Coming Soon: Mozart & Salieri

Photo by Karl Hugh. Utah Shakespeare Festival 2015.

Pacific Symphony audiences will enjoy Mozart & Salieri, a creative collaboration between South Coast Repertory (SCR), Pacific Chorale and the Symphony, May 19-21, 2022.

Adapted from the Tony Award-winning play and Oscar-winning movie Amadeus by Peter Shaffer, Mozart & Salieri includes a complete performance of Mozart’s Requiem, Don Giovanni Overture and other selections. The incredible story of genius musician Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, is told in flashback by his peer and secret rival Antonio Salieri—now confined to an insane asylum. SCR Artistic Director David Ivers stars as Salieri. James Sullivan, who conducted Ivers when he appeared as Salieri in the Utah Shakespeare Festival’s 2015 production of Amadeus, is directing this production as well. He wrote a director’s note sharing his thoughts about the program.

Director’s Note

“Mozart is the expression of eternal truth.” The renowned conductor Josef Krips said this, in an interview recorded in 1964. “Beethoven maybe reaches heaven, but Mozart comes from there…. What he wrote was written for Eternity.”

The Antonio Salieri of Peter Shaffer’s great play Amadeus could hardly disagree. What else could explain this astounding talent? But when Wolfgang Mozart blazed comet-like across the firmament of the 18th-century European sky and landed with ground-shaking force in Salieri’s Vienna, Antonio perhaps could only seethe with envy—and plot an upstart rival’s demise. Mozart’s offense was essentially nothing less than his own breathtaking brilliance. Salieri can see himself as nothing more than a middling mediocrity. Envy becomes treachery. Such is the story of Amadeus that is excerpted in this performance with the mighty presence of the Pacific Symphony as led by Carl St. Clair utterly enveloping David Ivers’ Antonio Salieri with the sublime music that is “of heaven.”

But is the story true? We can never know. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart died in deep poverty and was buried – no one knows just where—in a pauper’s grave. Mozart—divinely inspired Mozart— failed to gain in Vienna the patronage he so desperately sought. Salieri, competent but unremarkable Salieri, prospered there; the same Salieri who held several influential music posts at the Viennese Court, the same Salieri who certainly could have lifted young Mozart into a position of employment, if not prominence. That we know. But whispers, gossip, and then legend had it that Salieri literally poisoned Mozart—the scandalously sensational tale getting its boost from an 1830 drama by Alexander Pushkin—and furthered by Mozart and Salieri, an 1890s Rimsky-Korsakov opera based on the Pushkin tragedy of treachery. And then, of course, came Peter Shaffer’s international dramatic sensation, later the Oscar-winning film, Amadeus. But whatever happened, if any of this perfidy did, seems almost inconsequential to what is popularly believed. According to whisper, gossip, and legend Antonio Salieri stands in the villainous company of the Borgias, of Richard III, of Lady Macbeth.

There is one stirring thought to contemplate, a poignance that could surely have been the case for Salieri; and that, the agony of encountering the very brilliance he so desperately prayed to have in himself. Salieri’s own skills were in fact considerable. He must have easily heard and understood that Mozart was a miracle beyond explanation, a genius not of this earthly realm but of heaven itself. Amadeus. The sublime beauty of the music may have broken his heart.

It is an extraordinary privilege and pleasure to work on this project, especially with my longtime friend, David Ivers of South Coast Rep, and a new friend, Carl St. Clair of Pacific Symphony. And, of course, and especially this magnificent orchestra. To watch and to hear as these heavenly threads of sound surround and suffuse Salieri’s mind, heart and soul is a rare experience and true delight. With full orchestral force, it is—as Josef Krips had said—Eternal Truth told in the dramatic and heard in transcendence. 

—J.R. Sullivan

For more information about Mozart & Salieri or to buy tickets, please click here.