24 October 2018
THIS IS THE FIRST REVIEW BY ANDRE DELICATA - THE TIMES OF MALTA
Nothing beats staging a play with a historical setting within a sumptuous theatre; and the Manoel certainly provided the ideal backdrop for this when Masquerade chose it as the venue for their production of Peter Shaffer’s 1979 play, Amadeus. Shaffer gives a highly fictionalised account of the intrigue surrounding the lives of composers Salieri and Mozart at the court of the Emperor of Austria. Masquerade could not have chosen a better suited play to celebrate their 20th anniversary.
An old and repentant Salieri opens the piece and invites the audience to make up their own minds as to whether he was responsible for the death of Mozart based on his envious scheming.
His narration, which often breaks the fourth wall, is also in part a conversation with god – cantankerous and uneasy, sometimes bitter and often pleading on Salieri’s part – an attempt to understand why he deserved to be mocked by god and have his talent overshadowed by “the creature” as he describes the much younger and much more brilliant Mozart.
Manuel Cauchi gave an excellent performance as Salieri, whose subtle vindictiveness, fanned by the gossip about town of the Venticelli (Victor Debono and Stephen Mintoff), is mesmerising to see. His quarrel with God is as central a theme as his rivalry with Mozart and his disapproval of the man’s genius. Both Debono and Mintoff portrayed the chorus-like, echoing wisps of gossip with measured ease and highlighted Cauchi’s mastery of voice and tonality with their backing whispers and rumours. Acting in counterpoint to Salieri was Thomas Camilleri’s impeccable Amadeus. Contrasting strongly with the serious and scheming Salieri, the forthright and idealistic Mozart is silly and childish, almost petulant in his social dealings, and very much aware of his own genius.
Amadeus is a production which is well worth watching and is a feast for the senses
His high-spirited and passionate approach towards life is visible in his rumbunctious relationship with his wife, Constanze Weber, played very ably by a young but mature Monique Dimech Genuis, who matched Camilleri’s energetic and electric performance.
The play chronicles Mozart’s rise and fall at the court of Emperor Joseph II of Austria (Michael Mangion), with special focus on court intrigue, musical tastes and how the arts are strongly influenced by political choices and social conventions.
Mangion presents the Emperor as flighty and easily influenced and does so in a very credible manner. His influencers are Count Von Strack (Alfred Scalpello), Count Orsini-Rosenberg (Franco Sciberras) and Baron Van Swieten (Massimo Portelli) as well as Salieri. Scalpello and Sciberras were adequately pompous and self-important in their conventional attitudes but their performance lacked some of the lustre it required.
Portelli’s temperament as Van Swieten, originally supporting Mozart and later finding himself increasingly displeased with his attitude, worked well in exposing the changing sentiment at court. It was also a pleasure to see Jasmine Farrugia showcasing her singing in a cameo as Katerina Cavalieri, Salieri’s prize student and Mozart’s occasional lover.
With a sumptuous set by Romuldo Moretti, complete with reflective flooring that enhances the beauty of the theatre’s restored ceiling, the scenes shifted seamlessly into each other thanks to director Stephen Oliver’s strong choices and effective lighting design.
Music by both Mozart and Salieri played a significant role in this complex moral character piece and elevated the show to lofty heights.
Simona Mamo’s costume design was spot on in its lavish depiction of 18th century Viennese society, complemented by Krista Paris’ make-up and wigs and hair by Michael and Guy. The show is as much about spectacle as it is about speculation and the pathos of Mozart’s death and Salieri’s guilt is given its rightful place at the heart of the performance without detracting from the occasional humour and ribald luxury that was Vienna at the time.
This is Masquerade’s second outing of Amadeus as a production, and it followed it up spectacularly with Oliver’s fresh take on Shaffer’s excellent script. Amadeus is a production which is well worth watching and is a feast for the senses. Certainly not to be missed – a big bravo, encore to all. Amadeus is being staged at the Manoel on Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 7.30pm
Andre Delicata - The Times of Malta (October 24th 2018)