Italians seek return of Salieri remains

Associated Press

MILAN (AP) — Residents of a provincial city in northern Italy are seeking to reclaim the remains of its best-known son, composer Antonio Salieri.

Salieri left his birthplace of Legnago, south of Verona, as a teen in 1766 to pursue his musical ambitions in Vienna, where he mostly remained until his death in 1825. He was one of the Habsburg court's favorite composers, and is perhaps best remembered in popular culture as Mozart's chief rival. Rumors in his lifetime, dismissed by authoritative sources as slanderous, even claimed that Salieri poisoned Mozart.

A group of citizens under the banner "Legnago for Salieri" is asking the city to back the initiative and activate diplomatic channels to recover the remains from Vienna's largest and most important cemetery, Zentralfriedhof, where such musical luminaries as Ludwig van Beethoven, Johannes Brahms and Franz Schubert also have been laid to rest.

Organizer Franco Bozzolin said Tuesday that the "noble initiative" was inspired by local pride. The last known attempt to return Salieri's remains failed during World War II, he said.

"We believe this mission is possible, but it will be a long road as it involves institutions in two countries," Bozzolin said.

The cultural foundation supporting the Salieri Theater in Legnago, dedicated to diffusing his works, has not taken an official position on the campaign.

But theater director Federico Pupo noted that Salieri's musical successes were mostly in Vienna. "Therefore, I think it is correct that he rests in the city that he himself chose, and that benefitted him so much," Pupo said in an email.

Disseminating Salieri's music and that of his contemporaries is "the only way he can be truly present in Legnago," he said.

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