. Emperor Joseph II: Show us.
Constanze Mozart: Wolfie, I think you really are going mad. You work like a slave for that idiot actor who won't give you a penny. And here, this is not a ghost! This is a real man who puts down real money. Why on earth won't you finish it? Can you give me one reason I can understand? Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: It's killing me.
Antonio Salieri: [to Father Vogel] That was Mozart. That! That giggling dirty-minded creature I had just seen, crawling on the floor!
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: [about the royal composer's position he did not get] Whom did they choose? Antonio Salieri: Herr Zummer. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Herr Zummer? But the man's a fool, he's a total mediocrity! Antonio Salieri: No, no, he has yet to achieve mediocrity.
Antonio Salieri: He was my idol. Mozart, I can't think of a time when I didn't know his name. I was still playing childish games and he was playing music for kings and emperors. Even the Pope in Rome! I admit I was jealous when I heard the tales they told about him. Not of the brilliant little prodigy himself, but of his father, who had taught him everything.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: [trying on wigs] They're all so beautiful. Why don't have three heads?
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: "Confutatis maledictis" - when the wicked are confounded. "Flammis Acribus Adictis." How would you translate that? Antonio Salieri: Consigned to flames of woe. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Do you believe in it? Antonio Salieri: What? Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: A fire which never dies, burning you forever? Antonio Salieri: Oh yes.
Antonio Salieri: [to Father Vogel] Your merciful God. He destroyed His own beloved, rather than let a mediocrity share in the smallest part of His glory. He killed Mozart and kept me alive to torture! 32 years of torture! 32 years of slowly watching myself become extinct. My music growing fainter, all the fainter till no one plays it at all, and his...
Emanuel Schikaneder: Look, I asked you if we could start rehearsals next week and you said yes. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Well, we can. Emanuel Schikaneder: So let me see it. Where is it? Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Here. It's all right here in my noodle. The rest is just scribbling. Scribbling and bibbling, bibbling and scribbling.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Why must I submit samples of my work to some stupid committee just to teach a thirteen-year-old girl? Count Von Strack: Because His Majesty wishes it. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Is the emperor angry with me? Count Von Strack: Quite the contrary. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Then why doesn't he simply appoint me to the post? Count Von Strack: Mozart, you are not the *only* composer in Vienna. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: No, but I'm the best!
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: [speaking backwards] Say I'm sick. Say I'm sick! Constanze Mozart: Yes, you are. You are very sick. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: [chuckling] No-ho-ho! Say it backwards, shit-wit!
[Mozart loses at musical chairs] Emanuel Schikaneder: Herr Mozart, why don't you name your son's penalty? Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Yes, Papa. Name it. Name it, I'll do anything you say. Anything. Leopold Mozart: I want you to come back to Salzburg with me, my son. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Papa, the rule is you can only give a penalty that can be performed in the room. Leopold Mozart: I'm tired of this game, I don't want to play anymore. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: But my penalty! [jumping up and down like an angry child] Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: I've got to have a penalty!
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: [to Emperor Joseph II] Sire, only opera can do this. In a play if more than one person speaks at the same time, it's just noise, no one can understand a word. But with opera, with music... with music you can have twenty individuals all talking at the same time, and it's not noise, it's a perfect harmony!
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: [of his great opera "Figaro"] Nine performances! Nine, that's all it's had! And withdrawn! Antonio Salieri: I know, I know, it's outrageous. Still, if the public doesn't like one's work, one has to accept the fact gracefully. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: But what is it that they don't like? Antonio Salieri: I can speak for the Emperor. You make too many demands on the royal ear. The poor man can't concentrate for more than an hour... you gave him four. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: What did you think of it yourself? Did you like it at all? Antonio Salieri: I thought it was marvelous. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Of course! It's the best opera yet written, I know it... why didn't they come? Antonio Salieri: I think you overestimate our dear Viennese, my friend. You know you didn't even give them a good *bang* at the end of songs, to let them know when to clap? Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: I know, I know... maybe you should give me some lessons in that.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: The whole thing is set in a harem, Majesty. In a seraglio. Count Orsini-Rosenberg: You mean in Turkey? Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Yes, exactly. Count Orsini-Rosenberg: Then why especially does it have to be in German? Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: It doesn't, especially. It could be in Turkish if you really want.
Constanze Mozart: No. I'm not going to marry you. You're a fiend! Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: [speaking backwards] Ooy vol I tub. Ooy vol I tub! Constanze Mozart: Tub, but. I. Vol, love... But I love you? Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: [nods, mouths] I love you.
Constanze Mozart: What are you doing here? Antonio Salieri: Your husband took sick. I brought him home. Constanze Mozart: But why you? Antonio Salieri: Because, madam, I was at hand.
Antonio Salieri: The restored third act was bold, brilliant. The fourth... was astounding.
Antonio Salieri: [to Father Vogel] So rose the dreadful ghost from his next and blackest opera. There, on the stage, stood the figure of a dead commander. And I knew, only I understood that the horrifying aparition was Leopold, raised from the dead! Wolfgang had actually summoned up his own father to accuse his son before all the world! It was terrifying and wonderful to watch. And now the madness began in me. The madness of the man splitting in half. Through my influence, I saw to it Don Giovanni was played only five times in Vienna. But in secret, I went to every one of those five, worshipping sounds I alone seem to hear. And hour after hour, as I stood there, understanding how that bitter old man was still possessing his poor son even from beyond the grave. I began to see a way, a terrible way, I could finally triumph over God.
Antonio Salieri: My father, he did not care for music. When I told him how I wished I could be like Mozart, he would say; "Why? Do you want to be a trained monkey? Would you like me to drag you around Europe, doing tricks like a circus freak?" [Salieri chuckles ruefully] Antonio Salieri: How could I tell *him*... what music meant to me?
Constanze Mozart: Stop it! Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: I am stopping it! Slowly. There? See? I've stopped. Now we're going back. Constanze Mozart: No! Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Yes, yes! You don't know where you are! Here, everything goes backwards. People walk backwards, dance backwards, sing backwards, and even talk backwards. Constanze Mozart: That's stupid. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Why? People fart backwards.
Constanze Mozart: [to Mozart's father] May I offer you some tea, Herr Mozart? Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Tea? Who wants tea? Let's go out! This calls for a feast. You don't want tea, do you, Papa? Constanze Mozart: Wolfie... Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: I know, let's go dancing! Papa loves parties, don't you? Constanze Mozart: Wolfie! Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: What? How can you be so boring? Tea...
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: I am fed to the teeth with elevated themes! Old dead legends! Why must we go on forever writing about gods and legends? Baron Van Swieten: Because they do. They go on forever. Or at least what they represent. The eternal in us. Opera is here to enoble us. You and me, just the same as His Majesty.
Count Orsini-Rosenberg: Italian is the proper language for opera. All educated people agree on that.
Katerina Cavalieri: I heard you met Herr Mozart. Antonio Salieri: News travels fast in Vienna. Katerina Cavalieri: And he's been commissioned to write an opera. Is it true? Antonio Salieri: Yes. Katerina Cavalieri: Is there a part in it for me? Antonio Salieri: No. Katerina Cavalieri: How do you know? Antonio Salieri: Do you know where it's set, my dear? Katerina Cavalieri: No. Antonio Salieri: In a harem. Katerina Cavalieri: What's that? Antonio Salieri: A brothel! Katerina Cavalieri: Oh-h-h-h! Antonio Salieri: Come. Let's begin. Katerina Cavalieri: What does he look like? Antonio Salieri: Mozart? You might be disappointed. Katerina Cavalieri: Why? Antonio Salieri: Looks and talent don't always go together, Katerina Katerina Cavalieri: Looks don't concern me, maestro. Only talent interests a woman of taste.
Antonio Salieri: [to Father Vogel] That was not Mozart laughing, Father... that was God. That was God laughing at me through that obscene giggle...
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: My music... they started without me!
[first lines] Antonio Salieri: Mozart! Mozart, forgive your assassin! I confess, I killed you...
Archbishop Colloredo: [to Mozart's father] Your son is an unprincipled, spoiled, conceited brat!
Antonio Salieri: [about Emperor Joseph II's musical tastes] Actually, the man had no ear at all. But what did it matter. He adored my music.
Count Orsini-Rosenberg: [about Mozart] A young man trying to impress beyond his abilities.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: It's unbelievable, the director has actually torn up a huge section of my music. They say I have to rewrite the opera. But it's perfect as it is! I can't rewrite what's perfect!
Emanuel Schikaneder: [to Mozart] Look, you little clown, do you know how many people I've hired for you? Do you know how many people are waiting? Constanze Mozart: [shouting] Leave him alone! He's doing his best! Emanuel Schikaneder: [to Mozart] I'm paying these people, don't you understand? I'm paying these people to wait while you do nothing! It's ridiculous! Constanze Mozart: You know what's ridiculous? Your libretto, that's what's ridiculous! Only an idiot would ask Wolfie to work on that stuff! 12-foot snakes, magic flutes? Emanuel Schikaneder: What's so intelligent about writing a Requiem mass? Constanze Mozart: Money! Money! Emanuel Schikaneder: She's mad, Wolfie. Write it down please. Just write it down on paper. It's no good to anybody in your head. To hell with your death mass.