Published in KPBS On Air Magazine November 2005
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is about to celebrate his 250th birthday. [Actually, we’ll have to do the celebrating without him]. There will be many local events in 2006 to mark the arrival of one of the greatest musical geniuses of all time. First up is a production of Amadeus, the multiple award-winning 1979 drama by Peter Shaffer. The time and place are perfect. In a felicitous collaboration, the La Jolla Stage Company will mount the acclaimed play in the opulent setting of the historic Westgate Hotel in downtown San Diego . Rick Hernandez, executive director of the grassroots community theater, considers the co-production to be a magnificent piece of synchronicity.
The 25 year-old company started out in the La Jolla High School auditorium, then created a home base in the Bird Rock area; after a flooding incident, they moved into the La Jolla Firehouse YMCA. That relationship dissolved not long ago. So this opportunity was a perfect interlude while the group searches for a permanent La Jolla home.
“We’ve never been scared of a challenge,” says Hernandez. “Fate has dictated that we be a gypsy theater for the moment. But Fate has also brought us this wonderful opportunity.”
“Everything around the hotel bespeaks the Mozart era,” says LJSC artistic director James Dublino . “The architecture, the furniture, the fixtures, the grand piano. When we come walking in with our costumes, it’s going to complete the gorgeous picture.”
The often wickedly funny tragedy, set amid the splendor of 18th-century Vienna , pits genius against mediocrity, brilliance against blind ambition. The stage version is very different from the Academy Award-winning 1984 film. But neither is a factual portrait of the gifted composer. The playwright himself called it “a fantasia based on fact.”
The ‘facts’ are related by the tortured court composer Antonio Salieri. Now an old man, he tells his story in episodic flashbacks which chronicle the last ten years of Mozart’s life. In the play, Mozart’s short career was subverted and his life prematurely ended by Salieri, who is overwhelmed by the younger man’s genius. Something of a religious zealot, Salieri believes the gift of composing is divine, and he sees Mozart as God’s chosen instrument. His envy, greed and pride lead him to denounce and destroy the immature but inspired youth. When his (nefarious) prayers aren’t immediately answered, Salieri renounces God. Salieri’s fall from grace is paralleled by Mozart’s descent into poverty and death.
The La Jolla Stage/Westgate co-production, featuring operatic music provided by mezzo soprano April Fisher, is presented in the round, in the intimate but sumptuous Regency Room. The Birthday Boy would feel right at home.
[Amadeus plays at the Westgate Hotel from October 21-November 6. 858-454-7798]
©2005 Patté Productions Inc.