By Peter Shaffer
Directed by Joseph Discher
Scenic Design by Richard Block
Lighting Design by Matthew Adelson
Costume Design by Maggie Dick
Sound Design by Richard M. Dionne
Production Stage Manager - Christine Whalen*
Jon Barker | Salieri's Valet
Robyn Berg | Teresa Salieri
Jordan Coughtry* | Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Robert Cuccioli* | Antonio Salieri
Mark H. Dold* | Emperor Joseph II
Katie Fabel | Katherina Cavalieri
Robert Hock* | Kapellmeister Bonno
Greg Jackson* | The Venticelli
Daren Kelly* | Baron Gottfried van Swieten
John Little* | Count Johann Killian von Strack
Colin McPhillamy* | Count Franz Orsini-Rosenberg
Tricia Paoluccio* | Constanze Weber
Todd Quick | Salieri's Cook
Tom Robenolt* | Priest
Patrick Toon* | The Venticelli
Citizens of Vienna, Servants: Christopher Payseur, Mary Trotter
*member Actor's Equity
There are a plethora of resources to read about the life of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and one can engage in endless research in an attempt to determine which elements in Amadeus are fact and which are fiction. For example, Mozart’s supposed poisoning by Salieri is not given academic credence. Though rumor says Salieri confessed to murder, Mozart’s death record lists “severe military fever,” while other sources suggest rheumatic fever, kidney failure and mercury poisoning. Some sources speak of an intense rivalry between Mozart and Salieri, while others report that they collaborated musically and had a mutual respect for one another. Yet others state the rivalry was exaggerated by the rise of Austrian nationalism in the 19th century, which led to the deifying of its native Mozart, while Salieri, an Italian, was recast in the role of a Machiavellian nemesis. No matter what, there is no doubt that Peter Shaffer employs many accurate historical details about Mozart’s music and his personality in the play—indeed Mozart’s own letters show that he had a keen sense of his own genius as well as a penchant for potty humor:
“I have received reprieved your highly esteemed writing biting, and I have noted doted that my uncle garuncle, my aunt slant, and you too, are all well mell. We, too, thank god, are in good fettle kettle. Today I got the letter setter from my papa Haha safely into my paws claws…Wouldn’t you like to visit Herr Goldsmith again?....I now wish you a good night, shit in your bed with all your might, sleep with peace on your mind, and try to kiss your own behind; I know go off to never-never land and sleep as much as I can stand. Tomorrow we’ll speak freak sensibly with each other. Things I must tell you a lot of, believe it you hardly can, but hear tomorrow it already will you, be well in the meantime. Oh my ass burns like fire! What on earth is the meaning of this!—maybe much wants to come out? Yes, yes, muck, I know you, see you, taste you—and—what’s this—is it possible? Ye gods!—Oh ear of mine, are you deceiving me?—No, it’s true—what a long and melancholic sound!”
But if we dwell too much on the debate as to what is fact and what is fiction, we will miss the universal themes illuminated in the play: envy, artistic creation, forgiveness, passion, beauty, sin, genius, madness, lost innocence, the search to understand God, and finally, the struggle against mediocrity and mortality. Shaffer wrote a drama, not a history book. And much like Shakespeare, he takes dramatic license to “hold as it were, the mirror up to nature” and to ultimately confront us with ourselves. Sir Peter Hall said it well when he wrote that Shaffer’s play “looks unblinkingly at the rest of us, who are neither blessed nor cursed (like Mozart) with genius. It analyzes with compassion and wit how desperately ordinary most of us are. For however talented we may secretly believe ourselves to be, we remain in the great scheme of things, relative mediocrities. It is only genius—that rarest and most precious of states—that is unaffected by fashion and indifferent to competition. Only genius goes on creating, whatever the circumstances; it needs neither success nor recognition to sustain it: van Gogh never sold a painting. Only genius makes its own rules.” Sir Peter also called Amadeus “a clear-eyed celebration of Mozart and his music.” He said that Mozart is “someone whose genius can stand with Shakespeare’s.” I have always thought of Mozart as the Shakespeare of classical music, so I think it is fitting that we present this play on our stage.
My interest in the play began with my passion for Mozart’s music, an enjoyment of dramas that focus on historical figures who challenge the status quo, and the exploration of artistic creation—its origin, and what it costs in sacrifice and suffering. My desire to explore the play stems from Salieri’s dilemma. He asks a basic question that many of us have asked at some point in our lives “Why not me?” is something we can all understand. Salieri questions God. And though we may not go to the lengths and descend to the depths Salieri does, who among us has never looked up to the Heavens in anger to question why things happen the way they do, or railed about how unfair life can be? How many times have we let envy rule our hearts? Despite the despicable maneuvers Salieri makes to destroy Mozart’s chances as a musician, I find great tragic beauty in his sinful descent. There are elements of his journey with which we can all identify, whether it is his anger toward a seemingly indiscriminate and uncaring God, his desire to be recognized, to be extraordinary, to be understood, or to be forgiven.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born in Salzburg on January 27, 1756. He wrote his first composition, the Andante for Piano, K. 1a, in 1761. From 1773-1775, young Mozart and his father Leopold traveled throughout Europe extensively, a trip during which Mozart suffered a near-fatal bout of rheumatic fever, an illness that would plague him for the rest of his life. News of Mozart’s talent drew audiences like King George III, Marie Antoinette, and Pope Clement XIV and, after a successful tour, the Mozarts returned to Saltzburg in 1775. In 1780, Mozart left Saltzburg—and his father’s watchful eye—in order to finish an opera, Idomeneo, re di Creta, commissioned by the court theater of Munich. There, he met Constanze Weber, whom he married in 1782. The couple settled in nearby Vienna, where Mozart announced his intention to stay as a freelance composer and performer, expressly against his father’s wishes. In Vienna, Mozart immediately sought lucrative work, collaborating with librettist Gottlieb Stephanie on Die entführung aus dem serial, which was a great success with the public in 1783. However, Mozart had not yet gained the degree of recognition from Joseph II that he felt he deserved, and he began to struggle financially without the support of the court. In 1784, Mozart joined the society of Freemasons in 1784 and met librettist Lorenzo da Ponte with whom he wrote Le nozze di Figaro (1786), Don Giovanni (1788) and Così fan tutte paid only a nominal fee. In November of 1791, Mozart suffered chronic renal failure and contracted acute rheumatic fever while he continued frenzied work on a mysterious commission for a requiem mass. He died shortly before one in the morning on December 5, 1791, and was buried in an unmarked grave on the outskirts of Vienna.
Antonio Salieri was born in Legnago, Italy, on August 18, 1750. He enthusiastically studied harpsichord and violin from an early age. After the death of his parents, the young Salieri traveled to Venice to pursue music. There, he attracted the attention of the successful Viennese composer Florian Gassman, who invited him to Vienna. There, Salieri enjoyed immediate success. At the young age of 24, Joseph II had active member of Viennese court society. Throughout his career, Salieri wrote forty-three operas, ballet and orchestral music, several symphonies, two piano concertos, and countless arias and cantatas. He enjoyed a healthy roster of pupils, some as noteworthy as Ludwig van Beethoven, Franz Schubert, and Franz Liszt. In 1788, Salieri became Imperial Royal Kappellmeister, the highest-ranking musical official in Joseph II’s court. He held the post until 1824, when his health began to decline. Salieri was hospitalized in 1825 and died on May 7. Shortly after he died, rumors began to circulate about his involvement with Mozart’s own untimely death.
“Have you finally learned what music is for?”
“It is refreshment for those who have run out of words. For lost childhood.” --from Tous Les Matins du Monde