AMADEUS – a murderous musical rivalry

AMADEUS, now playing at North Coast Repertory Theatre is a spellbinding tale of talent, jealousy, madness, and revenge that is not to be missed. The 38th season opener for the theatre playing through October 6th brings the talent and the troubles between Salieri and Mozart to spectacular life.

It might be coincidence that the saying “Revenge is a dish best served cold” was first noted in a novel written during the same years that Salieri and Mozart lived in Vienna, but it’s an apt description of the story.   In fact, there is even a scene where a delighted Salieri enjoys his favorite cold dessert from the shadows while watching Mozart slowly breaking down – clearly that revenge was cold, delicious, and proved the saying to be true.

 The play, as told by Salieri is a sort of deathbed confession of the past, both for absolution and for the enduring fame or infamy; he doesn’t really care which as long as people remember his name.

Seated Rafael Goldstein _ Tony Amendola – photo by Aaron Rumley

Salieri (Tony Amendola) may have achieved fame as a composer and in gaining the title of Imperial Kappelmeister of Vienna, as the official director of music for the monarch, but when meeting the young, and talented Mozart (Rafael Goldstein) is overcome with jealousy. 

Back (L-R) Alice Sherman, Tony Amendola _ Christopher M. Williams – photo by Aaron Rumley

As a young man Salieri had dedicated his life and his musical talent to the glory of God in exchange for fame, but it is when meeting Mozart that Salieri realizes that God was actually playing a terrible trick instead.

Mozart may be a brash, overindulged child prodigy who never truly grew up, but his musical talent was evident for everyone to see. His behavior is an affront to the sophisticated and mature Salieri who did not indulge in passing whims of fancy like Mozart.  Upon their meeting Mozart makes some off hand improvements to a piece Salieri wrote with casual ease and in fact vastly improves the piece, which only reaffirms Salieiri’s dislike of this musician

Leigh Ellen Akin _ Rafael Goldstein – photo by Aaron Rumley

That Mozart was talented was fine, but that his gift was so great when he as a man was so base was a sure sign of the practical joke being played on Salieri.  God had bestowed upon Salieri enough musical talent to get the fame he craved, but also the understanding that while he may have some talent, ‘God was singing through this little man to all the world” through Mozart.

This envy and disillusion in his own talent turns into a poison that Salieri uses in every interaction with Mozart throughout the play.   His battle with God takes place at the cost of Mozart – a cost Salieri was all too willing to pay.

Amendola as Salieri is focused and calculating, but he maintains a small vein of insecurity that drives all of his actions; allowing him to stay human and flawed instead of a caricature of evil.  His cold and sharp portrayal stands in contrast to the warm, playful, and casual arrogance of Goldstein’s Mozart.  Goldstein underscores his talented Mozart with vulnerability both emotional and practical as he finds that a youth as a child prodigy left him without truly understanding that whims and zaniness are fine in a child, but not so much in a man.

Excellently directed by Richard Baird the leads and the talented ensemble let this play unfold, letting the tension build to its inevitable and justly earned conclusion. Other standout s are Kathryn Tkel as Mozart’s wife Constanze, Leigh Ellen Sherman as a young singer, and Louis Lotorto as the Emperor Joseph II.

Costumes by Elisa Benzoni are gorgeous and play well on Marty Burnett’s gilt stage, and with Matt Novotny’s lighting.

AMADEUS is a fascinating portrayal at a murderous musical rivalry that is every bit as delicious as the dessert Salieri enjoys – you don’t want to miss it.

AMADEUS is playing at North Coast Rep through October 6th.  For ticket and show time information go to www.northcoastrep.org

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