Mozart's giggle creates a green-eyed monster in "Amadeus"

By by dianna wray/
April 6, 2011 at 2 p.m.
Updated April 5, 2011 at 11:06 p.m.

Not everyone loves Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and watching Peter Shaffer's play, "Amadeus," it's not hard to understand why.

Mozart may be known in the modern world as a genius, but back in the day, in 18th century Vienna, he was just another court musician.

He was also a guy known for being notoriously immature, with a fondness for really bad jokes that he laughed at in a high-pitched giggle.

Still, Mozart wrote some of the best music the human race has to our credit - the opera, "Don Giovanni," and "Requiem" are just a couple of examples of his genius.

Genius is a funny thing. Unlike skill, which is something you can develop with enough time and practice and teeth-grinding, genius can't be learned or taught.

It's that something extra, and either you have it or you don't, and you don't have to be a saint to possess it.

In the Tony Award winning play "Amadeus," composer Antonio Salieri is shocked to find so much talent given to a guy like Mozart instead of a devout, well-behaved creature like Salieri himself.

Who knows whether Mozart deserved it? He just had it, is all.

Mozart's talent and tacky humor combined, drive Salieri over the edge, and he spends most of the play trying to thwart the career advancements of the gifted composer. If you think the corporate world is cut-throat, be glad you never tried to be a court musician.

The play winds up with a very old Salieri claiming to have caused Mozart's demise. It's the old guy's last stab at being remembered - for killing a genius since he can't be one - and no one believes him.

That's the other funny thing about genius - there are no guarantees, no matter how talented you are. In the play, Salieri scares the hell out of Wolfie. Regardless, Mozart died at 35 years old, broke and was buried in a pauper's grave.

The story is a highly fictionalized version of things. While Salieri and Mozart were not exactly fond of each other, there's never been a stitch of historical evidence to imply that the Italian composer hated Mozart so much, he went sailing round the bend and killed him - or even claimed to have done so.

If you've seen the Academy Award winning movie, you've got an idea of what you are getting yourself into. If you haven't, prepare yourself for an evening of sharp, witty dialogue and a rumination on the nature of talent and the dangers of greed.

Go check out the Alley Theatre production of "Amadeus," and the next time you start to get green-eyed with envy, think of Salieri, and don't.



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