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Series / Mozart in the Jungle

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Mozart in the Jungle is an American dramedy series about classical musicians in New York City, which streamed for four seasons (2014–18) on Prime Video.

Young, eccentric celebrity conductor Rodrigo (Gael García Bernal) replaces the aging Thomas (Malcolm McDowell) as conductor of the New York Symphony. Struggling oboist Hailey (Lola Kirke) catches a big break when Rodrigo is entranced by her last-minute audition, but an embarrassing blunder during her first rehearsal reveals that she still has much to learn.

The backstage lives of musicians is the main focus of the show. Hailey and her fellow Starving Artists juggle what gigs they can find — giving lessons to hormone-crazed adolescents, playing in the band for terrible Jukebox Musicals — with fanatic amounts of practice as they try to refine their craft. The orchestra higher-ups, meanwhile, must endlessly butter-up the wealthy patrons who underwrite the orchestra.


The series was co-produced by Roman Coppola, Jason Schwartzman, and Paul Weitz. Notable guest stars included Schwarztman, Wallace Shawn, Danny Glover, and John Hodgman.

This show provides examples of:

  • All Men Are Perverts: The very first scene of the series illustrates this with a twelve-year-old boy of all people, who's been eyeing on and sending inappropriate texts about Hailey to his friend while she's tutoring him with oboe lessons.
  • Ambiguously Bi: La Fiamma kisses Hailey while imitating Rodrigo, and Hailey herself gets into it.
  • Amicable Exes:
    • Thomas and his ex-wife appear to be this after the divorce. While season 1 showed a contemptuous relationship between the two, including his wife knowing about his affair. But after the divorce they appear to be friendly acquaintances. Thomas even asks her to listen to his symphony because he trusts her opinion, and she agrees.
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    • Thomas and Cynthia later become this, after Thomas gets together with Gloria.
    • Hailey's boyfriend, Alex, still lives, works, and is comfortable enough with his ex that he falls asleep in her bed occasionally. It bugs Hailey until it becomes an Aborted Arc between seasons 1 and 2.
  • Arc Words: "Play with the blood."
  • Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!: Rodrigo, being an artist, is easily distracted, usually with little regard to the consequences.
  • Both Sides Have a Point: While audiences are probably inclined to side with Rodrigo against Thomas, Rodrigo could handle his ascension with a little more grace. Thomas needs to realize he hates his new position and find something else to do. Amazingly, they both realize this and make peace.
  • Bottle Episode: Rodrigo enforces one of these in Season 3, when he locks the orchestra into a church with Gloria in order to force them to resolve their labour dispute.
  • Bourgeois Bohemian:
    • Rodrigo and Thomas are both eccentric artists who have taken positions with the very posh New York Symphony. Rodrigo struggles with having to give up his more iconoclastic habits while Thomas struggles to remember having real passion for his work.
    • Thomas embeds himself further in this when he's invited with work with an EDM producer. He goes to the guy's studio, listens to a rough mix and launches into a splenetic rant about how terrible the guy's music is ("This is a hop, skip, and a fucking jump through Robocop's anus, and you know it!"). The producer invites Thomas to improvise something, the guy samples it, puts it through an algorithm and plays it back...and Thomas decides that it's actually kind of awesome.
  • British Stuffiness: Thomas, at first, but gradually sheds this throughout the series.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer:
    • Every member of the symphony. It's kind of the point.
    • Even the Mayor of New York who attempts to solve the lockout by having both parties work in a garden together.
      Mayor: Apologize to these damn plants!
  • The Bus Came Back: Thomas comes back from Cuba soon after Cynthia goes down to Cuba too to find him playing with a steel drum band.
  • Call to Agriculture: A peculiar example as Thomas leaves the posh New York Symphony to journey to Cuba in order to play music on the street. It helps him get back in touch with his artistic drive and he completes the symphony he's been working on for decades.
  • The Cameo:
    • In the second season premiere, when Rodrigo guest conducts the LA Phil, Gustavo Dudamel, the real-life conductor of the La Phil as well as the inspiration for Rodrigo, appears as the stage manager for the Hollywood Bowl.
    • Violinist Joshua Bell has a brief cameo in Season 1 and returns for a longer appearance in Season 3, where he plays first violin in Hailey's first performance as a conductor and gives her some advice and encouragement.
  • Career-Ending Injury: Cynthia's been in danger of one, as she's been struggling with carpal tunnel syndrome since Season 1, and finally gets surgical treatment for it in Season 3.
    • Rodrigo's hit with amusia in the latter half of Season 2, though he gets better, essentially as a fresh serving of irony after ceding to Biben's demands of him leaving the orchestra.
  • Cool Big Sis: Cynthia offers Hailey free advice, looks out for her at work, and protects her from gossip
  • Cool Old Guy: Thomas Pembridge, conductor, composer, and later EDM star.
  • Didn't Think This Through:
    • Really, Rodrigo, what DID you expect inviting your class warrior grandstanding wife to perform in a symphony for extremely rich white people?
    • A running theme is a lot of wacky misunderstandings, feuds, and rivalries are set up only for the individuals involved to check themselves before doing something career-endingly stupid. Which, of course, is how you manage to succeed as a professional musician. Anna Maria is one of the individuals who doesn't do this, which is part of why no one will hire her (not that she cares).
  • Dirty Old Woman: Season 1 has a fundraiser for the orchestra where the attendees, older rich women, are asked to endow batons for Thomas and Rodrigo. There is an atmosphere of competition to see which conductor has the most money raised for their baton. In addition to a few baton double entendres throughout the evening that the women find humorous, when Rodrigo arrives he asks them to wet their fingers at one point, and one woman expresses disappointment when he says it isn't for anything risque.
  • Elegant Classical Musician: Everyone in the New York Symphony orchestra is dedicated to their craft, but most of them are far from the refined and regal image projected by the trope. They're no less susceptible to stress and vice, especially in such a close-knit environment where various personalities could clash over one wrong note.
  • Erudite Stoner: Dee Dee, the symphony's percussionist who'll deal out drugs to anyone in the symphony (and the orchestra's HR department) if they just ask him. He's as kindly and mellow as this trope gets, and will express concern if he believes anyone might be getting addicted to his wares.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": Union Bob, a piccolo player who quibbles over bathroom breaks per union rules, almost never uses his last name.
  • Friend to All Children: Rodrigo is no less sincere when talking to children than he is with any other adult, especially if he's giving a music lesson (whether as part of his job or just because he feels like it). He practically melts around babies.
  • Full-Name Basis: Warren Boyd the violinist and concertmaster. Rodrigo appears to have the strictest full-name basis with Warren Boyd, but it appears to rubbing off on Hailey as well.
  • Funny Foreigner: Downplayed with Rodrigo, who is eccentric as all hell but a great musician and deeply serious about music. He does, however, pronounce people's names funny: Hailey is "Hai Lai" and Lizzie is pronounced as if Italian: "Litzy".
  • Green-Eyed Monster:
    • Thomas has this to Rodrigo, not only because Rodrigo is taking his old job but because he envies the man's youth as well as fame.
    • Subverted when it looks like it's being set up for full-blown Driven by Envy plot. Thomas and Rodrigo have an adult conversation after an embarrassing breakdown in public. Thomas then realizes he needs to get away from New York and find himself, which he does. With a vengeance.
    • Rodrigo to an AI which actually manages to complete Mozart's requiem based on analysed data.
  • Hate Sink: Edward Biben's meant to represent the slimiest and most entitled of the symphony's patrons.
  • Heel Realization: Thomas has one of these when he realizes his jealousy is making him a villain to a man no different from himself. It helps Rodrigo genuinely respects Thomas, even if their conducting styles are different. This immediately prompts a Heel–Face Turn as Thomas gets back to what he considers most important: the music.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Hailey and Lizzie are roommates for the majority of Seasons 1 and 2, and as close as sisters.
  • Hypno Pendulum: Winslow Elliott uses one on Rodrigo in "Mozart With the Bacon"
  • Idle Rich: A subversive case with Lizzie; she's actually from a very wealthy family, but prefers to live on her own rather than as a trust fund kid. It's not until she receives a relative's inheritance that she puts the money into something worthwhile to her.
  • Important Haircut: Rodrigo has Hailey cut his messy hair short, emphasizing that he cares about art more than showmanship.
  • It's All About Me:
    • Alessandra (La Fiamma), the opera diva in Season 3, owns this trope. Justified in that she's a real diva: she's always the centre of attention and her fans are waiting for her either to amaze them or to fail horribly, and she's got issues with stage fright and her voice getting older. Still, though.
    • Bradford's documentary about the orchestra's performance at Rikers Island suffers from a bit of this, in that he leaves in a few too many shots of himself explaining to people that he hasn't yet decided whether or not to cut himself out of it.
  • I Was Quite a Looker: The older first oboist Betty notes that "I had tits once," but prides herself on not having used them to get a job in her youth.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: What starts Thomas and Rodrigo's feud (which mostly exists only in Thomas's mind) is the latter calling Thomas out on a screw-up in his farewell performance. Thomas calls him out publicly and the two lock horns. Later, Thomas goes over the performance then realizes Rodrigo was right.
  • The Lancer: Betty seems to be this to Cynthia: when Rodrigo forces the orchestra to negotiate with Gloria by locking them all into a church, Cynthia calls on Betty to do the actual negotiating because it's implied that Betty is more aggressive in contract negotiations. Sure enough, a bottle of whiskey later, Betty and Gloria have hammered out a deal.
  • Kicked Upstairs: Thomas is promoted to "executive musical director emeritus" so Rodrigo can take his job as conductor. No one, least of all Thomas, understands what that means.
  • Literal Metaphor: Bradford warns Lizzie when they start dating that he comes with a lot of baggage. When he moves in with her, she finds that he means this quite literally.
  • Love at First Note: Rodrigo first finds Hailey after she's missed her audition and is just playing her oboe if only to play it once on the symphony stage. Because the auditions require a partition to conceal the auditionee's identity, he doesn't see her, but is immediately captivated by her playing. Subverted in that they don't enter a romantic relationship until the end of Season 3.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Rodrigo is a rare adult male version of this, particularly to Hailey. He fits the artistic, free-spirited aspect of the trope perfectly, stands in stark contrast to traditionalists like Thomas and sticks-in-the-mud like Biben, and he inspires everyone around him to look at things from an unconventional angle. The trope is deconstructed in terms of how this affects his love life: he often attracts women who are just as mercurial as he is, and it really isn't until Hailey that he finds himself in a stable relationship. However, Hailey finds that Rodrigo is a difficult boyfriend.
  • May–December Romance: Thomas and Cynthia are in one of these. The first episode makes it clear it's because Cynthia respects his work rather than the fact Thomas is rich.
  • The Mentor: Thomas becomes one for Hailey when she expresses interest in conducting during Season 3. Even when he gets intrusive over her conducting his first original piece, he later makes up for it and continues to give her encouragement.
  • Messy Hair: Rodrigo, fitting the "eccentric artist" aspect of that trope perfectly. He cuts it to a more clean length as part of an Important Haircut, though he keeps a few braided and decorated locks. In Season 4, Japanese Loony Fan s consider him "dead" because of this.
  • The Mistress: Cynthia serves in this role to Thomas. It's played interestingly as despite the fact there's a vast age difference, there is real respect and love between the two with no attempt to hide their relationship from Thomas's uncaring wife.
  • Modesty Bedsheet: Hailey has one in the Season 3 finale after she and Rodrigo have finally resolved their UST.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Cynthia, as played by Saffron Burrows, is absolutely stunning as well as the most sexual of the cast. Played with as she starts out in a monogamous relationship with Thomas. Later, she has an affair with Nina the contract lawyer but while it's implied to be sexual, there's no Fanservice involved.
  • Naïve Newcomer: Hailey, who comes into the orchestra while just starting out as an oboist professionally.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Rodrigo is based on the Venezuelan conductor Gustavo, who also uses Only One Name.
  • Not Distracted by the Sexy: Thomas is thinking of a screw-up in his farewell performance versus the barely-dressed Cynthia in his bed. She is less than pleased by this fact.
  • "Not So Different" Remark:
    • What prompts Thomas' Heel Realization is his recognising that Rodrigo's grandstanding is exactly how he treated the conductor he himself replaced.
    • To Rodrigo's horror, he realizes at the end of "An Honest Ghost" that he has less in common with Mozart than he does with Liberace.
  • Passing the Torch: Rodrigo's childhood music instructor, Maestro Rivera, wanted him to succeed him as the head of his school in Mexico, but Rodrigo turns him down to continue working in New York. Rivera is outraged and rejects his prized student, but sends Rodrigo his baton after he passes away, a move that inspires Rodrigo to start a youth division for the New York Symphony.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Edward Biben is racist towards Rodrigo and sexist towards Gloria
  • Put on a Bus: Thomas appears to undergo this after realizing he's becoming Salieri to Rodrigo's Mozart.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: Part of the show's humor comes from the fact that they're players of elegant classical music but all very, very quirky.

  • Real Song Theme Tune: An orchestral arrangement of "Lisztomania" by Phoenix
  • The Resenter:
    • Thomas, towards Rodrigo. He gets over it.
    • Betty has this attitude to Hailey, which she is oblivious of. She assumes she's dealing with a Sink or Swim Mentor when it's very likely Betty genuinely wants her to fail. Betty too gets over it, partly because the orchestra gets into a labour dispute so because it can't play anyway, Hailey ceases to be a threat to her.
  • The Rock Star:
    • Rodrigo is the classical music equivalent. Perhaps the closest real equivalent in the classical music world, violinist Joshua Bell, also makes a cameo in the first episode.
    • In season 3 Thomas, of all people, becomes this on account of his newfound interest in EDM.
  • Salieri Syndrome: Thomas looks like's going to be this to Rodrigo. Subverted when he has a Heel Realization.
  • Scenery Porn: The episodes in Mexico and Venice, holy cow.
  • Serious Business: The entirety of the show is about the absolute prestige and honor everyone treats the New York Symphony with—despite it, in fact, being a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: Thomas realizes New York and the symphony are just going to make things worse and worse for his psyche, so he leaves to go to Cuba.
  • Silver Vixen: The show isn't shy about showing Bernadette Peters and Monica Belluci as some of the most fabulous and desirable of the female cast members.
  • Sink or Swim Mentor: Betty to Hailey—at least that's how Hailey sees it.
  • Sleeping with the Boss:
    • Cynthia has a history of sleeping with her conductors. Thomas is the latest of them.
    • People think Hailey is sleeping with Rodrigo. She isn't. They don't get together until she no longer works for him.
    • Gloria dates first Pavel and later Thomas
  • Slobs Versus Snobs: Rodrigo's essential conflict is the perception of classical music as something only for old rich white people versus his own Bohemian counter-culture tendencies.
  • Soapbox Sadie: Anna Maria.
  • Spirit Advisor:
    • Rodrigo regularly talks to dead composers. Bach appears as an elderly man who's always hogging the piano, Tchaikovsky as a gloomy Russian guy, and most often, Mozart as a very serious teenage boy in full tails and periwig.
    • In the Season 3 finale, Hailey talks to Mozart's elder sister Nannerl, a keyboard virtuoso whose father made her give up music as soon as she was old enough to get married. Nannerl advises Hailey to "get your Scheiße together" before it's too late.
  • Stupid Statement Dance Mix: Played straight and indeed, deliberate. Thomas is invited by the EDM producer to play music to welcome aliens to planet Earth. He does so, and is so excited with the result that he bellows "WELCOME TO EARTH, MOTHERFUCKERS!" into a live mic. And bingo, this trope.
  • Stylistic Suck: The Styx Jukebox Musical which Hailey plays in before joining the NYS. It looks horrifying and hilarious at once.
  • Team Mom: Cynthia is this to the entire orchestra.
  • Terrible Interviewees Montage: Rodrigo sits through one before discovering Hailey. Although they're technically quite competent, they lack inspiration.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Rodrigo practically has a fixation for mate, a tea boiled under his very specific instructions.
  • Trickster Mentor: Rodrigo.
  • True Art Is Incomprehensible: In-universe, it's mostly averted, but Anna Maria's (Rodrigo's estranged wife) absurd performance art piece plays it straight.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: Rodrigo and Hailey. Resolved as of the Season 3 finale.
  • Waiting for a Break: Hailey is this. She gets her chance in the Season 3 finale when she does a blind audition for the orchestra. Rodrigo recognises her playing. She doesn't screw up, but she doesn't get the gig, either, and it makes her realise that she has to change her ambitions.
  • Xanatos Gambit: Rodrigo sabotages Betty's participation in the concert to give Hailey a second chance at playing in the symphony.
  • Your Mom: When Rodrigo calls him a "Yo-Yo Ma wannabe", Andrew Walsh's brilliant response is "Yo' mama Yo-Yo Ma"