Villa Bertramka - Mozart's place of inspiration in Prague

27-01-2006

To mark the 250th anniversary of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's birth, we visit the Villa Bertramka, where the great Austrian composer stayed in Prague. The villa now houses a permanent exhibition devoted to Mozart and his hosts Josefina and Franz Xaver Dusek - two renowned 18th century musicians. Dita Asiedu was given a tour by the museum's director Lenka Pokorna.

"Josefina Dusek was a great singer, a great soprano at the time, and she also held concerts in Germany's Dresden and Austria's Vienna. One year after she got married, they went to Vienna to visit her grandfather and that is when the deep relationship with Mozart's family, especially his father Leopold, began. Josefina Dusek's husband was 22 years older and so she had a much closer relationship with Mozart. She was beautiful, a great singer, and loved music so their relationship grew at the time."

Now, of course, I have to ask whether their relationship was more than just a friendship...

"Nobody knows, we cannot tell. Of course there are many stories around that. Some people say it couldn't only have been a friendship. For example, he composed a great piece of music for her 'Bella Mia Fiamma, Addio' right here at the villa Bertramka and there's a nice story around that. They say she locked him in a room and didn't let him out until he finished the piece for her. Some Mozart experts say there is something special about this piece."

We are now at the permanent exhibition: "Mozart and the Duseks". What can visitors find here?

"This first room is actually dedicated to Josefina Dusek and her husband Franz Xaver Dusek, who was a great composer at the time. He was really respected and appreciated not only as a musician and a composer but also as a teacher who taught kids and adults too. So there are photographs of him and Josefina as well as scores that he wrote, used, or played."

There are musical instruments too...

"Yes, they are all originals from the 18th century. We cannot tell for sure that Mozart played this violin [points to it] but we can hope so."

How often did he come here?

"He was here twice. In January 1787, he came to Prague for the first time but he didn't stay here then. I think Josefina Dusek was in Dresden at the time. He had heard about the great success of the Marriage of Figaro, which was really amazing because the opera wasn't met with such success in Vienna, so he came to see it for himself because he couldn't believe it. He even conducted one of the performances. He met with the musicians, conductor, and head of the opera, who commissioned another opera from Mozart. The opera was Don Giovanni. In that same year, in the autumn, he came to perform the new opera and that was when he was here. So, this place also reflects Don Giovanni because Mozart finished it right here at the villa Bertramka.

"These two rooms were actually Mozart's rooms. This is where he stayed when he came to visit. The room next door was his bedroom. We have the original furniture, small sculptures, but the piano here is not the one he played when he was here. The original is currently at an exhibition in Vienna."

How much has the villa actually changed since Mozart visited it?

"Nobody knows. We do know that the surroundings have changed. The villa was much further away from the centre than it is now. It was actually in a village at the time. It was surrounded by vineyards and fields and there were many animals. It was not a villa; it was more like a country house. That's probably why he liked it so much because it was calm and peaceful, compared to the city, which was very busy. The second visit was when he composed the opera La Clemenza di Tito for the coronation of Leopold II."

"Mozart was a Freemason. He joined them in 1784 in Vienna but he also met his 'brothers' in Prague. He composed a few pieces for them ...

"This is what attracts the attention of visitors most - Mozart's hair..."

And you've quite a bit of it too...

"Thirteen."

But visitors cannot touch it. There actually was a special connection that locals here had to Mozart and his music. People here in the Czech lands actually embraced the Marriage of Figaro more than they did in Vienna...

"In the opera, he points to things that aristocrats did not want to hear about - the relationship between ordinary residents and the aristocracy. Opera in Austria or Germany was probably visited more by aristocrats than by ordinary citizens. More ordinary citizens visited the opera here and therefore they liked it so much because they instinctively felt that Mozart was really in love with them and wanted to make them happy more than the aristocrats."

Photo: CzechTourismPhoto: CzechTourism His sons also visited the villa after Mozart's death...

"His older son came here and Josefina took care of him. It is proven that he was here for almost five years."

The year 2006 is a very special year as far as W.A. Mozart is concerned. You will also be offering a number of concerts...

"We naturally want to present the greatest composition of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart but there are also going to be other cycles. One will introduce compositions from his father and his son and another will introduce works by Czech 18th century composers whom he either met or appreciated and liked, such as [Frantisek] Benda, [Josef] Myslivecek, and [Antonin] Vranicky, for example. If the weather allows us, we will also have great garden concerts by bigger ensembles and smaller orchestras."

27-01-2006