Following Mozart through Prague
The famous composer left a long legacy but was in the city only for a brief time
Although the famous Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart only visited Prague five brief times, Praguers continue to cherish him and the trail he left in the Golden City.
“My Praguers understand me,” the legendary composer and genius said after his first visit to Prague in 1787. During Mozart’s first visit he organized a concert on Jan. 19 in which he presented his first performance of the Symphony No. 38 in D major. Mozart’s Symphony is commonly referred to as the “Prague Symphony,” as it was first performed in the city.
During this visit he primarily stayed in Thun Palace, the current site of the British Embassy, on Thunovská Street in Malá Strana. The embassy still holds a letter Mozart wrote thanking his host. While on this trip it is said he visited pubs on Štupartská Street such as the long-gone U Štupartsků and had coffee on Templová, before leaving near the second week of February.
Some historians speculate that Mozart met Casanova in Prague in a palace on what is now Nerudova Street during this first visit.
Mozart stopped by Prague again to help oversee the first performance of his opera Don Giovanni on Oct. 29, 1787, in the Estates Theatre. On this trip Mozart stayed from Oct. 4 until Nov. 12 or 13, 1787. He resided at Uhelný trh 420 near the Estates Theatre, and it is said that he played billiards and went drinking nearby on Skořepka Street at a pub called U Šturmů.
He also visited a number of pubs around the Estates Theatre and on Celetná Street, but none of them exist today.
Don Giovanni was very well-received by the city and left Mozart once again inspired by Prague and its people.
A marble plaque is high up on the side of Uhelný trh 420, and a statue of the ghost from Don Giovanni is in front of the Estates Theatre. The statue, called Il Commendatore is by Anna Chromy.
Mozart's fourth and fifth visits were short, as he was just passing through on his way to Berlin on April 10, 1789, and on his way back to Vienna on May 31, 1789. On his way to Berlin he stayed in Prague just one night and stopped by U Zlatého jednorožce near Maltézské náměstí in Malá Strana. A plaque there mentions Beethoven, but not Mozart.
Mozart’s final visit to Prague was from April 28, 1791, to the third week of September. Unlike his previous visits, this visit was not centered around him as he came to conduct a gala opera marking the coronation of Leopold II. Mozart wrote La Clemenza di Tito for the festivities, and it debuted Sept. 2, 1791 at the Estates Theater. There is some evidence that Mozart also had a hand in the staging of Così fan tutte in Prague in 1791, and may have attended the production. It is said that Mozart seemed saddened to leave Prague for the fifth time as he had a feeling he would never be back.
Mozart is also alleged to have stayed at Betramka in what is now Prague 5, but the evidence is a bit thin and second-hand. If he did, it might have been in his second visit. The story of his staying there did not appear anywhere until decades after his death.
According to the current story, he was invited by the Dušek family. While there he wrote the aria “Bella mia fiamma addio,” which he had long promised to write for Josephine Dušek, a famous singer at the time. Bertramka now stands as a Mozart Museum.
Another place that claims to have hosted Mozart is the hotel Pachtuv Palace near the Charles Bridge. The hotel operators claim he wrote Six German Dances, K. 509, while locked in a room there. The hotel also promotes its deluxe suite as a place Mozart stayed.
The Church of St. Simon and Jude has a plaque stating Mozart played the organ there. The church is now a venue for classical music recitals. Mozart is also supposed to have played the organ at the Basilica of the Assumption at Strahov.
After his death in 1791, there was a memorial service (but not the actual funeral) at St. Nicholas Cathedral in Malá Strana, which thousands attended. Mozart's widow visited Prague often after his death to organize concerts.
Aside from Prague, Mozart also visited Brno and Olomouc in Moravia.
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