AMADEUS: NATIONAL THEATRE LONDON
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Adam Gillen), a rowdy young prodigy, arrives in Vienna, the music capital of the world - and is determined to make a splash. Awestruck by his genius, court composer Antonio Salieri (Lucian Msamati) has the power to promote his talent or destroy his name. Seized by obsessive jealousy he begins a war with Mozart, with music, and ultimately, with God.
Review by Louise Keller:
Brilliantly conceived, Michael Longhurst's production of Peter Shaffer's 1979 play Amadeus (through the National Theatre) is a musical and theatrical spectacle. It's an emotionally heart wrenching work, notable for the seamless integration of musicians and singers and with an unforgettable lead performance by Lucian Msamati as Salieri.
The play soars on the wings of Mozart's timeless music, while grounded in the reality of Salieri's poisonous jealousy. We feel his anguish as he duels with God, despairing to have been denied the brilliance of his brattish counterpart. A black Salieri, you might ask? The colour of Msamati's skin fades into oblivion as the passion and conviction of the character he plays comes to the fore ('Goodness is nothing in the furnace of Art.'). Tears streamed down my cheeks - such is the intensity of Msamati's performance.
Circular in structure, the play begins with an ailing Salieri sitting in a wheelchair and clad in a brocade robe. The 20 piece Southbank Sinfonia are part of the theatre along with the sopranos; snippets of Mozart's well known works are played in the context of the tale.
There's a great contrast between Msamati's Salieri and Adam Gillen's Mozart ('music is easy; marriage is hard'), who is directed like a clownish jokester, leaping atop the grand piano at every opportunity as he squeals his delight in the crude and inane. It appears overdone at times, although Longhurst's radical vision earns our respect.
All the cast is excellent, including Karla Crome as the down to earth Constanze and Tom Edden as Emperor Joseph II, who delights with some of the most comical moments. The fact that he physically resembles Jeffrey Jones, who played the role in Milos Foreman's 1984 Oscar winning film is a bonus. The film remains one of my all time favourites, offering the role of a lifetime to Oscar-winner F. Murray Abraham.
This is a magnificent production, made even more potent by the spotlight being kept on Salieri, who puts himself through the emotional wringer. If only Shaffer (who died in June last year) had lived to see it. Stunning!
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
A sensational fusion of cinema, theatre and music, Amadeus from the National Theatre in HD is one of the most satisfying, rewarding and engaging cinematic events of my year. Peter Shaffer's marvellous, tragi-comic play is superbly staged and brilliantly cast. If you go, and I urge you to, sit near the front to fully appreciate the theatrical power of the production.
Lucian Msamati had to convince me from the start that the colour of his skin was not a self indulgent casting quirk. Judge him not by the colour of his skin, I now say, but by the quality of his character acting (pace Martin Luther King). It is no surprise to learn that the play was originally titled Salieri, and without diminishing Adam Gillen's firebrand performance as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, I would say it would be fair and just. Msamati hardly leaves the stage for a minute - except for the 20 minute interval. And while he is on stage, he is riveting, commanding, lustful, pitiful and vain, self aware and finally tragic.
There is but one moment in the 200 odd minutes that strikes a false note, and that is at the end of the first half, when Salieri suffers the equivalent of a breakdown when faced with Mozart's god-given composing talents. In the film, Milos Forman directs F. Murray Abraham with great economy and minimalism - and thus creates a far more powerful result than the rather hysterical version of the scene as directed by Michael Longhurst.
But this moment is swamped by the brilliance of the whole, not least by the bravura use of the Southbank Sinfonia, whose members move around the stage as part of the action - while playing. Notable, too, is soprano Fleur De Bray as Katherina Cavalleri and the entire supporting cast.
The whole enterprise is a triumph, and the presentation possibility generated by HD technology in cinema proves its worth.
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AMADEUS: NATIONAL THEATRE LONDON (NR)
CAST: Lucian Msamati, Adam Gillen. Karla Crome, Tom Edden, Geoffrey Beevers, Hugh Sacks, Fleur de Bray
PRODUCER: National Theatre
DIRECTOR: Michael Longhurst
SCRIPT: Peter Shaffer (play by Peter Shaffer)
MUSIC: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (performed by Southbank Sinfonia) additional music by Simon Slater
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Chloe Lamford
OTHER: Choreographer Imogen Knight
RUNNING TIME: 204 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Sharmill
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: May 8-11, 2017 (selected cinemas)