One of our strongest and most versatile dramatic actors, Lucian Msamati, has taken on one of the most compelling characters in one of the most intriguing ‘what if’ stories – that of Antonio Salieri and fellow composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who was arguably THE all-time musical genius!
Karla Crome (ITV’s The Level) plays Constanze Weber, wife to Amadeus (Adam Gillen).
The late Peter Shaffer (RIP June 2016) wrote this highly fictionalised account of how the lives of the composer’s contemporaries might have been fatefully intertwined, and was inspired by a short 1830 play by Alexander Pushkin called, Mozart and Salieri.
It premiered at the National Theatre London in 1979 with Paul Scofield in the role, and went on to win the 1981 Tony Award for Best Play with Ian McKellen. Frank Finlay, David Suchet and Rupert Everett have also filled Salieri’s shoes.
Soon after, the Academy Award-winning film adaptation of the same name won 8 awards in 1984, including best actor for the fantastic F. Murray Abraham as the seething Salieri and one for Shaffer’s adapted screenplay.
Now, Michael Longhurst’s production is a piece of music-theatre, experimenting with the Southbank Sinfonia fully integrated into the drama! 16 actors, six singers and the 20-strong Sinfonia bring life to Shaffer’s talent for creating memorable theatrical spectacles once again.
Lucian Msamati’s Salieri strikes a bargain with God to live a virtuous life in exchange for fame. Instead, he must endure the meteoric rise of his detested rival, the apparently spoiled, juvenile, but sublimely talented Mozart, in a frivolous Vienna.
The reliable Guardian writes, “Msamati is an excellent Salieri. He makes it clear that Salieri’s attack on Mozart is a perpetuation of a war with a God by whom he feels personally betrayed. Above all, Msamati captures the contrast between the public and private Salieri. Outwardly, he is the most composed of all composers. Left alone, he beats himself in anguish, not least because he is the sole person in Vienna capable of appreciating Mozart’s genius.”
Interestingly, the same Daily Telegraph theatre critic who offended everybody with his comments around Sharon Duncan-Brewster’s casting as Stella in the Manchester Royal Exchange Theatre’s A Streetcar Named Desire has nothing but praise for Msamati. He has nothing to say about the “British-Tanzanian actor” playing a REAL Italian composer, and actually also points out that he was “the first black actor to play Iago at the RSC – brilliantly.” He also has nothing to say about Karla Crome playing a REAL Austrian, Constanze.
You could almost imagine that the critic was motivated by some sort of unspoken taboo mandating that a dark-skinned black woman daring to take on even a FICTIONAL role written for a white woman is not to be tolerated [Read our report here]. That, or he received a dressing down from his editor and learned his lesson…
Well, we congratulate Msamati and Crome, wish them every success with the rest of the run.
Amadeus is booking at the Olivier Stage, National theatre between October 19th 2016 to January 26th 2017. Buy tickets via the National Theatre website.
Amadeus will be broadcast as part of NT Live on February 2nd 2017 to more than 2,000 venues in 55 countries, including 680 screens around the UK.
To hear director Michael Longhurst on Amadeus, buy tickets for October 31st 2016 at 6pm; or to hear Lucian Msamati on Amadeus, buy for January 11th 2017 at 5.45pm.