On today’s date in 1979 a new play by Peter Schaffer titled “Amadeus” opened at the National Theatre in London.
Schaffer’s play tells the story of Mozart’s final years in Vienna, including some posthumous gossip that it was the petty jealousy and back-stabbing intrigue of Mozart’s Italian contemporary Antonio Salieri that hastened Wolfgang’s untimely demise. There was even a Romantic legend that Salieri had actually poisoned Mozart, a legend Shaffer gave a psychological spin.
Music historians were quick to attack Shaffer’s play as wildly inaccurate and downright unfair to poor old Salieri, who, they said, was not all that bad a fellow. Accurate or not, Schaffer’s play was a big hit, and five years later was made into a wildly successful film. That movie version of “Amadeus” prompted millions of new classical music fans to snap up any recordings of Mozart’s “Requiem” they could find.
And what about the music historians? They couldn’t even find comfort in the old public relations adage, “There’s no such thing as bad press as long as they spell your name right!” They felt even the movie’s title was bogus. Mozart never signed his middle name “Amadeus,” preferring the French version, “Amadé.”
Music Played in Today's Program
Wolfgang Mozart (1756 – 1791)Requiem, K. 626La Chapelle Royale and Orchestre des Champs Elysees; Philippe Herreweghe, cond.Harmonia Mundi 901620
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