The Toledo Symphony’s grandest experiment yet in artistic collaboration with the University of Toledo had its debut last night in the Peristyle, the first of two performances of Amadeus: In Concert.
Basically a miniconcert of choice Mozart music embedded in a reduced version of Peter Shaffer’s 1979 play, Amadeus, it was a win-win for the large and appreciative audience.
Directed by Cornel Gabara, who had the action spill off the stage and throughout the hall, including a stage extension over three rows of seats, the pace was as sprightly as a Mozart allegro, the characters well defined — especially Salieri and Mozart — and the overall impact quiet potent.
Toledo Symphony Music Director Stefan Sanderling played the role of pit conductor, sitting to conduct, and occasionally interacting with a player in light scripted bits.
The play basically explores the price of fame through the eyes of Antonio Salieri, the Italian composer who outshone Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart during their lives in all ways but one: artistic brilliance.
Or, as Salieri, played powerfully by Qarie Marshall, proclaimed, “Goodness is nothing in the furnace of art.”
Salieri was good enough to gain court patronage and plenty of paying students. And he was perceptive enough to acknowlege his own mediocrity while recognizing the genius of Mozart.
Played to the hilt by Oliver Henzler, Mozart is a social misfit, a brilliant musical visionary with a loose tongue who is ill-suited to the elaborate pretensions of 18th century Vienna.
And how Salieri works that advantage, abetting Mozart’s worst tendencies, playing on his weaknesses, misleading him.
As Constanze Weber, Starr Chellsea Cutino matched Henzler’s intensity, playing Mozart’s wife with straight-ahead passion and refreshing physicality.
As Venticelli (“little winds”) who advanced the storyline and then played smaller key roles, Ben Pryor and Megan Aherne were quite convincing, as was Dave DeChristopher as Mozart’s patron, Baron Van Swieten.
It’s always amazing what a few well-placed colored lights can do to change the mood of the Toledo Museum of Art’s venerable hall. Designed by Jim Hill, who also had designed the spare but effective set — especially the looming mask of death — the overall set transformed the Peristyle into a theater, playing up its classical Grecian roots in the process.
Joining the musicians to sing excerpts from several of the Mozart works — over a dozen selected by Sanderling — were Jennifer Goode Cooper and Kristin Eder, sopranos, Don Bernardini, tenor, and Timothy Bruno, bass.
Daniel Thobias’ costumes are simply perfect.
There were rough edges to last night’s performance, caused in part by weather-driven rehearsal cancellations.
Tonight’s show will no doubt be much smoother. But either way, this is an ambitious project that was well planned and expertly executed.
The program will repeat at 8 p.m. today in the Peristyle.
Tickets are $22-55 at www.toledosymphony.com or 419-246-8000.
Contact Sally Vallongo at: firstname.lastname@example.org