The famed composer spent just a few months in the city but left a wide trail
For all of the talk about Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Prague, the composer actually spent very little time here. The composer was in the Golden City just five times, and some of those trips were rather brief. The Moravian cities of Brno and Olomouc also claim connections.
Virtually every tourist knows that he conducted the Oct. 29, 1787, premiere of his opera Don Giovanni at the Estates Theater and said “My Praguers understand me,” or words to that effect. A ghostly statue and a bronze plaque commemorate the event.
Mozart had been wowing crowds across Europe since he was 6 years old and actually went to Olomouc when he was 11 years old, staying in the Hauenschild Palace. When he came down with an illness he was moved to the cathedral deanery. He made a complete recovery and composed Symphony No. 6 in F major during his convalescence. He was there from October to December 1767.
Before and after this stay he stopped briefly in Brno, and gave a performance in the Taverna, now called the Reduta theater. The trip was because disease, either smallpox or chicken pox, had broken out in Vienna and he was moved to Moravia by his father for his safety.
He first came to Prague much later, on Jan. 11, 1787, and stayed for two months. His primary residence was Thun Palace, which is now the British Embassy, in Malá Strana on Thunovská Street. A letter thanking his hosts is still in the possession of the embassy.
He attended the Prague production of The Marriage of Figaro and later performed Symphony No. 38 in D major, also called The Prague Symphony, at the Estates Theater. While in this area, he went to pubs on Štupartská Street such as the long-gone U Štupartsků and had coffee on Templová. He also frequented the New Inn at Celetná 588, later called U Zlatého anděla, located near the Powder Gate.
He stayed a second time in October to November 1787, first living at Uhelný trh 420, then called U Tří lvíčků, just a stone’s throw from the Estates Theater. He apparently shot billiards and went drinking on Skořepka Street at a pub called U Šturmů. The short street now hosts a strip club and sex toy shop, having retained its seedy charm over the centuries. Mozart’s librettist stayed at Platýz, also on Uhelný trh. This was the trip when he conducted Don Giovanni.
Mozart frequented pubs such as the long-vanished U Modrého hroznu across the street from the Estates Theater. If you want a beer where current actors and musicians hang out, the basement of the Kolowrat Palace, also across the street from the Estates Theater, has a somewhat hidden pub and eatery still used by the theater crowd. The pub Pod Petřínem in Malá Strana is listed by some as a place where he stopped for a beer, but when this happened isn’t mentioned.
At some point he was invited by the Dušek family to move to Betramka, out in what is now Prague 5, and wrote the aria “Bella mia fiamma addio” there, after being locked in a room until he finished it. He had long promised to write it for Josephine Dušek, a famous singer of the time. The place is now a Mozart Museum.
He visited Strahov Monastery on Nov. 16, 1787, and improvised on the organ at Church of the Ascension of the Virgin Mary.
He also played the organ at the Church of Sts. Simon and Jude, now used as a concert hall, and the harpsichord at the hospital Na Františku.
During this time he he wrote six German dances for Jan Josef Pachta, a supporter of the arts. The operators of Pachtův Palác, now a hotel in Old Town near the Charles Bridge, claim Mozart stayed there when he wrote them. The hotel restaurant is called Amade, a nickname for Amadeus, Mozart’s middle name. Details of this stay are a bit sketchy.
Another legend from this time is that Mozart met Casanova. One version has the meeting at Breitfeld Palace, a popular spot for balls and festive evenings, at the corner of Nerudova Street and Jánský vršek. The lower floor of the palace is now a convenience store.
His third visit in April 1789 was just for one night on his way to Berlin, and he stopped at U Zlatého jednorožce in Malá Strana near Maltézské náměstí. A plaque on the building mentions Beethoven staying there, but not Mozart as it was so brief. He apparently did have time to meet his friend, František Xaver Dušek. He passed through Prague a fourth time on his way back from Berlin.
His last visit was in August 1791, to conduct a gala opera to mark the coronation of Leopold II. The commission arrived late, and he composed much of the music in the coach on the way. La clemenza di Tito premiered Sept. 2, 1791, at the Estates Theater. It was not as well received as Don Giovanni. Mozart had almost finished The Magic Flute, regarded as his last opera, before he started La clemenza di Tito.
Most accounts say Mozart was reluctant to leave Prague, as he sensed he would never come back, though this is probably a romantic embellishment. He died Dec. 5, 1791, in Vienna. A memorial mass was celebrated at St. Mikuáš Church in Prague’s Malá Strana on Dec. 14, with Josefina Dušek singing an aria from Rössler’s Requiem. Bells rang across the city.
Locations in Prague, including the Estates Theater, were also used for the 1984 film Amadeus, directed by Miloš Forman, with Tom Hulce as the composer.