Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was a small man with a giant talent.
So compelling is his sound, so global his legend, that his many works will thrive as long as humans make music.
The name Mozart is synonymous with genius — and enormous productivity. During a life that ended abruptly at age 35, he finished more compositions than most composers write in double that time.
Mozart’s life and works inspired more books than any other composer.
There’s even a rich chocolate candy named for him.
|But Antonio Salieri?
Salieri was the Italian-born court composer who flourished during Mozart’s time and place, 18th century Vienna, then Europe’s performing arts capital.
Today, he’s a curiousity, a footnote to musical history, known almost entirely because of his intersection with Mozart.
In fact, it took British playwright Peter Shaffer to remind the world of Salieri — by making him a suspected villain in the hit 1979 play Amadeus.
In both the play and the subsequent award-winning movie, Salieri embodies jealousy, bitter frustration, and, finally, the whiff of poison.
Did Antonio Salieri really murder Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart? Did the Masons do him in?
The Toledo Symphony and the University of Toledo want to raise that old and unanswered question again.
Next weekend, as part of its ongoing collaboration in music/theater productions, the symphony and UT will present a revival of the Shaffer drama, but with live music.
Amadeus: In Concert, at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, will bring professional actors from the Glacity Theatre Collective to the Peristyle in a version of Shaffer’s drama directed by Cornel Gabara.
Symphony musicians will be on the Peristyle stage but not in the spotlight, accompanying the action with a rich sampling of Mozart’s most beloved music, under the baton of Stefan Sanderling.
|This Classics Series V event should be a highlight of the 2014 winter music scene.
But right now, Gabara, a UT associate professor of theater and head of acting, is deep into staging and details for what he calls his biggest challenge yet.
(Gabara directed Every Good Boy Deserves Favour, the Tom Stoppard/Andre Previn work, for the Toledo Symphony’s Carnegie Hall debut in April, 2011. And he staged The Soldier’s Tale, the Igor Stravinsky theatrical piece, in November, 2012.)
“It’s a very exciting project, to work with the Toledo Symphony in this huge space,” he said in an interview last month. He plans to spread action throughout the cavernous hall.
“I love putting myself in front of the train. But that’s a big train,” Gabara said with a chuckle.
Even though this “train” will be much shorter than the original four-hour Shaffer play, the Toledo production will comprise the entire concert.
And time, no doubt, will fly.
“This play has a very fast rhythm, with many changes,” Gabara noted.
Appearing as Mozart will be Oliver Henzler, with Qarie Marshall as his challenger, Salieri. Dave DeChristopher will be Mozart’s chief patron, Baron Gottfried Van Swieten, with Starr Chellsea Cutino as wife Constanze Weber Mozart. In the roles of Salieri’s Venticelli (little winds) will be Megan Aherne and Ben Pryor.
Sanderling, who saw this version of the play at the Chautauqua Institute, didn’t check his enthusiasm for the upcoming performance in a recent conversation with The Blade. “It is brilliant,” he said.
And it’s strictly a Toledo-made production. “We did not need to orchestrate anything,” Sanderling said. “We worked from the original scores and I did the arrangement.”
The playlist is a greatest hits array of Mozartiana, with movements from symphonies, concerti, operas, a mass, and the famed Requiem, Mozart’s last, incomplete work.
There will be one work by Salieri in the array of pieces, his Sinfonia in D Major “La Veneziana.”
Gabara, who says he received overwhelming support and encouragement from UT officials, is working with theater designer Jim Hill on set and staging details. A mechanical engineer before diving into stagecraft, Gabara, a native of Bucharest, Romania, has done set design in Europe, where he works frequently.
Dialogue and music will typically be simultaneous, he said, but music will be in the spotlight.
“Music defined Mozart’s world,” the director said.
Indeed, the composer, as prolific a correspondent as a composer, wrote this: “When I am, as it were, completely myself, entirely alone, and of good cheer — say, travelling in a carriage, or walking after a good meal, or during the night when I cannot sleep — it is on such occasions that my ideas flow best and most abundantly.
“Whence and how they come I know not; nor can I force them.”
To Gabara, much of the tension in the play comes from the intersection between mediocrity as represented by Salieri and the genius of Mozart.
“We’re talking about the place of genius in the arithmetic of life, the condition of the genius artist in the social and political contexts of any time,” said the director.
Salieri desired fame in his lifetime, which he enjoyed. But the critic in Salieri could not deny the unassailable creative superiority of the upstart Mozart, who approached every aspect of his existence with unbridled enthusiasm.
“One of the conditions to become a genius is to accept your own human nature, everything between hell and heaven,” said Gabara.
“Geniuses have the courage to stretch themselves to the full extent.”
Tickets for Amadeus: In Concert are $22-455 at 419-246-8000 or www.toledosymphony.com.