Opera House Theatre Company
Thalian Hall • 310 Chestnut Street
4/27-5/1, 5/6-8, 8 p.m.;
Sunday, 3 p.m.
Tickets: $15 • (910) 632-2285
His talent was showcased at the early age of 5, and over his lifetime, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart created 600 or more works for the Classical era. His father, a violinist for the local Archbishop of Salzburg, recognized his son’s extraordinary musical ability early on and proceeded to take him touring throughout Europe. By age 16, Mozart had already experienced the world, having visited England, Italy, France and Germany, all the while meeting some of the most important people in politics and music during that time.
His work puts him in the top rankings for classical music, but there was more to his story than just being a great composer. When Mozart died mysteriously, fingers started to point to fellow composer Antonio Salieri, a man who had become an obsessed rival.
Upon hearing of Mozart’s mysterious death, playwright Peter Shaffer became interested in the relationship between the two composers. In 1979 he wrote “Amadeus,” which zeros in not only on the history and music of Mozart but on the antagonism between the men.
“Amadeus” has made its rounds since it opened in 1979 at the National Theatre in London, coming to the States in 1980 and proceeding to win five Tony Awards, including one for best drama in the 1980 season. Eventually, its popularity and success went to film, sweeping the Academy Awards.
Now, Shaffer’s “Amadeus” finds a spot onstage at Thalian Hall, opening Wednesday, April 27th, and running through May 8th, courtesy of Opera House Theatre Company. Directed by Lou Criscuolo, theater-goers are invited to watch the regaling tale of Salieri versus Mozart.
“It’s a wonderful play,” Jason Hatfield, who plays Antonio Salieri, says, “It’s not the type of show you [normally] see. It’s not ‘Grease’; you really have to listen and pay attention.”
At the beginning of the production, the audience is introduced to Salieri first, not Mozart. As it continues, audiences get the story from Salieri’s point of view. He is the court composer for the Emperor of Austria in the 18th century. Upon hearing Mozart’s music, he becomes completely mesmerized. The obsession quickly rises, and when Salieri meets Mozart, he is baffled that the grace and charm of the music does not match the person behind it. Mozart is a stubborn, arrogant man who indulges in juvenile activities. Salieri becomes enraged, and questions how God gave such impeccable gifts to a person whose behavior is far from tolerable. Universal themes—envy, jealousy, inadequacy—bluster throughout the production.
Pretty much staying true to its tale—except for maybe a word or two, Criscuolo jokes—the story is clear-cut. The time-perioud costumes are being handmade by Julie Harvey, and the set will not be what the audience expects.
“There’s not much stuff on stage,” Robin Dale Roberston, who portrays Joseph II and the Emperor of Austria, says. “Light boxes, columns. The lighting and the music will be key to [‘Amadeus’] other than us out there.”
The play switches locations throughout, but it’s not really the place of action that makes a difference; it’s the relationships. “The play depends on the actors,” Criscuolo continues. “I can cover it up with music and tons of set, but it all comes down to the actors. So less is better. And the fascinating thing is: The more we get into it, the more I see light bulbs coming on and [the actors] saying ‘Oh, that’s what this is about!’” he laughs.
The breadwinner of the show, the music, doesn’t just “create a completely different scene,” according to Criscuolo, it completes it. Tickets are still available through the Thalian Hall Box Office (910-632-2285) or through www.thalianhall.com.