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Mozart: fact or fiction?

A Scene from Amadeus with Adam Gillen as Mozart

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, composer and subject of Peter Shaffer's Amadeus, died 225 years ago today. The play presents a highly fictionalised account of Mozart, Salieri and the rivalry between the two, but some of it is based in truth. How much do you know about the real Mozart? Take our quiz, then see below for more information about each of the answers.



First symphony

In Amadeus, Mozart claims to have written his first symphony by the time he was four. In reality, he may have been five at the time. Either way, not bad.

Composing in his head

It's a nice idea, but this was beyond even Mozart. In fact, there are numerous edits to many of his manuscripts, showing that he had to write down his music like some sort of mortal.

Caterina Cavalieri

There's some evidence to suggest that she had an affair with Salieri, but not Mozart. Mozart wrote the part of Constanze in The Abduction from the Seraglio for Caterina, but not because she was his mistress.


In Shaffer’s play, Mozart calls billiards a 'virtuoso's game' and planned to write a 'Grand Fantasia for Billiard Balls'. Sadly, that never materialised, but his love of the game was real.

Sense of humour

Mozart definitely found rudeness funny. He even wrote a piece containing the (sort of) Latin phrase 'lectu mihi mars'. The words sound suspiciously like the German phrase 'leck du mich im Arsch', which translates to English as 'lick my arse'.


While all 18th-century clothes might be considered gaudy by modern standards, Mozart had a flare for the extravagant, as he says in his letters to friends. Sadly, this didn’t include the pink Doc Martens worn by Adam Gillen in the current production – the footwear company was founded in 1947.

Salieri's hatred

There may have been some antipathy, but Salieri definitely didn't plan Mozart's downfall and demise. In fact, he conducted some of Mozart's works and even tutored his son, Franz.


Mozart didn't write his Requiem for himself. It wasn't commissioned by a ghost, either. Salieri, though, did write his own – his 1804 Requiem in C Minor was played at his funeral in 1825.


In fact, the 'common grave' that Mozart was buried in simply meant a grave for non-aristocracy. He was still popular and memorial concerts in Vienna and Prague were well attended.



Amadeus is now playing in the Olivier Theatre. Visit the Amadeus page.

NT Live will broadcast Amadeus live to cinemas on 2 February, with Encore screenings in selected venues. Find your nearest NT Live venue and book.