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AMADEUS (National Theatre - London)

The National Theatre production of AMADEUS is a dramatic marvel - physically grand, intellectually bold, and emotionally probing. Director Michael Longhurst imaginatively uses the vast Olivier stage, and populates Peter Shaffer’s brilliant play, originally produced on the same stage in 1979, with an orchestra of nearly two dozen members of Southbank Sinfonia, whom he integrates seamlessly with almost two dozen players, expanded from the original cast. Mozart’s music – from The Abduction from the Seraglio, The Marriage of Figaro, Don Giovanni, and The Magic Flute is performed, not just soundtracked. Shaffer creates in Salieri, a most tragic figure: celebrated in his day, he dies knowing history will consign him to eternal mediocre repute. A devout Catholic, Mozart’s genius so undermines Salieri’s hunger for immortality, his faith so challenged, he doubts God. Shaffer’ lets us in on Salieri’s fate from the very start of the play. Still, Lucian Msamati’s Salieri amazingly engages us on an intense personal journey that becomes more layered, more internalized as his performance grows. Adam Gillen’s Mozart is a kinetic wonder: Gillen uses his body as if it were jumping out of its skin, like the genius mind jumping out of Mozart’s head. Shaffer’s AMADUES concludes with intellectual punch after punch, each landing upside the head. But like great drama, it cuts too to the heart. Salieri laments, “Reduce God and you reduce man.” Shaffer’s thinking rings truer now in these cynical times than ever before.

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