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Mozart estates in Prague
July 5, 2014

Tracing the steps of Mozart in Prague

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.

Interior of Thun Palace
Interior of Thun Palace, now the British Embassy. Photo: Raymond Johnston

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.

Mozart - Štupartská Street
Mozart went to pubs on Štupartská Street. Photo: Raymond Johnston

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.

House at Uhelný
House at Uhelný trh where Mozart stayed. Photo: Raymond Johnston

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.

Bertramka is now a Mozart Museum. Photo: Raymond Johnston

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.

Plaque at the Church of Sts. Simon and Jude. Photo: Raymond Johnston

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.

The palace where Mozart met Casanova now has a convenience store. Photo: Raymond Johnston

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.

Beethoven, not Mozart, is on the plaque at U Zlatého jednorožce. Photo: Raymond Johnston

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.

Interior of the Estates Theater. Photo: Raymond Johnston

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.

Church of St. Mikuláš. Photo: Raymond Johnston

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.

1 Comment

  1. Mozart has a special place in my Heart. As a Black American we did not like this music. We tend to call it Elevator music because they always played it as you rode up and down. When I got married my wife…a Black American… played the Violin in school. As a good husband should I would take her to Severance Hall to hear the Cleveland Orchestra. The first two times I slept. The third time I slept half way through and then I woke and listen to the music. I could not believe what I was hearing. Mozart music touches your inner Soul in a way that I cannot describe. The famous remarks that Joseph Haydn made about Mozart to his father rings true to me as I have come to listen and love his music.

    Joseph Haydn and Eric Clapton has something in common.

    Hardly EVER do we see two people that do the same thing Praise their counterpart.

    Here is Joseph Haydn with a name for himself already…”Father of the Symphony”…”Father of String Quartet”…but when he heard this kid’s music he knew that he was hearing Unparalleled Greatness. Then he made his famous remarks.

    Eric Clapton was a great Guitarists…”Clapton is God”…was coined because of his great skills playing the Guitar. He had Not of yet heard the real “God” of the Guitar “Jimi Hendrix”. Jimi Hendrix was left handed but would play right handed Guitars without missing a beat. When he did hear Jimi play did he become a Joseph Haydn. No!!! He went to his room and Sulked.

    I understand that we are discussing Mozart here but as for Greatness I personally think that Mozart and Hendrix was cut from the same cloth from God.

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