Mozart in the Jungle: first review

Mozart in the Jungle: first review


norman lebrecht

December 23, 2014

Anne Midgette comes down hard on the Amazon-made TV series based on Blair Tindall’s memoir of an oboist’s life on the New York freelance beat.

Her plot summary of the first episode: The conductor calls an audition! He hires Hailey on the spot! She messes up, so he makes her his assistant instead! This leads us, within a couple of episodes, to a fictional world with a strong similarity to The Devil Wears Prada.

Anne adds: It is remarkable to me that no one bothered to run the script by anybody who could point out its significant divergences from fact or, at the very least, show (Gael Garcia) Bernal how to hold a violin (there are close-ups of him “playing” one, bow high up on the fingerboard).

It’s odd, because the show seems to have ambitions and glimmerings of quality, and the acting, outside of the toe-curlingly awful dialogue, is not bad at all. Peters and Bernal, in particular, can almost convince you through sheer magnetism that you’re watching something credible.

The show airs on Amazon Prime from Tuesday. Not sure if it’s available outside the USA.
mozart in the jungle



  • william osborne says:

    “…while almost gleefully flaunting its utter ignorance of the field, trotting out one cliche and stereotype about classical music after another.” Ah, the ironies…

  • RW2013 says:

    Do people actually get paid for conceiving and making stuff like this, and are there people who have so little in their lives that they find the time to watch it?

  • Doug says:

    OMG! She’s holding the oboe with her right hand on the top joint!

    Good thing she’s putting the reed in her mouth. Unlike Katen Finlay.

    It’s Hipster Amadeus meets Fame.

    • joseph says:

      You do realize that she is playing the oboe with the left hand on top but the image has been flipped in post editing? You can tell because the keys on the bottom correspond to the correct pinky keys and the keys on the top (including the side octave) correspond to the correct hand. The only other expectation is that amazon comissioned a completely backwards oboe to suit the performers desire to flip the oboe around… which we both know is not true.

      Get over yourself! Medical shows take liberties like this all the time. Court shows take liberties like this all the time (do you really think thats how things work in a court of law? I dont have a JD but even I know thats bull).

      I do have an MM in oboe performance though, and you need to get off your high horse about the wrong hand being on top…. because its not. And the actor plays the oboe just fine.

      [redacted: abuse]

      • Doug says:

        And I have a doctorate in oboe performance. So please take this shovel and scrape up my horse’s shit.

      • Nydo says:

        The image has not been flipped in post editing; just look at the posts for the keys in the image; they run down the right side of the instrument as they do in real life. The actor does have her right hand on top (though they are in the correct position in the earlier shots).

  • ATLoboe says:

    I am a professional oboist, and really enjoy this show. Please don’t expect total perfection, and accuracy, it isn’t a documentary people! Expect entertainment, flair, and some awesome ridiculousness. Embrace it for what it is, and have a good time watching it! Enjoy that millions of people are watching a show about classical musicians, isn’t that incredible?! That’s what it’s made for!

    • DidTrumpet says:

      I agree completely. Well said. And in fact, there are some accurate things that any professional classical musician will notice. But it is a comedy, and in the end and comedies rely on satire, not total accuracy.

  • Georges Sand says:

    It’s available in the UK (good work, Norman) and Germany today. Also, There have been over 100 reviews before Midgette’s sad little effort. All of them positive.

  • Robert Holmén says:

    There trailer did indeed seem like every tired classical music cliché that could be mustered and i stopped after the first minute.

    • Rosie says:

      There were many flaws in how the actors held and positioned the instruments, bows, their fingering….etc. being a musician myself, it was quite noticable, however, this is COMEDY and perfection cannot be expected, as I do think this was not the message the Director was trying to get across. If you look at the larger picture, he was trying to acheive how musicians live and/or try to get by in the world of classical music BASED on Blair Tindall’s book.

  • DidTrumpet says:

    The NY Times has it listed in the top 10 TV shows for 2014. While there isn’t much competition, this one got a very positive review.

    Does anyone else despise the unreadable “Captcha” security strings?

  • bratschegirl says:

    I tried to read the book, I really did, but the bit I got through consisted entirely of “I played this gig, went to this party, did these drugs, and slept with this person” repeated ad nauseam, and I put it aside lest I lose the will to live altogether.

  • Gonout Backson says:

    Ten seconds of Bernal’s “conducting” were enough for me. Apparently, it’s more difficult than figure skating (God forgive you, Sir John Gielgud…). I have seen only one actor to make it look real : Ed Harris. But he can also paint like Pollock, so…

  • BobbyCorno says:

    Floor, wall, wall, ceiling–yep conducting is rocket science.

  • Reedman says:

    Yes, a lot of the musicians playing and the conducting looks silly (though it certainly looks like they did the best they could to train the actors). Yes, the process by which the oboist winds up in the orchestra is crazy. But the wacky situations musicians find themselves in all the time? The zeppelin-size egos found everywhere? The massive fish in a tiny pond situation that is working in classical music? The labor disputes? The rich buffoons to whom all must grovel? This show is very often spot-on, and it makes it plain that despite how odd some of these musicians are, that all of them are accomplished professionals and artists totally committed to music. And by the way, the cast? Gael Garcia Bernal? Malcolm McDowell? The utterly hilarious Bernadette Peters and Wallace Shawn? Get off your high horses about how inaccurate the violin playing and conducting looks and observe a well-cast, well-written comedic satire.