The popularity of the 1984 Milos Forman film Amadeus — which was based on the 1979 Peter Shaffer play Amadeus, which was based on the opera Amadeus and Salieri by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, which was based on the short play Amadeus and Salieri by Aleksandr Pushkin — has inspired decades of conspiracy theories and century-spanning amateur CSI work to determine how Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart died.
In the film, Mozart dies at 35 after Salieri — jealous of his extraordinary gifts — knowingly works him to exhaustion under the guise of “helping” the composer regain his financial standing. Because Mozart was known for his wild eccentricities even during his own time, some have speculated that he died of mercury poisoning or a chronic condition that would have explained his personality. Others have suspected rheumatic fever, because he suffered from periodic bouts with it, and even trichinosis, because why the fuck not?
Anyway, a group of Dutch researchers descended from their ivory windmill recently to investigate. Their conclusion is that Mozart died from strep throat:
Their new study, reported in the Annals of Internal Medicine, was based on information from official death registers for Vienna in the winter of 1791 that places Mozart’s death in a wider context. He died in Vienna.
“Our findings suggest that Mozart fell victim to an epidemic of strep throat infection that was contracted by many Viennese people in Mozart’s month of death, and that Mozart was one of several persons in that epidemic that developed a deadly kidney complication,” researcher Richard Zegers, of the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands, told Reuters Health.
Of course the researchers’ findings is not conclusive, since examining Mozart’s body is impossible. Viennese authorities insist Mozart was buried in a common grave, as was the custom of the day.
You are free to believe anything you like about Mozart’s demise. Maybe it was strep throat. Maybe it was trichinosis. Maybe Salieri worked him to death.
Or maybe, just maybe, zombie Galileo took his final revenge.
I guess we’ll never know.