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Theatre Journal 54.3 (2002) 469-471
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Falco Meets Amadeus
Falco Meets Amadeus. Book by Burkhard Driest. Music and Lyrics by Hans Hölzel (Falco) and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Arrangements by Johnny Bertl and Manfred Schweng. Theater des Westens, Berlin, Germany. 12 September 2001.
Falco Lives! The world premiere of this new musical occurred at what can be considered a major crossroads in the history of Berlin theatre and the world. Originally scheduled to open September 11, 2001 at the Theater des Westens in Berlin, the premiere was postponed due to the terrorist attacks against the United States. That same day the Theater des Westens had just received news that it, along with several other Berlin theatres, would be potentially privatized, thus eliminating much of the theatres' state support. Nevertheless Falco Meets Amadeus opened the following day (September 12) and will undoubtedly emerge as one of the most original, exciting musical works to originate from the German stage in many decades.
Falco Meets Amadeus is a fantasy meeting of two musical legends from different centuries with similar biographies and equally short lives. Falco, the Viennese popstar of the 1980s, caused much sensation throughout Europe due to his glamorous lifestyle and enormous talent. A pioneering figure in German language rap music—still growing in popularity well into the twenty-first century—Falco, born Hans Hölzel in Vienna, died tragically at age forty in an automobile accident while on tour in the Dominican Republic. The life of the other figure in the musical, Falco's lifelong idol Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, is well known. The hook in Buckhard Driest's dramatic narrative is the surprise similarity between their lives; sex, drugs, alcohol, and countless affairs with women characterized both men's lives and, ultimately, brought about the demise of each. Their meeting in the afterlife is the story of this high concept rock musical.
The music for Falco Meets Amadeus consists of thirteen of Falco's preexisting hit songs supplemented by new arrangements of Mozart's music. Though they were distanced by almost 200 years, [End Page 469] both "cutting edge" composers attracted a similar audience: those who were frustrated with traditional forms and were seeking new modes of musical expression. Accordingly, the production drew comparisons between the 1980s and late eighteenth century in many scenes, making for a visual collage of manners, settings, and, in particular, stunning costumes. Whereas the overall style, line of architecture, and costumes during the two periods are distinct, the use of vivid colors, fashionable nightwear, gaudiness, and overt sexuality—all taking place within heavily populated large open rooms like court masques or discotheques—were highlighted as similarities.
The most direct link between Falco and Amadeus was the former's 1981 megahit "Rock Me Amadeus," written to honor his life-long hero. The song also catapulted Falco into international stardom. Falco's subsequent financial success provided the key conflict between the musical's main characters. While Falco lived an extravagant lifestyle, primarily due to proceeds from "Rock Me Amadeus," Mozart was scarcely able to survive from income generated through composition. He had to rely on a variety of benefactors for his basic subsistence. As portrayed in this musical, the popstar constantly struggled with his inability to gain acceptance as a serious artist; on the other hand, Mozart, the classical artist, achieved lasting acclaim for his compositions.
Driest and arranger, Johnny Bertl, bring the two musicians together early in the musical. Mozart appears as Falco's alter ego during the problematic early stages of his career, inspiring Falco to compose "Rock Me Amadeus" with the guarantee that the song would catapult him into success. Later, when they finally meet face-to-face in heaven, Mozart expresses his extreme anger at Falco's "excessive use of his name and fame" to further his own career, a career marked only by commercial success. Falco defends his actions, noting that his world-wide recording had been inspired by Mozart and served to extend the classical artist's legend beyond his mere thirty-five years. Reconciliation occurs when the two join together in a lengthy...