Amadeus, Part 2?
Opus Osm's Mary Matz looks at the colorful life of Czech composer Josef Mysliveček
This article originally appeared in Opus Osm, the free-of-charge, paperless daily magazine about Czech classical music, opera, and ballet, published in Prague for an international audience.
In case Academy Award-winning Czech director Miloš Forman should want to do a sequel to Amadeus, here's the perfect subject: Josef Mysliveček.
The life of this Czech composer would make a compelling biopic -- and he even knew Mozart, upon whom he had some considerable musical influence.
On his own merits, though, Mysliveček wrote roughly 85 symphonies, more than two dozen operas, plus concertos, chamber music, and some of the first string quintets.
Most of his musical triumphs took place in Italy, where he was known as Il Boemo, the Bohemian (supposedly because Italians couldn't pronounce his name — miss liv eh czech). His music is still often performed in Bohemia (and elsewhere) today.
If Mr. Forman wants intrigue, quirkiness, and drama for a screenplay, Mysliveček can deliver. To begin with, he wasn't a musician at all, but followed in his father's trade and became a master miller in 1761 after flunking out of Charles University.
He gave milling up for music, traveling to Venice in 1763 to continue studying, this time music. Finances were never a problem for Mysliveček (until the last three years of his life; he finally died alone and bankrupt). For most of his career, though, he was able to freelance as a teacher, composer, and musician.
In 1770 the well-established Mysliveček met Mozart and his father; they became good friends of the Bohemian, although when Mysliveček had his nose burned off by an inept surgeon trying to treat the composer's syphilis, Mysliveček told the young Mozart it was "bone cancer." Later a rift occurred when Mysliveček promised Mozart an operatic commission which didn't happen.
Historians have claimed that Mysliveček wrote six symphonies in six months, named after the first six months of the year. But no one has been able to prove that. They also claim that Italians called him the Little Hunter, the literal translation of his name. But they can't prove that, either. His first great operatic success came in 1767 with Il Bellerofonte in Naples, at that time the center of opera seria -- serious, tragic opera -- in Italy. They can prove that, but not the rumors that he was linked romantically with the singer Caterina Gabrielli -- or any other individual singer.
For the 15 years starting in 1765 he was the most prolific composer of serious opera in Europe. His downfall came with his first flop, the opera Armida, at La Scala in 1780. (Some historians link the disaster to interrupted performances when the aforementioned Gabrielli paused to give birth to an out-of-wedlock child.)
The next three years saw a succession of failures; Mysliveček fell into poverty and illness, and died in 1781.
Video on YouTube
Czech-Chinese dance work to premiere at Archa by Raymond Johnston - Prague.TV (Foto: Divadlo Archa)
Ordinary People finds similar life stories in dancers from different countries
Festival Spectaculare starting fourth edition by Raymond Johnston - Prague.TV
The multi-genre festival will bring electronic and ambient music and more
Dave Johns will be live in Prague by Raymond Johnston - Prague.TV
The British comedian will be at a downtown movie theater for one show only
Slav Epic seen by 400,000 by Raymond Johnston - Prague.TV (Foto: Prague City Gallery)
Cycle of paintings will now go to Asia for a tour
The Cremator by Národní Divadlo - The Estates Theatre
Spalovač mrtvol (orig. Czech titel) by Ladislav Fuks
Paintings of Havel open at DOX by Raymond Johnston - Prague.TV (Foto: Martin Polák)
A new cycle of 10 paintings by Tomáš Císařovský chronicle the late president's life
Kids Riot as a Surrealist Reflection of Today’s Society by Marya Oliynyk - Anglo American University (Foto: Fotograf Gallery)
Permanent Transformation @ Fotograf Gallery, until 17th of December
Prague 7 seeks to be an art district by Raymond Johnston - Prague.TV (Foto: Továrna)
A new plan will encourage cooperation among institutions
Three Tales @ The New Stage by National Theatre Opera (Foto: Hana Smejkalová)
by Beryl Korot & Steve Reich
Giant airship installed over Prague's DOX Centre by Raymond Johnston - Prague.TV (Foto: Dox - FB)
Wooden zeppelin named Gulliver is a place for art and literature discussion
First Cobbler's Prague Bakery Cup Cake Shop @ PALLADIUM!
Kids Indoor Playground in Prague 5, OC Zlicin
Have fun. Help. Volunteer overseas - Let us organize your...
Looking for a memorable experience in Prague?
First diamonds museum in Prague
Trabant Museum @ STK Motol
Armádní muzeum Žižkov
Národní památník hrdinů heydrichiády