The long wait for a successor to Amadeus is over. In fact, my new novel MOZART’S LAST ARIA answers questions about the great composer’s death that are far more deeply rooted in historical research than Peter Shaffer’s nonetheless terrific play.
Shaffer, whose play was first performed in 1979 and filmed by Milos Forman in 1984, proposed court composer Salieri as the man who killed Mozart at the age of 35. (Actually, Shaffer’s play was largely based on a play from the 1830s by the Russian poet Alexander Pushkin.) The truth behind the Salieri murder myth is that when the court composer claimed to have killed Mozart, he was incarcerated in a lunatic asylum. Once he regained his sanity, however, he refuted the story as something he had made up in his madness.
My novel also rescues Wolfgang from the popular perception (rooted in Amadeus) that he was some kind of giggling buffoon who just happened to write angelic music. Far from it, Wolfgang’s letters and his friends’ recollections show that he was a deep thinker who had great admiration for Enlightenment ideals (something that would’ve put him in jeopardy with the Emperor’s spies much greater than the risk he faced from Salieri’s jealousy). Clearly he was excitable immediately after musical performances, but then The Rolling Stones have been known to drop tv sets out of tenth-floor hotel rooms to let off steam and they’re no Mozarts.
The Wolfgang I’ve come to know from my research and from an intense listening of his music was no fool. He was one of the great minds of history, and I hope my novel will rescue his reputation as an intellectual whose concern for his fellow man was rooted deep in a profoundly caring, warm personality.
As for his murder, Mozart believed he was being poisoned. Six weeks before he died, he was promenading in the Prater Gardens of Vienna with his wife Constanze. He told her he had been poisoned, that he was to be sacrificed and knew he would die. His wife tried to cheer him up, but the conviction that he had been poisoned remained with him until his death in early December 1791.
The premise of my novel MOZART’S LAST ARIA is that Nannerl, Wolfgang’s gifted sister, learns of her brother’s belief that he had been poisoned and travels to Vienna to find out the truth. (In fact, she never went to Vienna after his death, though she lived a further 37 years in and around Salzburg.)
Recent historical research gave me the opportunity to have Nannerl investigate several more likely causes of Wolfgang’s death than the ravings of Salieri (who, in any case, was considerably more popular than Mozart in his day, even if his music is now forgotten, and would therefore be unlikely to suffer the kind of deadly envy portrayed by Shaffer.) Mozart, after all, was a member of a Masonic lodge that was more or less illegal and infiltrated by secret agents of the Imperial Secret Police.
Of course, to know the extent of this new historic research pointing to Mozart’s murder, you’ll have to read MOZART’S LAST ARIA…. For more on MOZART'S LAST ARIA and video readings from the book: http://www.mattrees.net