Play Reading in English – Amadeus by Peter Shaffer
HK English Speaking Union
- Wed 30-03-2016 7:15 PM - 2 h
Amadeus, written by British playwright Peter Shaffer and premiered at the National Theatre in 1979, blends fiction and history to showcase the final years of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s life.
The play’s narrative voice is that of Antonio Salieri, an older composer and contemporary of Mozart, who, driven by jealousy, plots the tragic downfall of his supremely gifted rival. It suggests that Salieri, whose own star had faded as Mozart’s began to burn brightly, engineered the premature death of one of the greatest musical prodigies of all time. Despite the abiding rumours of foul play, most historians subscribe to the more realistic notion that Mozart died of rheumatic fever. Shortly after Mozart's death in 1791, rumours spread that the young genius was perhaps poisoned by an enemy.
In the 1800s, Russian playwright Aleksandr Pushkin wrote a one-act play, Mozart and Salieri reworking the rumours into a psychologically intense drama, which served as a primary source for Shaffer's play. In both plays the motor for Salieri’s veiled hostility toward Mozart is represented as professional jealousy: the latter is a former child prodigy and possesses seemingly effortless genius, whereas Salieri himself has struggled hard to achieve success at a cost, despite making a bargain with God that he would worship him in his compositions, if God were to grant that he might become a famous composer.
The decisive factor in the play is that Mozart's genius is seen by Salieri as God's way of ultimately mocking his own more pedestrian gifts. Dramatist Shaffer skilfully presents Mozart as an immature joker and capricious dilettante one moment, and a sublime artist in thrall to his Muse the next. Amadeus is one of the greatest stage drama rivalries in the repertoire, full of contrasting exchanges and monologues that bring out both the levity and the soulful magnificence of Mozart and Salieri’s burning resentment which culminates in a dramatically ironic conclusion.
Facilitators: Mike Ingham & Julian Quail
All are welcome whether you wish to read or just listen.
Below is a link to a Youtube clip from the National Theatre production with the great Paul Scofield in the role of Salieri: