Amazon original dramas don’t always have the high profile that rival Netflix does with theirs; Transparent and The Man In The High Castle are some of the more well know shows but there is one fantastic show that has been around just as long.
Mozart In The Jungle is quite unlike anything else on TV; a half hour comedy drama focusing on the New York Symphony and their Mexican savant conductor Rodrigo (Gael Garcia Bernal). Over the three 10-episode seasons, we have seen the orchestra struggle to survive, balancing meeting the high expectations of Rodrigo while fighting for better rights as they battle against Gloria (Bernadette Peters) and the New York Symphony Board. But these key themes are just part of the larger story; an exploration of music and passion seen through the eyes if newcomer Hailey (Lola Kirke).
The interplay between Hailey and Rodrigo is the heart of this series; an oboe artist desperate to become part of the symphony, she starts the show as his assistant and her eyes are woken to the larger world of the orchestra. Her journey to become part of the symphony – and then staking her own path during her travels in Europe with a renowned musician – form the narrative of Mozart In The Jungle. There is an unspoken love between them these two characters; a spark that is fascinating to watch as the show progresses.
The mix of her understated droll performance against his manic energy would be enough to sustain this series but there is so much more that makes this one of the gems of the Amazon Originals catalogue. Pete’s sultry Gloria is a delightful primadonna of a character, an over the top ‘darling’ with some grit beneath her immaculate look; she has great exasperated chemistry with Bernal’s Rodgrio and with former New York Symphony Conductor Thomas, played so brilliantly by Malcolm McDowell. He has the ability to make Thomas both a sad character, dreaming of better days and a slightly manic artist, seeking to create his own masterpiece after years of directing others’ work. His no holds barred, foul-mouthed attitude and his romance with Gloria is another fun element of the show.
The rest of the musicians are great bunch of interesting characters, led by Saffron Burrows Synthia. She brings a vulnerability and likeability to the experienced Cello player, who finds herself facing illness and becoming the voice of the symphony in negotiations. She’s a strong ally for Haylie, but like many characters in the show, completely screwed up too; there are a number of sexual hook ups her character has on the show that are cringeworthy for all the right entertaining reasons.
Mozart In The Jungle is fascinating and funny and witty in equal measure, exposing the flaws of these characters and their own circles on insanity (Rodrigo’s ability to commune with dead composers like Beethoven and Mozart certainly add a surreal but humorous twist to the show). The script and direction are a delight and there are enough twists in the plot to stop the show from growing stale. An excursion to Rodgrio’s home in Mexico in season two adds plenty of drama, while the third season mixes things up again and Haylie reunites with Rodgrio in Venice to work with legendary operatic singer Alessandra (played with a wonderful, sexy, manic charm by Monica Bellucci).
But mostly it is all about the music. While the concerts in the New York Symphony are delightful, it is the moments that the show takes the orchestra out of familiar surroundings that really shine. Rehearsing Tchaikovksy’s “1812 Overture in the courtyard of vacant inner-city apartment block, Alessandro’s OTT operatic performance on the canals of venice and my personal favourite, performing in the courtyard of a New York prison in season three’s ‘Not Yet Titled’ as the episode is told through the documentary lens of Bradford Sharp.
This is a show like no other, a show that loves music and exuberates passion with every episode. It will make you fall in love with classical music all over again (or make you a fam) and awaken you to new pieces of music. With season four about to debut on Amazon Prime, now is your chance to catch up on the first three seasons…