The show Mozart in the Jungle, a commissioned series by Amazon for Prime Instant Video will return for a second season this fall starring Gael Garcia Bernal, Lola Kirke and Jason Schwartzman. Based in New York City and inspired by the book Mozart in the Jungle: Sex, Drugs, and Classical Music, a memoir by oboe player Blair Tindall, the show is set in New York City and follows the trials and tribulations of Hailey, an oboe player and her encounters with Rodrigo, the international superstar who is the new music director and conductor of the troubled (and fictional) New York Symphony.
Beyond an entertaining, binge-worthy first season, Mozart in the Jungle features some wonderful film locations, which urban explorers will recognize. It’s clear the film scouts on this show knows their stuff about New York City and its alternative side. Here are some highlights of New York City film locations from the first three seasons:
Season three takes place in New York City and Venice, with another group of star-studded guest appearances including Italian actress Monica Bellucci, opera singer Placido Domingo, film composer Nico Mully, and NBA player Baron Davis. In Venice some of the city’s most famous landmarks are included: the Piazza San Marco, the Bridge of Sighs, and the famous Grand Canal, on which Bellucci, playing an iconic opera singer, performs with Placido Domingo on two rafts.
1. Rikers Island
One of the standout episodes this season, “Not Yet Titled,” is a documentary style episode filmed in 16mm film that takes place inside Rikers Island. It’s an incredible feat of filmmaking, truly melding the line between faux and real.
The production brought in a real orchestra and the Amazon in the Jungle cast to perform for Rikers Island detainees in the jail yard, with the backdrop of the New York City skyline behind. Given all the controversy over Rikers Island, New York City’s largest corrections facility, and attempts to close the jail by activist organizations like Just Leadership USA and many others, the episode does so much to highlight the humanity of the incarcerated, their physical reality, and their potential. Actual Rikers Island detainees were filmed watching the concert and several were interviewed after for the documentary.
Read a full recap of the episode here.
2. Cooper Union
The orchestra members protest the board behind the Public Theater, which is the home of the fictional New York Symphony. This shot is filmed on the newly renovated Astor Place public spaces, by WXY Architecture, and you can see the Cooper Union building in the background and an inflatable rat, placed by unions to protest non-union labor hiring practices.
3. Washington Heights
When Rodrigo gets back into town, he takes a walk in Washington Heights and gives his wallet to a street busker playing banjo on Broadway and 158th Street. Washington Heights has been a popular film location site recently, with a large portion of the Marvel show Luke Cage also filmed there.
Lizzie is doing a burlesque show about a Czech musician inside a gallery and performance space in Williamsburg at Kent and South 5th. The character she plays is the reason Lizzie is wearing the tuxedo pantsuit this season.
5. General Theological Seminary, Chelsea
The baby christening takes place inside the stunning General Theological Seminary in Chelsea, which turns into a lock in forced by Rodrigo to make the orchestra and the board come to agreement about the contract.
1. Heckscher Ballfields, Central Park
At the opening of season two of Mozart in the Jungle, The New York Symphony plays softball in the Heckscher Ballfields in Central Park, training for the playoffs. There are strict rules about the team roster, whether substitutes (like Hayley) can play on the team. Rodrigo joins in and offers to be the pitcher.
2. La Plaza Cultural Community Garden, Alphabet City
Rodrigo leaves a stuffy New York Symphony fundraiser and takes his new assistant Mike by bike to a hippie musical gathering at La Plaza Cultural, a community garden on 9th Street between B and C in Alphabet city. The garden functions as an open air theater and community space.
3. Graham Court, Upper West Side
Hayley, Lizzie, and her boyfriend, Bradford Sharp (B Sharp), played by Jason Schwarzman, head to the the “Ferndale Home for Artists,” a fictional building complex to film an episode of his show. The actual location is filmed at Graham Court on 116th Street and 7th Avenue (Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard). Graham Court is the first of the Astor apartment buildings – you’ll see evolutions of this courtyard apartment building later in the Belnord and the Apthorp Apartments. They meet Anton Gallo, a famous oboist played by Anton Coppolla (The Godfather) and they interview him in his apartment. This location returns in season three, when Hayley takes a sublet inside.
4. Queensbridge Park
Hayley and Alex walk towards the New York Symphony softball game along the East River in Queensbridge Park en route to her softball game, across from Roosevelt Island and the United Nations. Hayley gives him a gift, since Alex is going away for three months but he confronts her about not committing enough to their relationship. The game takes place in the ballfields inside this park.
5. Trinity Church
Thomas Pembridge asks Claire, his soon ex-wife to listen to his new symphony who loves the work but dies shortly therefter. The symphony attends the funeral of Claire, Thomas Pembridge’s wife. The exterior is filmed at Trinity Church on Wall Street and Broadway, but the interiors are filmed elsewhere.
6. Monte Carlo Restaurant
After the trip to Mexico when she meets Roridgo’s mother, Hayley goes on a date at Monte Carlo Restaurant (181 E 78th Street on the Upper East Side) with Erik Winklestrauss, a boy she met at the New York Symphony fundraiser who is on the board of the orchestra. He invites her to go skiing with friends in Montana, but she tells him her schedule is unpredictable so she can’t. She kisses him and they walk away in the rain.
7. Fanelli’s Cafe
Thomas Pembridge is drunkenly playing on the street as a one man band, using instruments inherited from his father, in front of Fanelli’s Cafe in Soho when Hayley comes across him. An NYPD officer comes by on horseback and asks if he is bothering Hayley who says no, and she then takes him home.
8. Washington Square Park
In the last episode of the second season, after the orchestra strikes, the board votes to lock out the orchestra, so the symphony heads to Washington Square Park to give a public open-air concert under the Washington Square Park arch. Rodrigo arrives by bike at the last minute and announces “This orchestra lives!” and “Friends, families and neighbors, this is your orchestra.” In the park, Gloria and Thomas Pembridge kiss.
1. The Public Theater as New York Symphony Hall
In Mozart in the Jungle, the New York Symphony rehearses and performs in this theater, which is actually the Public Theater on Lafayette Street just south of Astor Place. Many encounters between characters take place in front of this well-known building, a New York City landmark. For the filming, both the stand-alone billboards and the hanging banners were changed to advertise the first concert conducted by Rodrigo, featuring the fictional violinist Ana Maria, Rodrigo’s tumultuous, on-and-off girlfriend.
The Romanesque revival building was originally a library built by John Jacob Astor, who founded the organization that later became the New York Public Library. Threatened with demolition, the building was purchased by the city and converted into a theater in the late 1960s. Its most recent renovation was completed in 2012, and the theater plays host to Shakespeare (including the Shakespeare in the Park performances in Central Park) as well as the works of up and coming playwrights.
2. Abandoned Glenwood Yonkers Power Plant
Near the end of the season, Rodrigo goes in search of Ana Maria, because he wants her to perform the Sibelius Violin Concerto in the opening concert of the New York Symphony season. He finds her at the Glenwood Yonkers Power Plant, living in a hut.
See our photos from inside this abandoned power station here.
3. Brooklyn Historical Society
The stunning Brooklyn Historical Society Ohtmer Library, an interior landmark, serves as the music library of the New York Symphony. This is where Rodrigo meets an 18th century incarnation of Mozart, and where Hailey and her roommate Lizzie find the conductor and bring him to a fundraising gala at the Knickerbocker Club, but not before a long, humorous hang out at a restaurant.
4. Alphabet City Performance
Rodrigo takes the New York Symphony on a field trip and has them perform in an empty lot in Alphabet City, on 9th Avenue between B and C. You’ll recognize this spot across from the colorful La Plaza Cultural de Armando Perez Garden with its colorful decor on the exterior fence.
5. Ambassador Theater
On West 49th Street, the Ambassador Theater is also a New York City Landmark that has been home to the show Chicago since 2003. In Mozart in the Jungle, this theater is where Hailey meats the cellist Cynthia (played by Saffron Burrows), who then notifies her of an open-call audition for new oboists at the New York Symphony. In the show, the Ambassador Theater is also where the main star of the Styx musical Oedipus Rocks attacks an audience member for using his smartphone, thereby closing the show, a precursor to Patti Lupone grabbing the cell phone of an audience member in “Shows for Days” at Lincoln Center.
6. Hailey’s Apartment
The exterior of Hailey’s shared apartment (perhaps too fabulous of a space for struggling artists) is located in Long Island City, at the intersection of 44th Drive and Vernon Boulevard. It is on the metal stoop of this building where Hailey meets the dancer Alex again.
7. Thomas Penbridge’s Apartment
Thomas Penbridge is the former musical director and conductor of the New York Symphony, replaced by Rodrigo. Though married, Penbridge is having an affair with Cynthia, the cellist played by Saffron Burrows. In a scene that shows Cynthia and Thomas together in his apartment, the exterior shot of his supposed apartment shows the NYU Kimmel Student Center next to the Bobst Library.
8. East Village, Chinatown Locales
As Rodrigo searches for inspiration (and some weed), he wanders around the East Village. Emerging from the replica cast-iron subway entrance at Astor Place, he heads to Caracas Arepa Bar for some Venezuelan food and ends up in Chinatown, under the Manhattan Bridge.
9. Washington Square Park
Seeing that Hailey is disappointed by her dismissal from New York Symphony, Alex shows her that money can be made anywhere–including on the street. The duo perform in Washington Square Park in front of the Stanford White-designed arch. This park is also where Rodrigo heads to get advice from his priest.
10. Rodrigo’s Apartment
Rodrigo is given an apartment somewhere south of the Flatiron area by New York Symphony with a view of New York Life Building in Madison Square, the Empire State Building and Chrysler Building. Hailey joins him here in the empty apartment where Rodrigo opens the cryptic letter from Ana Maria, written in musical notes. Rodrigo immediately understands that Ana Maria is visiting New York and is warning him to stay away.
11. Industrial Site: Ana Maria’s Performance
Inside this manufacturing/industrial site is where Ana Maria performs an avant-garde art piece, involving violin and dancers. Hailey accomopanies by Rodrigo, who is trying to go incognito, but Hailey is unfortunately recognized by a schoolmate. Meanwhile, though Rodrigo has sworn not to meet Ana Maria, he disregards Hailey’s reminders and heads into her dressing room.
As a note, there should be some commendation given to the actors on the show, most whom mimic classical musicians quite well. It’s also great to see the rest of the orchestra staffed by actual musicians. The best in the show is Gael Garcia Bernal as Rodrigo on the violin, who looks pretty authentic and even tries to place the correct fingering to match the piece. French actress Nora Arnezder is impressive as a lefty violinist. Saffron Burrows as Cynthia does her best as a cellist, but her posture and hand position are pretty off–maybe she’ll improve for next season!
Next, read about the film location for Wes Andersen’s The Royal Tenenbaums, his only film set in NYC. Get in touch with the author @untappedmich, a cellist and Juilliard School graduate.