Theater Review: NT Live’s Amadeus

17 May 2017

The following review was submitted by Hannah Gellman.

The central theme of Amadeus may be rival composer Salieri’s jealousy of Mozart, but the central theme of my viewing experience was jealousy of anyone who saw Director Michael Longhurst’s production in person. This Sunday, May 14, members of the Carleton and Northfield communities gathered in the Weitz Cinema for the next best thing: a National Theatre Live screening of this production.

Image taken from The Upcoming.

Lucian Msamati’s performance as Salieri was simultaneously chilling and empathetic. Especially in the final scene of Act I, a dramatic monologue in which Salieri vows revenge against God for favoring Mozart with talent, Msamati had me spellbound.  From a production standpoint, the blank stage littered with Mozart’s manuscripts also leant the scene simplicity and finality that starkly contrasted the gaudy, playful world of the rest of the play. When Adam Gillen’s Mozart was reduced to madness at the end, the stage looked similarly stark, signaling that Salieri’s revenge has come to fruition. Writhing in both physical and emotional pain, Gillen inhabited Mozart’s fall fully, which was especially refreshing since his mischievous good humor during Act I sometimes felt forced.

Msamati’s performance notwithstanding, the Southbank Sinfonia stole the show. These musicians toed the line between members of a pit orchestra and actors. To accommodate this, the stage itself lowered into a pit during scenes representing operatic performances, and the orchestra became the orchestra in the scene. During other scenes, the musicians stayed onstage either adding background musical accompaniment to create ambience or participating in the action. To top it off, their playing was phenomenal.

Image taken from The Telegraph.

Despite the other admirable production choices, the mix of contemporary and period clothing and accessories sometimes distracted from the content of the play. The musicians’ modern black clothing blended into the background well enough, but I could not understand why Mozart must wear Doc Martens with his tails or his wife must wear a pullover sweater. The exact intent of these and other purposeful anachronisms remained vague.

Enhanced by the Southbank Sinfonia’s live music, Amadeus was both delightful and powerful, especially when I could look past the occasionally puzzling design choices.

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