Mozart and Prague

By Erin Naillon

“My Praguers understand me,” said Mozart – and indeed they did.

Mozart and Prague

Vienna was less than kind to Mozart and his music; Prague, on the other hand, responded enthusiastically when his opera The Marriage of Figaro was presented in the city for the first time. Several Prague citizens banded together and paid Mozart’s way to Prague so that he could hear their rendition of his opera.

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Mozart arrived on January 11, 1787, in a welcoming city. On January 18, he gave the premiere concert of his Symphony in D major, which is now also called the “Prague Symphony”. He had been given a reception equal to that of a modern-day celebrity, and his gratitude ran deep. He stayed with the Dušek family in their villa, Bertramka, in the pleasant countryside outside the city walls.

Don Giovanni

On October 29, 1787, Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni premiered in Prague, at the Estates Theater. The city went wild for it, and it received rave reviews in the press. Mozart was asked to remain in Prague to write another opera, but he decided to return to Vienna. It is thought that he was eager to apply for a court position that had just opened, owing to the death of the previous incumbent; another theory is that Vienna had more talented musicians than Prague. Mozart would only return to Prague once more, in 1789. He died two years later. While the city of Vienna tossed his body into a common grave, the people of Prague went into mourning when they heard the news of his death.

Mozart Remembered

In 1984, the film Amadeus, based on the Peter Shaffer play, was released. It took a fictional look at the rivalry between the young and brash Mozart and the far-less-talented court composer, Salieri. Though set in Vienna, where Mozart lived much of his life, the film was shot in Prague.

Villa Bertramka was gradually swallowed up by urban expansion. It became a Mozart museum but closed in 2009. The Estates Theater still stands, and still holds classical music concerts and operas – especially Mozart’s. (It was also used as a set for Amadeus.)

In 2006, an enormous Mozart festival was held in Prague, in commemoration of the 250th anniversary of the composer’s birth. Concerts, operas, festivals, and exhibitions were held to honor him, as befitted the city that gave him his greatest recognition during his lifetime.

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