Amadeus' world

A new look at the life and works of Mozart is in the offing in ViennaMehru Jaffer ViennaAfter having stirred quite a few hornets' nest, American producer Peter Sellars is now in Vienna mainly to pluck strings out of Mozart's music for making tunes that will resonate better with the realities of the new millennium.The world celebrates Mozart's 250th birth anniversary on January 27, 2006. "Here in Vienna, we have to start at the end of Mozart's life because Mozart's birth was in Salzburg. He died in Vienna," says Sellars. The fact that Mozart died deeply in debt and was buried in an anonymous grave with the poorest people of the city led Sellars to thoughts of faceless people in mass graves. The clichéd association of Mozart with glamorous Vienna is shifted to a Vienna of real people. Sellars imagines Mozart as an economic migrant.The year before he died, Mozart could not get work in Vienna since he had made his political convictions too clear in the operas The Marriage of Figaro, Don Giovanni and Cosi Fan Tutte. He was forced to take to the road, travelling from city to city in Europe looking for work, hoping to send money home to his family. Mozart was without money for most of his life in Vienna. He was out of work as he dared to dream of a Europe beyond autocracy, and kings.Sellars wants us to open ourselves to refugees because we are all refugees. He calls the 2006 Mozart Year celebrations the New Crowned Hope Festival after a Masonic lodge in Vienna where Mozart conducted a little cantata, the last piece of music composed by him. Three weeks after the opening ceremony of the lodge, Mozart was dead at the age of 35. An active member of the Freemasonry movement, a nucleus that inspired many to participate in the American and French revolutions, Sellars imagines Mozart yearning for a world that integrates simplicity and unforced joy with political complexities and contradictions in music that is both sacred and playful. "It is a world that welcomes pop culture and secret ceremonies, refined intellectual debate and street language, and animals and humans live in delicate harmonic balance".The Mozart Year is divided into three themes of Transformation, Reconciliation and Remembrance — each one inspired by a different work of Mozart like The Magic Flute, La Clemnza di Tito and the unfinished Requiem. The birthday gift to Mozart is the collective work of a host of artistes from around the world who will visit Vienna throughout this year in an attempt to try and pick up where Mozart left. Perfor-mances will also travel from societies where people are living through genocide and civil war, where the need is to somehow turn the page of history and where acts of mercy, imagination and negotiation are the only hope. "The fires in the suburbs of Paris make it very clear that there can be no illusions about a first world and a third world, there is one planet, and we are all sharing it," feels Sellars.The Magic Flute is interpreted as a multicultural, intergenerational epic about magic and transformation. The opera is a resplendent example of Mozart's life-long determination to place women's voices and visions at the highest levels of a just society, and a campaign against slavery.La Clemenza di Tito was once thought to be reactionary and undramatic but today it has unexpectedly become a most important opera for the 21st century. It is about responses to terrorism, breaking cycles of violence, and the rule of mercy.  Mozart's Requiem was dictated from his deathbed, opening with a full throated cry for mercy and a description of the soul's ascending passage from darkness into light.What is the ritual that will finally put a name to the faces of the disappeared, that will let families at last learn the fate of their loved ones, in which perpetrators come clean, and both the living and the dead can finally move forward, or rest in peace?The plot to take a beloved icon like Mozart and to shake the memory of the magical man out of meaningless slumber mainly to remind contemporary audiences of their social responsibility can only be hatched in Vienna, a city considered to be one of the last bastions of conscience. Here social housing is not privatised, and refugees continue to be helped by both private and municipal institutions. "Vienna is Different" is a catchword coined by the tourist board but today it is much more than a mere slogan. Vienna is different also because the city refuses to give up its struggle to emerge as a model for a brand new equality amongst human beings.Vienna-based Mehru Jaffer keeps a sharp eye on political undercurrents