Mozart: The life of an icon

Renowned early on as the darling of the Austrian Empire, Mozart had problems later.

Mozart was born in Salzburg in 1756 and died in Vienna less than 36 years later. During his short but productive life, he composed more than 600 works and performed before royalty and nobility in much of Europe.

Renowned early on as the darling of Imperial Austria, he had problems later. Although often disdained in his adult years and distrusted by the powerful clergy and royalty for his association with the then-heretical Freemasons, he nevertheless performed continually and composed sonatas, piano concertos, string quartets, sacred music, symphonies, and operas.

The modest Salzburg apartment where Mozart was born has long been a museum, but only a plaque on a Vienna department store commemorates the site where he died.

Austria affixes commemorative plaques and markers on buildings where someone famous was born, died, lived, worked, dined, and so forth. Red-and-white banners mark the most significant so that passersby can't possibly miss them.

Salzburg is in north-central Austria near the German border. Festung Hohensalzburg, a foreboding medieval fortress, guards the oldest section. Begun in 1077, the fortress was already nearly seven centuries old when Mozart was a baby.

From kitsch to glorious architecture

In the old district's narrow streets, Mozart's face is everywhere. As you wander, you will run a gauntlet of street vendors and souvenir shops displaying an abundance of a local marzipan-nougat-chocolate confection called Mozartkugeln, Mozart puppets, and other memorabilia.

Narrow lanes spill out onto Residenzplatz, which is surrounded by glorious examples of Renaissance dwellings.

On one side of the square is the magnificent Residenz (begun about 1600). This palace was home to the prince-archbishops of Salzburg, who oversaw both the city's spiritual and temporal life. Young Mozart performed there. Visit the state apartments, see art exhibitions, or attend a concert or lecture in its opulent public rooms.

Across the way is the Residenz Neubau, a late 16th-century building that is new only in the context of such an old city. It is now the home of the Salzburg Museum, recently relocated there.

There will be music everywhere, of course. Even the Marionette Theatre, renowned for clever puppet shows set to opera recordings, highlights Mozart throughout 2006.

To learn more about the composer's background, head for the nearby village of St. Gilgen, where Mozart's maternal grandparents were married and where his mother was born. Her birthplace is now a small museum.

Stop at the Konditorei Dallmann for a slice of Mozart's Reisetorte, a duplicate of the treat his mother baked for him when he went on performance tours. In the time before trains, Mozart is known to have spent 10 years, eight months, and two days - nearly one-third of his life - in stagecoaches. The preservative-free cake, which stays fresh for two months, sustained him during his travels.

Vienna celebrates, too

Wolfgang and his wife, Constanza, lived in a dozen places in Vienna. The only building still standing is at Domgasse 5. Once a small museum in an upper-floor apartment of minimal interest, it has been expanded to a three-story museum called the Mozarthaus.

In 1782, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Constanza Weber were married around the corner in the Stephansdom (St. Stephen's Cathedral) . Begun in the 12th century as a Romanesque sanctuary, it was later transformed into the massive Gothic cathedral seen today. After Mozart's death on Dec. 5, 1791, his body was blessed here (around the corner from Mozarthaus) and carried through a small back door for burial in an unmarked grave at Markuskirche (St. Mark's Church).

Just four days later, his prophetic but unfinished "Requiem" premièred in the nearby Michaelerkirche (St. Michael's Church). Although Mozart's precise burial place is unknown, a charming angel statue in the cemetery honors his life and his talents.

Venues throughout Vienna have scheduled performances of Mozart's works all year long. The city's two major resident companies, the Vienna State Opera and the Volksoper (People's Opera), are also staging Mozart's most popular operas, including "The Magic Flute," "Don Giovanni," and "The Marriage of Figaro."

The Theater an der Wien, known for its excellent acoustics, has returned to its original function as a true opera house, offering a complete Mozart season.

The Musikverein's opulent Goldener Saal (Golden Hall), from which the Vienna Philharmonic broadcasts its traditional New Year's Day concert, hosts Mozart performances with musicians in 18th-century attire.

Even the Vienna Boys' Choir is singing there this year. They usually appear at the Hofkapelle (Royal Chapel) in the Hofburg, the massive palace complex where the imperial Habsburg family lived.

At Schönbrunn, the Habsburg monarchs' elaborate summer palace on Vienna's southwestern outskirts, the story is told of 6-year-old Mozart enchanting the Empress Maria Theresa. His appearance at a dinner there is meticulously detailed in monumental paintings that hang in a reception room . A small square of Plexiglas protects a section of a large painting where tour guides' wooden pointers began to scrape away at little Mozart's likeness.

At the Albertina, then a palace and now a noteworthy art museum, scholar Ludwig von Köchel catalogued Mozart's works. Musicologists still refer to the "Köchel Listings."

The recently renovated Albertina presents a Mozart Year blockbuster through Aug. 13. Zaha Hadid, 2004 winner of the Pritzker Prize for Architecture, has created a groundbreaking exhibition spotlighting Mozart's internationalism and the ideals of the Age of Enlightenment mirrored in his works.

At the Haus der Musik (Music House), you'll learn that people can hear, see, and touch music. The "areas of discovery" are creative, fun, and child-friendly. One offers music games that are instructive and fun. There's a sound gallery where you can mix your own compositions based on "The Magic Flute" and take it home on a CD.

The melodies of Mozart will resonate everywhere you go in Austria during 2006 - timeless melodies that make everything seem better.

The world celebrates Mozart

Already, hundreds of musical salutes to Mozart's anniversary have taken place, and thousands more are on the calendar. Here's a sampling:

• You can find a complete listing of Mozart events in Austria at www.mozart2006.net/eng/index. html.

• Mozartfest, Würzburg, Germany, June 2-July 1. www.mozartfest-wuerzburg.de.

• The Power of Mozart, concerts by the Royal College of Music Chamber Orchestra and Choir, through September. On June 27, there will be a 24-hour challenge to write music inspired by Mozart. www.rcm.ac.uk/thepowerofmozart.

• The Berkshire Opera Orchestra, Great Barrington, Mass., July 5, a Mozart Celebration, featuring Metropolitan Opera stars including Maureen O'Flynn. www.berkshireopera. org/mozart.html.

• The 36th annual Mozart Festival in San Luis Obispo, Calif., July 8-24. It offers Mozart and more. They plan to celebrate the year of Mozart's birth with the music of Beethoven and Shostakovich, in addition to Mozart's. www.mozartfestival.com.

• Mostly Mozart Festival from Lincoln Center in New York, July 28-Aug. 11. It will feature the world premiere of a new violin concerto by the Finnish composer Magnus Lindberg, a new production of Mozart's opera "Zaide" staged by Peter Sellars, and the world premiere of Mark Morris's "Mozart Dances." www.lincoln center.org.

• Mozart Festival in Schwetzingen, Germany, Sept. 9-Oct 10. It will be the 31st Mozart Festival of the Mozart Association. It's held at the Schwetzingen Castle. Among the nonmusical highlights will be a record-breaking "magic flute" in the world in the form of a 165-foot-long cake. www.mozartways.com.

• Almost complete for this year (ends May 28), but well worth noting for the future are the activities of German Mozart Society (Deutsche Mozart-Gesellschaft, DMG) in Aügsburg, birthplace of Mozart's father. It has been holding a German Mozart Festival since 1951. www.mozartstadt.de.

• New Crowned Hope Festival, Nov. 14-Dec. 11, Vienna. Orchestrated by famed director Peter Sellars, who has asked artists from different disciplines - architecture, film, and visual arts, as well as music - to interpret Mozart's works, particularly "The Magic Flute," "La Clemenza di Tito," and the "Requiem." Phone: 011-1-589-22-22, or see www. newcrownedhope.org. (Plans are to present this in London and New York later.)

• A website has been set up to help travelers who would enjoy following Mozart's footsteps around Europe. It spotlights spots in Belgium, Britain, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Slovakia, and Switzerland that have connections to the composer. (Austria is included, too.) Information includes journeys, places, and a calendar, so you can see what might be available on the dates your trip is planned. A helpful feature is listing concerts by country, as well as by dates. An interactive map shows Mozart's extensive journeys crisscrossing Europe and includes a discussion of what that travel was like. www.mozartways.com.

- Compiled by Judy Lowe

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