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American Director Creates New Space for Mozart

DW staff (dc)January 8, 2006

To coincide with the year of festivities honoring Mozart, the composer's birthplace in Salzburg has been given a makeover with a creative installation by American theater director and designer Robert Wilson.

Wilson uses light to create a special atmosphere in the museumImage: dpa

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's birthplace is located in the Getreidegasse, one of the narrowest streets in the center of Salzburg. Just outside house No. 9, the street opens out onto Hagenauer Platz, the square named after the Mozart family’s landlord, Lorenz Hagenauer. He ran the modern day equivalent of a delicatessen on the ground floor of the house; the Mozart family rented an apartment on the third floor.

Geburtshaus von Mozart in Salzburg
A plaque designates Mozart's birthplace in SalzburgImage: dpa - Report

It was there on Jan. 27th, 1756, that Anna Maria Mozart gave birth to a baby boy: Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus – Wolfgang Amadé Mozart.

In an average year, about 400,000 people visit Mozart’s birthplace in the heart of Salzburg. In 2006, the 250th anniversary of his birth, about half a million visitors are expected -- a good opportunity for the Mozart family apartment to be spruced up.

The International Mozarteum Foundation decided to give it a new look and commissioned Texan-born stage director and designer Robert Wilson to create an installation of light and sounds to enhance many of the original objects on display. The installation "A Space for Mozart" is intended to remain in place after the anniversary year.

Mozart Jahr Wien Österreich
US artist and theater director Robert WilsonImage: AP

Wilson first visited Mozart’s birthplace over a year ago and was surprised to see how many families with small children came to see the apartment. For that reason, he wanted to create an installation that would appeal particularly to young people. He began by studying the architectural layout of the apartment to try and understand how the rooms were originally used.

Light in music

Wilson’s opera productions are characterized by his fascinating lighting effects. In re-designing the Mozart apartment, light plays a major role. Wilson said he found inspiration from the light he senses in Mozart’s music.

Mozartausstellung A Space For Mozart in der Getreidegasse in Salzburg, Bild 1
Wilson's installation gives a contemporary feel to the historical objects on displayImage: dpa

"His work appears on the surface to be something very simple, but at the same time it’s very complex," Wilson said. "That’s something that fascinates me in the work of Mozart. Secondly, the body of the work is the light that he creates, the mental light, the mental landscape, and one could say the virtual light. That’s very different from Wagner, Puccini. It’s a special light I associate with the music, with the Requiem, the Magic Flute."

In the apartment's bedroom, Wilson conjured up a flock of blue geese, flying towards the window and the open space beyond – a very different way to express the birth of a genius.

"Robert Wilson took all the original functions of the rooms and involved it in his concept, and in this middle room, the bedroom, there is now an atmosphere of setting off," said Gabriele Ramsauer, director of the Mozart Museum. "There are geese flying towards a window and you feel that something special must have happened many years ago. This is the main thing I wanted to convey to people who come to this house."

Playful approach

Mozartausstellung A Space For Mozart in der Getreidegasse in Salzburg, Bild 3
Mozart's clavichord is the focus of one roomImage: dpa

Original objects that belonged to Mozart such as his viola and the violin he played as a child are still on display, but instead of having them simply housed inside a glass case, Wilson has turned their viewing into a sort of playful hide-and-seek, Ramsauer said.

"They are a little bit hidden in the walls with round panels of glass, and there are also jokes and surprised in this exhibition," she said. "Wilson wanted to show that Mozart was a humorous person who loved jokes."

Wilson's installation incorporates all the rooms of the Mozarts' apartment in the yellow house on the Getreidegasse. Through his poetic, imaginative approach to the museum, Wilson hopes that visitors will experience Mozart -- the man and the music -- in an entirely new way.

Mozart's birthplace in the Getreidegasse, central Salzburg, is open every day, including Sundays and public holidays, from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m, and in July and August until 7:00 p.m.