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AMADEUS -- The Film

The Locations

Learn more about where Amadeus was filmed and about the locations in which certain scenes were shot below.

Filmed: Prague, Czechoslovakia
Sets:
Tyl Theater - "Don Giovanni," "The Abduction from the Seraglio," and "Axur" scenes
Volkstheater (People's Theatre) - parody scene of Mozart's operas and "The Magic Flute" scene that was built entirely from scratch for the movie

Prague, Czechoslovakia
Prague, Czechoslovakia - photo © unknown

Musical note FILMING AMADEUSí ON LOCATION IN CZECHOSLOVAKIA: HISTORY IS THE KEYNOTE

Director Milos Forman found his native Prague the ideal location for the filming of this drama set in Mozartís time. Almost alone among European cities, large sections of Prague ó its buildings, castles, and palaces, both inside and out, its streets, parks and town squares ó remain virtually unchanged since the 1700ís when the architecture of the Austro-Hungarian Empire prevailed.

"Many parts of Prague," said Forman, "contain streets or squares where you can turn the camera 360 degrees and donít have to alter anything. There are wonderful palaces whose interiors are preserved as museums that are just breathtaking."

"We looked at Vienna, Salzburg and Budapest before realizing that Amadeus couldnít be shot anywhere but Prague. Vienna is lovely, but its most beautiful buildings were built after Mozartís time; Budapest is a mixture of every style; Salzburg is now a busy commercial city with everything looking like it was built last year, but time has stood still in Prague."

Amadeus was filmed with the complete cooperation of the Czech Government and Ministry of Culture that made available the preserved national treasures and priceless interiors of its theaters and palaces for the filming. The interiors of six different palaces are used as locations, often stocked with antique furniture from dozens of other buildings - cabinets and tables inlaid with ivory, onyx, mother-of-pearl, even in gold and silver. These objects are rarely seen by Americans, let alone filmed. The paintings are equally magnificent, all from a period when the very rich commissioned portraits of every member of the family, including pets. All the priceless treasures of the period are over 200 years old.

The most prized location made available to the makers of Amadeus was the Tyl Theater in Prague. When the scouting crew first visited this exalted national treasure, Twyla Tharp, the famous choreographer who staged all the dances and operas in the film, turned to director Milos Forman and said: "Whatever you have to say, whatever you have to do to get this theater, do it, because we wonít find another like it anywhere on earth."

Built entirely of wood in the 18th Century, the Tyl Theater is nearly in a class by itself because most theaters of this style and structure have long since burned down. Unchanged over the last 200 years, the Tyl Theater made the perfect location to stage the Mozart operas shown in Amadeus because it was in this very theater that Mozart stood in the pit and conducted the premiere of his "Don Giovanni" two centuries ago.

Acquiring the Tyl Theater as a shooting location was not a simple matter, since it is still used in Prague as a National Theater whose season runs from September to June. Made available to the filmmakers only during the summer, the Theater management and even the stagehands were reluctant to turn over this jewel box to a film company. The firemen were so apprehensive that they refused to sign releases, but instead stationed themselves at 15-foot intervals throughout the theater during shooting, always alert for fires. Their fears multiplied when the filmmakers planned to recreate period lighting with candles mounted in eleven chandeliers, which burned 120 to 270 candles each.

The chandeliers weighed from seven to eight hundred pounds each and could not be hung directly from the ceiling because the wooden beams would not support their weight. The grips, gaffers, and special effects crew devised an aluminum and steel grid that rested on the Theaterís roof and extended through the windows of the dome. Thus, not one nail had to be driven into the Theaterís structure. The filming of Amadeus consumed over 27,000 candles, of which 6,000 were burned in the Tyl Theater. The chandeliers, over 20, used in both the Tyl Theater and Schikanederís Theater, were designed and built expressly for Amadeus.

Despite the enormous number of candles and the fragility of the Theater, only one incident occurred. The actor portraying Don Giovanni twice edged too close to a candelabrum during the opera sequence and his plumed hat caught fire both times. A fireman dashed onto the stage and doused it, as the disappointed assistant director yelled, "Cut!" The fireman turned to the camera and said apologetically, "Sorry to ruin the shot but I couldnít help it." No one viewing the two near serious accidents saw them as a portent of Don Giovanniís descent into the fires of Hell.

The palace of Baroque splendor where Salieri first encounters Mozart in Amadeus was filmed in Kromeriz. Completed in the 1750ís and maintained in exact detail, all the paneling was carved by a single artisan who lived in the palace for thirty years, working only on this one project. Kromeriz also contains the reception room where in utilized for the scene in which Mozartís father has an audience with the Archbishop of Salzburg. The enormous globes in this room were made in 1600 and had become collectorís items by the time of Mozart.

Another palace seen in Amadeus is the Palace of the Knights of Malta, currently the Music Museum of Prague. Used because it exactly suited Salieriís temperament ó grand, formal, and somewhat gloomy ó and filled with 18th Century harpsichords, all lavishly designed, it perfectly framed Salieriís ideal of eternal dedication and recognition.

For the scenes in Emperor Josephís palace, the 16th Century Gryspek Palace, now Pragueís Archiepiscopal Palace, was used. Milos Forman was especially taken with the lush tapestries in the Piano Salon, rich with designs showing the discovery of the New World. Woven in Gobelin, France and imported to Czechoslovakia in the 1700ís, these tapestries are now worth many millions.

The actor portraying the Emperor in Amadeus sat on gold furniture from the summer palace of the Schwarzenbergs; the actor playing the Archbishop walked on oriental carpets worth a fortune. Mozart and Salieri are shown playing one-of-a-kind pianos that are virtually beyond price.

This insistence on absolute authenticity that marked every phase of film production extended to the period costumes, wigs, dress and manners at court, the uniforms of the servants, and the garb of people in the street.

The musical instruments shown throughout the film were those used in Mozartís time. When Mozart is conducting an outdoor concert, the musicians are not playing French horns, which were invented later, but are shown playing the valve-less host horns for which Mozart composed.

The movie Amadeus owes a great debt to the country and people of Czechoslovakia. Their museums enabled Amadeus to use history to illustrate history, providing incomparable atmosphere and authenticity for the setting of the film.

The Tyl Theater
The Tyl Theater - photo © unknown

Musical note CONSTRUCTION OF AN EIGHTEENTH CENTURY "VOLKSTHEATER"

With the dedication to absolute authenticity that marked every phase of the Amadeus production, a complete 700-seat 18th Century theater was constructed from scratch on Czechoslovakiaís largest sound stage, 330 feet longólonger than a football field. The theater was designed as a faithful reproduction of the type employed and built by Mozartís friend, the dramatist, director, actor, singer, librettist and composer Emanuel Schikaneder (1751-1812) portrayed in the film by Simon Callow. Schikanederís wooden frame "Volkstheater" (Peopleís Theatre) presented the more popular diversions, musicals and operas of his day. His lively and convivial social-theater center for working people and the rising middle-class, like the theaters of Elizabethan England, encouraged patrons to consume massive quantities of food and beer during performances. With the exception of Pragueís celebrated Tyl Theater, nearly all of these wooden frame theaters of Mozartís time were destroyed by fire.

This specially constructed theater was used for the filming of a parody and sequences from Mozartís opera "The Magic Flute" which was premiered in Schikanederís theater. The theater required a crew of over 100 craftsmen six weeks to build.

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