Perhaps you saw, as I did, the news item about McDonald's - that's right, the hamburger people - acquiring the right to use Mozart's name in connection with their restaurant promotions.
Presumably their main target is the European market, especially with the 200th anniversary of the composer's death coming up in 1991. Still, I can understand the company's eagerness to come up with a new image. By now Mayor McCheese must be getting moldy around the edges, and even by present-day judicial timetables the Hamburglar must have exhausted the appeals process long ago.What isn't clear to me is how they intend to use Mozart.
Will his music itself be turned into a McDonald's jingle, a la their admittedly clever use of Kurt Weill ("Mac Tonight") a year or two ago? Will we eventually hear the familiar strains of "Eine kleine Nachtmusik" under the words: "Big Mac, Big Mac, Big Mac's the one for me/With drink and fries, or a McDLT"? Or will the opening strains of the G minor Symphony (No. 40) henceforth be associated with: "Grab an Egg, grab an Egg, Egg McMuffin/It's the one with the cheese in the stuffin'. . ."?
Or maybe the idea is to launch a whole new product line. Instead of Chicken McNuggets, whole families may soon be dining on Chicken McMozarts. Or if chicken isn't to your taste, how about a little Rondo alla Turkey?
Here, I expect, the possibilities are endless. Forget Vienna Sausage - try our new Salzburger! And how about a Salieri Shake - guaranteed to put a little extra something in your stomach - with maybe a sidecar of Cosi Fan Tutti-Frutti?
I'm not sure where Ronald McDonald would fit into all this (for the Ronald McDonald Houses alone, I expect he should be retained). Maybe with a bird-catcher's costume on, a la Pagageno, he could be used to hawk a new breakfast treat: Magic Flute Loops.
In fairness, it wouldn't be the first time something like this has been tried. Perhaps the most famous candies in Austria today are the Mozart-kugeln, or Mozart-balls, which in their elegant gold foil bear his image on every wrapper. Nor is McDonald's alone in its efforts to climb aboard the Amadeus-wagon. Reportedly Lufthansa and the advertising firm of Satchi & Satchi are planning similar promotions to coincide with the bicentenary of his death.
Moreover, remembering how he died - in abject poverty - it is hard not to agree with the chap who observed of all this, "If Mozart is turning in his grave, it is not because the idea lacks style but because he missed out on the money."
Just the same, one notes that Salzburg's regional governor (who reportedly engineered at least one of the deals) has attempted to avert criticism by setting up an "ethical committee" to monitor the various schemes. "It is the duty of us Salzburgers," he was quoted as saying (presumably referring to the citizenry), "to ensure that the forthcoming Mozart jubilee does not degenerate into the tasteless."
Maybe so. But on my last visit to Salzburg I recall seeing at least one record store called "The Sound of Music" (in English, not in German). Suggesting that if the profits are tempting enough, even the so-called ethical committee may find itself gazing longingly in the direction of the golden arches.
Tasteless? Hey, no problem - just "La ci darem la mayo!"