Sofia Brizio – Culture Editor
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★ ★ ★
Mozart in Paris is a compelling graphic novel by French creator Frantz Duchazeau, recounting Mozart’s adventures in Paris. The 22-year-old Austrian composer notoriously sought refuge in the French capital after being disappointed by the scarce recognition he was getting in his hometown of Salzburg. Mozart travels to Paris with a bag full of hopes and dreams, which, however, are quickly shattered by barriers of indifference, tradition and disapproval.
Media portrayals of Mozart focus on his bubbly and eccentric personality and on how he was an undoubtedly irreverent and controversial character; Duchazeau’s novel is no exception to this. I found that the graphic novel is the perfect format to encapsulate what a well-rounded character Mozart was. Drawing from both correspondence and his own imagination, the creator manages to put together a unique picture of a young Mozart who struggles to find himself and define his identity as a composer and musician, torn between the desire to please the audience and the necessity to stay true to his taste.
The story was excellently told and the clever use of speech balloons made for a few memorable moments which contributed massively to shaping Mozart’s character and making him an audience favourite. For me personally, a key scene is the one in which Mozart goes back to Salzburg after months spent in Paris and sees his love, Aloysia, again. Upon realising that her feelings for him have changed, he launches himself into a passionate rendition of an aria, at the end of which he solemnly declares: “Whoever doesn’t like me…can lick my ass!”. I believe that this line alone encapsulates all that Mozart was; a careless and irreverent, yet incomparably clever and deeply human artist who managed to get back on his feet even after many setbacks such as the refusal of his music by the Parisian high society and the complex relationship with his family.
I loved how Duchazeau focused a big part of his drawings on Mozart’s dreams and inner world. His style is quintessentially French, perhaps influenced by the Franco-Belgian tradition of Hergé and Robert Velter. In his imagination, young Wolfgang often finds himself on a bright-coloured stage, with a particularly nasty audience who try to bring him down while he attempts to figure out who he is and what to do next. However, in contrast, I found that the real-life scenes were not effective enough and the comics were oftentimes too dark and even difficult to comprehend. Moreover, while I appreciated the storyline and the imaginative flair given to autobiographical facts, I found that many things were only briefly skimmed over. This sometimes felt confusing as the fast narrative pace was difficult to keep up with and caused many characters, such as Mozart’s friends and mentor, to lack depth.
Mozart in Paris is overall an extremely enjoyable read, which will please both fans of classical music and graphic novels. However, it is hard to enjoy it if one is not familiar with Mozart’s life, as the fast narrative pace leaves little room for explanations. Therefore, you might want to do some background reading before diving into Duchazeau’s crazy world.
Mozart in Paris is published by SelfMadeHero. Translated into English by Edward Gauvin (Paperback, 96pp, full colour. Released 26th September 2019). You can buy Mozart in Paris here.