Ama Intro

Severance Hall
February 7 – Friday at 7:30 p.m. 

February 9 – Sunday at 2:00 p.m.

Introducing the Movie

Mozart, Amadeus & Salieri

 The movie AMADEUS is a brilliant evocation of Mozart’s era, delivered as a thriller filled with good, bad, and bawdy characters.  Based on Peter Shaffer’s well-crafted play of the same name — Tony Award-winner for best play in 1981 — it is a tale told well and ably, and not entirely inline with reality.  The movie won the Oscar for best film in 1985.

Perhaps it goes without saying that no film is the real thing.  Even a documentary makes choices for emphasis and omission.  Amadeus is a great play and a magnificent movie, inbued with intrigue, conflict, suspense and suspicion, triumph and tragedy.  It is also what playwright Shaffer called “a fantasia on the theme of Mozart and Salieri” — a reweaving of reality into an incredibly captivating and suspenseful yarn.  The arts are necessarily about “artistic license.”  And Shaffer indulged himself, and us, to stunning and mighty affect.

Yes, Wolfgang Mozart was a bawdy and wildly out-going personality, whose dreams and expenditures were always bigger than his own life (or bank account) could afford.  And, yes, he and Salieri did know one another, certainly.  But what exactly passed between them — friendship, rivalry, hatred, admiration, or something in between — we cannot fully know.

It is, thereby, perfectly fitting that even the name of the movie/play is largely fictitious, and not the middlename that Wolfgang preferred or used the most.  Still, Amadeus is a joy, bursting with energized acting, extravagantly elegant scenery and costumes, and music second to none.

  —Eric Sellen

At the Movies:  Amadeus Live

The Storyline
Claiming to have murdered the composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, the elderly composer Antonio Salieri recounts to a priest his dealings with the brilliant “Amadeus.”  Salieri, today seen as a minor light of the Classical era, was Court Composer to Austrian Emperor Joseph II when Mozart first met the Emperor.  Joseph II, a major patron of the arts, seeing talent that he liked almost immediately commissioned Mozart to write an opera in German, rather than the customary Italian.  Mozart showed himself to be childish, arrogant, annoying, and brilliant all at once.  And Salieri was simultaneously in awe and green with envy at his rival’s genius.  Ultimately, Salieri uses Mozart’s difficult relationship with his father — and his guilt over being a bad son — to drive Mozart slightly mad.  Salieri plots and prods, pushing Amadeus into a downward spiral of ill health and, eventually, death.  Still frustrated by Mozart’s greater talents, Salieri positions himself to have been a closer friend to Mozart than reality ever knew.

What’s his name?!

Mozart was baptized as Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart.  His first two baptismal names, Johannes Chrysostomus, represent his saints’ names, following the custom of the Roman Catholic Church at the time.  In practice, his family called him Wolfgang.  Theophilus comes from Greek and can be rendered as “lover of God” or “loved by God.”  Amadeus is a Latin version of this same name.  Mozart most often signed his name as “Wolfgang Amadè Mozart,” saving Amadeus only as an occasional joke.  In the years following his death, scholars in all fields of learning were quite enamored of Latin naming and conventions (this is the period of the classification and cataloging of life on earth into kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, species, etc.) and successfully “changed” his name to Amadeus.  Only in recent years have some started remembering and calling him by the Amadè middlename he preferred.