Mozart, Mozart Everywhere 250 Years After Composer's Birth

One Salzburg hotel piped Beethoven through its intercom, but it was mostly Mozart in his cobblestoned hometown and cities around the world on Friday, the 250th anniversary of his birth.

Symphony orchestras and opera houses worldwide planned performances of his works, while classical music program radio hosts lined up their Mozart CDs. Piano students scheduled Mozart marathons and puppeteers untangled their strings as hundreds of cities across five continents prepared to pay their respects to the musical genius and the more than 600 musical works he wrote.

Too much hoopla? Consider this: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart wrote his first symphonies before turning 10 and his first significant opera at 12. He was instrumental in changing opera into the form we enjoy today.

He was prolific like few others, creating nearly two dozen operas and other stage works and hundreds of solo and orchestral pieces before his death at 35. Other greats like Beethoven and Wagner publicly recognized their debt to him.

For mezzo-soprano Angelika Kirchschlager, Mozart is "a gift from God" and "the light I orient my life around."

But he had his detractors.

Some history books depict his tenure in Salzburg ending ingloriously in 1781 with a kick in the bottom from a servant of Mozart's patron, the city's imperious archbishop, after Mozart refused to follow orders on how to compose.

Salzburg, where he was born on Jan. 27, 1756, was Mozart Central on Friday.

For a moment, the city's Hotel Auersperg appeared to be mounting a protest against too much Mozart. There, breakfast was accompanied by the soft piped in sounds of Beethoven's Seventh Symphony. But the rebellion was short-lived.

"Oops, how did that happen?" tittered waitress Anna Santiago, when asked about the choice of music. Within minutes, excerpts from a Mozart concerto were wafting through the air.

Always a trove for Mozart souvenirs, Salzburg has outdone itself this year. Store shelves are stocked with Mozart beer and wine, Mozart baby bottles, Mozart milkshakes, Mozart knickers and Mozart jigsaw puzzles — along with the usual T-shirts, calendars and coffee mugs.

The city was awash with Mozart posters on Friday and the daily "Salzburger Nachrichten" displayed a full-page portrait of the boy genius sitting at a harpsichord, as it proclaimed: "Salzburg celebrates its great son."

On the Salzburg schedule were Nikolaus Harnoncourt and the Vienna Philharmonic with Mozart's Piano Concert No. 18 and later Riccardo Muti was to lead the orchestra — and renowned signers — through their paces in a collage of his works.

Vienna, which claims Mozart in his later years, was staging a new production of his "Idomeneo" in one of the city's three opera houses and reviving "The Magic Flute" in another.

Both cities were offering either musical or culinary tours built around Mozart's works, his favorite restaurants, his friends and enemies, and his approach to art and love.

But Mozart ruled elsewhere as well.

Public broadcaster Swedish Radio set up an Internet radio station broadcasting Mozart music for 24 hours. The station will be up for at least five days, playing what Swedish Radio called "Wolfie's hits & misses." Public TV also honored Mozart with a 12-hour special.

Performances of his works were planned by orchestras or opera houses in Moscow, Washington, Prague, London, Paris, New York, Tokyo, Caracas, Quito, Havana, Mexico City, Taipei, Budapest and scores of other cities worldwide.

Even Nashville, more famous for country than the classics, scheduled a musical tip of the hat to Amadeus, with the city's symphony orchestra performing his Piano Concerto No. 21.

Many classical radio outlets worldwide were reprogramming for the day to play only Mozart. Hundreds of marionettes were to take to the stage in excerpts of his operas in the German city of Augsburg, where his father was born.

Vienna visitors could listen to his works and information about his life and times at 50 bright red "Calling Mozart" booths. Later in the day, the city was to formally reopen the restored house where he wrote "The Marriage of Figaro."

Salzburg visitors were advised to watch the calories. One of the star attraction at an open-air Mozart event was a gargantuan birthday cake weighing in at about 300 pounds.