Amazon Studios is launching a slew of new scripted shows this summer and fall and one of them is “Mozart in the Jungle,” a look at a fictionalized New York Philharmonic. It was inspired by the memoir of the same name by oboist Blair Tindall, which chronicles her work in the New York professional music scene.
Don’t let the topic fool you, however. The show is not stuffy or boring, but rather a look at both the highbrow and the lowbrow facets of working in the classical music world, as the creators and actors tell the 2014 TCA press tour audience.
“There’s much of a high-low perspective in the characters, which is novelistic to me,” says Paul Weitz, the executive producer who directed the pilot. “There’s big distances the characters can travel and we’re exploring that as we work on the storylines for the series. … There’s a great number of characters inside the orchestra that can be exploited, so over the course of the season we’ll be introducing a number of interesting characters.”
Among the interesting principle characters are Thomas (Malcolm McDowell), an over-the-hill maestro who has been usurped by a young, brash conductor (Gael Garcia Bernal), who form a tenuous relationship.
“You associate maestros with being sort of on another plane of existence, but they — I love the idea that Malcolm’s character has this underbelly,” says Weitz. “It’s sort of ‘life after the presidency,’ he’s been in this position of power for so long. He’s trying to figure out who he is and what his role is now. [The two maestros are] like two presidents, the way they can relate to one another in a way others cannot. There’s going to be a lot of tension between them but also a mutual respect.”
Oboist Hailey (Lola Kirke) is another interesting character, as she is “trying to find her place” in the orchestra, says Weitz. She’s questioning “if she ever did make a choice to become a classical musician,” or if she merely played an instrument and liked the applause, so she just never stopped playing.
Saffron Burrows, who plays a cellist named Cynthia, sums the show up thusly: “I just thought the whole thing sounded like a wonderful world to explore, if dealt with creatively by people I respect.”
“Mozart in the Jungle’s” pilot episode is available on Amazon Prime now. The series will be available in December.