|Written by:||Peter Shaffer|
|Directed by:||Peter Hall|
|Run:||Ahmanson Theatre, Los Angeles
5 October – 20 November 1999
The Music Box, Broadway, New York
The piece opens with Salieri an old man who has long since outlived his fame and is convinced that he used poison to kill Mozart. Speaking directly to the audience, he promises to explain himself. We are taken back to the eighteenth century, at a time when Salieri had not met Mozart yet, but had heard of him and his music. He adores Mozart’s compositions and is thrilled at the chance to meet Mozart in person. When he finally meets Mozart, however, he is deeply disappointed to find that Mozart’s personality in no way matches the grace or charm of his compositions. When Salieri first meets him, Mozart is crawling around on his hands and knees, engaging in smutty talk with his future bride Constanze Weber.
Salieri cannot reconcile Mozart’s boorish behaviour with his genius. Indeed, Salieri, who has been a devout Catholic all his life, cannot believe that God would bestow such a gift on Mozart rather than on him. Salieri renounces God and vows to do everything in his power to destroy Mozart.
For much of the play, Salieri masquerades as Mozart’s ally while doing his utmost to destroy his reputation and any success his compositions might have. On more than one occasion it is only the direct intervention of the Emperor himself which allows Mozart to continue (interventions which Salieri opposes, and then is all too happy to take credit for when Mozart assumes it was he who intervened). Salieri also humiliates Mozart’s wife when she comes to Salieri for aid, and smears Mozart’s character with the Emperor and the court. A major theme in Amadeus is Mozart’s repeated attempts to win over the aristocratic audience with increasingly brilliant compositions, which are always frustrated either by Salieri or by the aristocracy’s own inability to appreciate Mozart’s genius.
The play ends with Salieri attempting suicide in a last-ditch attempt to be remembered, leaving a false confession that he killed Mozart with arsenic. He survives, however, and his confession is disbelieved by all, leaving him once again to wallow in his own mediocrity.
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Amadeus: A play by Peter Shaffer