Amadeus (Brisbane)

QTC The Queensland Theatre Company

The Queensland Theatre Company

AMADEUS by Peter Shaffer from June 8 to June 26, 1982 at the S.G.I.O. Theatre for the Queensland Theatre Company.

Directed by Mick Rodger; Set Design by James Ridewood; Costume Design by Tony Tripp; Lighting Design by James Henson; Choreography by Deborah Wray; Pianist: Anthony McGill; Stage Managed by Kristin Reuter and Assistant Stage Managed by Toby Simkin and Jan Levi (Sound).

STARRING Alan Edwards (Salieri); John Allen (Mozart); Reginald Cameron; David Clendinning; Duncan Wass; Stu Cochrane; Karen Crone (Ghost of Mrs. Salieri); Peter NobleEugene Gilfedder; Kevin Hides; Laurence Hodge; Dudley Hogarth; Anthony McGill; Christine O’Connor; Errol O’Neill; Gillian Shergold and Darien Sticklen.

Understudies included: Barry Searle (Salieri)

And for the Queensland Theatre Company:
(collectively over my tenure)

Executive Staff: Alan Edwards, AM MBE (Founding Artistic Director); Joe MacColum / John Krummel OAM / Gregory Gesch (Resident Director); Peter Duncan* (Assistant Director); Arthur Frame AM (Production Manager); Gillian Coar (Executive Officer); Christine WalshKen Kennett OAM (Public Relations & Publicity Officer); June Craw OAM (Finance and Business Officer); Lewis Savage (Ticketing & Subscriptions Officer); Helen Mayes (Clerical Assistant); Lloyd Nickson (Director, Theatre in Education); Richard Magnus (Fundraising Chairman); Diane Leith (Administration) and Susan BonningJennie Lewis (Receptionist).

Production Staff: Graham MacleanJames Ridewood (Resident Designer); Bill ShannonBeverley Hill (Design Assistant); Caroline Gyucha (Scenic Artist); James Henson (Lighting Designer); David Lees (Electrician); Michael WormaldGary CameronPaul ParkinsonDavid Palm (Properties); Howard Steele (Head Carpenter); Des Dougan / Peter Vosiliunas (Carpenter); Cornelis Boogaart* (Apprentice Carpenter); Marie Perry-WatsonLexi WrightJay Mansfield-Askew / Cynthia Bowen (Wardrobe Supervisor); Ken Bushby / Thelma CopeMeredith Fogg / Margaret ReevesDanny Healy / Arlie McGill / Anne Long / Kerry Yates (Wardrobe); Ellen Kennedy / David McCrudden / Kit Oldfield / Patrick Whelan / Kristin Reuter / Jan Levi / Victor Ashelford / Colin Wilson / Barry Melville / Toby Simkin / Brian Barnes / Vito Arena / Peter Reeve± / Sussanne Humphries / Julianne White (Stage Management); Vicki BirchYvette (Capt) O’Brien (Production Secretary); Dawn Grieg (Wardrobe Hire) and Ivan/Gloria Pierce, Gregory Gesch & Derrick George (Photographers).

Representation: Yolande BirdDiana Franklin (London Representative); Michael Menzies / Stuart Thompson (New York Representative) and John Krummel OAM (Sydney Casting & Repertoire Consultant).

S.G.I.O. Theatre Staff: Jim Wright (Manager); Alban RileyDon Fergusson (Assistant Manager); Peter PetrovichRay Calcutt (Head Mechanist); Patrick (Paddy) Teuma / David Malacari (Head Electrician) and Dallas Black / Kay Fifas (Booking Office)

Albert Park Theatre Staff: Wayne McKenna (House Manager); Margo Morris (Box Office)

Associate Artists: Bille Brown AM; Carol Burns; Reginald Cameron OAMIvar Kants; Joe MacColum; Warren Mitchell; James Ridewood, Cliff Simcox; Babette Stephens AM MBE and Geraldine Turner OAM.

QTC Guild: Magda Wollner (Coordinator); Alice BeacroftJoan Chamberlain, Bobbie Glyn Evans, Maureen Fallon, Sonja FarmerBeryl Foote, Neil FulwoodDolores Garland, Elaine Heath, Edna HeathwoodMargaret Hill, Ena Huppert, June Jamieson, Eva Klug, Irene Lefman, Patrick Mellick, Hillary MostenMaureen Mortensen, Barbara Nielsen, Joyce Nixon Smith, Gloria Phillips, Vivienne Reddy, Marea Reed, Melina Reed, Margaret Robinson, Grace Reynolds, June Sheedy, Ann Shevill, Toby SimkinSybil Simpson, Elaine SkinnerAnne Smith and Jess Yeowart (Volunteers)

* Salaries were assisted by a special grant from the Theatre Board of the Australia Council, a statutory body of the Commonwealth Government.
± Services were provided by the National Institute of Dramatic Art.
^ Services were provided courtesy of the Queensland Theatre Orchestra

The Queensland Theatre Company acknowledged the financial assistance of the Queensland State Government and the Commonwealth Government through the Theatre Board of the Australia Council without which the continued operation of the Company would not have been possible. The Queensland Theatre Company was a founding member of CAPPA (Confederation of Australia Professional Performing Arts)

The play explored the rivalry between Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Antonio Salieri, the court composer for the Emperor of Austria in the late eighteen century.

Amadeus begins in 1823 on the day that the elderly Salieri believes will be his last. Once a composer in the Austrian court of Emperor Joseph ll, his musical compositions have now been branded as mediocre and he is all but forgotten. Addressing the audience as “Ghosts of the Future,” he narrates and reenacts his relationship to Mozart. Many years earlier, Salieri recognized the genius of the young Mozart, who arrives at the court as a famous musical prodigy. Envy burns in the once pious Salieri, who renounces God and sets out to completely destroy his rival.

by Peter Shaffer

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The exhilarating experience of watching my boss of bosses, Alan Edwards (Salieri), using a cut-throat razor (made of a syringe and small rubber eye dropper filled with fake blood), cutting his throat 8 shows a week in a mesmerizing performance… while between shows (and runs to the Brisbane Arcade to buy more blood), for an hour a day on my knees polishing out scuff marks from a stunning ultra shiny black floor, (key to James Ridewood’s brilliant set design) in radiating circles from DSC to Upstage… and the opening savage whispers of the cast hissing the name ‘Salieri’ and ‘assassin’ and the two Venticelli darting around hidden speakers in the auditorium ceiling and walls was absolutely mesmerizing aurally.

It was a team effort to pull off this production, no departmentalizing — everyone crossed lines to help, and the vast majority were all local.

All in all too this day, one of my happiest experiences in my learning theatre craft, despite making me a chain smoker (with St. Moritz menthol, largely since my boss, Stage Manager Kristin Reuter also smoked that brand — hey it was the ’80’s).

DJ and I later became close friends with Peter Shaffer, and I often referred to this production as the one he should have regretted missing the most, as it was the best.

“  Well… There it is. 


Beginning in the streets of Vienna in 1823 where rumors are flying that old man Salieri (once the famed director of the Italian opera and a favorite of Emperor Joseph II) has confessed to murdering Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Salieri appears in his room and tells us, the audience, that he indeed poisoned Mozart, vowing to tell us the whole story.

With that, we race backward in time to 1781, right before Mozart and Salieri meet. A young Salieri is a devout Catholic who has vowed to dedicate his life to composing music in the name of God. He is a favorite of the Royal Court and feels stable in his job and reputation until he hears the name Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Mozart is on everyone’s minds and lips around Vienna, and Salieri becomes anxious to meet this young composer who has been known as a musical genius since childhood. Salieri finally meets this acclaimed Mozart and, to his horror, Mozart turns out to be a perverted, immature, vulgar young man. However, his music is indeed the thing of myths…its genius pierces through to the very soul of Salieri, who can’t understand how this petulant young man received the musical gift that he has been working towards his whole life.

Right then and there, Salieri swears off God and religion and decides to dedicate himself, instead, to ruining Mozart’s career.

Along the way, he not only ruins Mozart’s career, but also his life, all while hiding behind a mask of friendliness and concern for the young artist.

We watch Salieri poison Mozart’s reputation which eventually leads to his destruction and death.

A highly fictionalized account of the relationship between these two real life composers, Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus takes us on a wild ride through the trials and tribulations of genius, jealousy and revenge.

Major Characters

  • Antonio Salieri
    In old age, Salieri attempts to kill himself; he fails, and ends up in an asylum. In the asylum, Salieri begins a narrative in which he describes his involvement in Mozart’s death, and the motives behind his actions. Salieri wonders why God gives a vulgar man like Mozart exceptional skills, yet makes him, a pious man, mediocre.
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
    Mozart is a genius, but an infantile man. He spends beyond his means, parties too much, and defies authoritative figures. These negative traits all contribute to Mozart’s downfall, but what truly hurts Mozart is his arrogance. His arrogance turns Salieri, who could have been a powerful ally, into an enemy. Mozart finds any and every opportunity to insult and humiliate Salieri. As a result, Salieri begins to see Mozart as an instrument that God uses to mock him.
  • Constanze Weber (Mozart’s wife)
    She loves Mozart, but she fails to reign in his spending and instead often participates in frivolities alongside him. Constanze also has a bad relationship with Salieri. The relationship sours over a trick Salieri plays on her: he tells her that he will consider Mozart’s application to tutor the emperor’s niece if she sleeps with him; yet when she visits him in the evening to perform the deed, he scolds her and kicks her out.
  • Emperor Joseph II of Austria
    He is a very influential figure when it comes to the success of an opera, despite not being a music connoisseur. Three yawns from him, and an opera shuts down on the same night on which it premieres. He commissions Mozart for work. Throughout Mozart’s stay in Vienna, the emperor lifts certain bans in order to give Mozart more artistic liberties. Despite these accommodations, Mozart still challenges him — especially when he criticizes Mozart’s opera, The Abduction from the Seraglio, by saying that it has too many notes.
  • Count Johann Kilian Von Strack (Groom of the Imperial Chamber)
    He is the emperor’s chamberlain. Although he has no hostilities towards Mozart, he does reprimand Mozart when Mozart complains about having to apply for the opportunity to teach the emperor’s niece instead of automatically receiving the position.
  • Count Franz Orsini-Rosenberg (Director of the Imperial Opera)
    He is one of Emperor Joseph II’s musical advisors. He advises the Emperor against both commissioning Mozart to create an opera and having that opera be composed in German, but the Emperor goes against his suggestions. Count Orsini-Rosenberg becomes Salieri’s ally in his attempts to sabotage Mozart.
  • Baron Gottfried Van Swieten (Prefect of the Imperial Library)
    He is the imperial librarian for the Emperor’s court. Unlike Count Orsini-Rosenberg and Kapellmeister Bonno, he champions Mozart. He is one of the few people in attendance at Mozart’s funeral.
  • Katherina Cavelieri (Salieri’s pupil)
    She is an opera singer in Vienna, and is one of Salieri’s students. Her role is minor, but her presence contributes to Salieri’s negative feelings towards Mozart. Although Salieri is chaste, he still lusts after Katherina, who does not know his feelings or return them. When Katherina stars in Mozart’s German opera, The Abduction from the Seraglio, and Salieri finds out that she also slept with Mozart, his desire for revenge against Mozart increases.
  • Venticelli #1Venticelli #2 (‘Little Winds’)
    Salieri has achieved some fame as a court musician in Vienna, and to help maintain this stature, he relies on his paid gossips the Venticelli, or “Little Winds,” purveyors of information, gossip and rumors, to keep him apprised of the happenings in the city. They function as a chorus informing the audience — as well as Salieri — of what cannot be shown on stage directly.
  • Teresa Salieri
    Salieri remains faithful to his tepid wife, Teresa, despite his intense lust for his prized pupil, the beautiful soprano Katherina Cavalieri.
  • Guiseppe Bonno
    He is one of Emperor Joseph II’s musical advisors. He sides with Count Orsini-Rosenberg on all issues. He also works with Salieri to sabotage Mozart’s endeavors.
  • Major-Domo

Historical Context of Mozart

  • In the twentieth century, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s reputation grew considerably.
  • His works, which include a variety of forms from chamber music to symphonies and operas, have been heralded for their classical grace, technical perfection, and melodic beauty.
  • Shaffer’s play, Amadeus, records several details of Mozart’s life.
  • Mozart was a child prodigy who started composing before he was five.
  • A year later, his father began taking him and his talented sister to play for the aristocracy in Europe.
  • In 1781, he relocated to Vienna and married Constanze Weber against his father’s wishes.
  • The newlyweds had financial difficulties when Mozart could not find suitable employment.
  • While his work was often applauded during his lifetime, audiences were sometimes critical of the demands his innovations placed on them.
  • He also clashed with the emperor’s court over issues of artistic freedom.
  • Eventually, he was appointed chamber musician and court composer to Joseph II, but the paltry salary that he earned did not ease his financial troubles.
  • He gained public acclaim for The Magic Flute, but the work’s references to the secret rituals of the Freemasons lost him the support of one of its most ardent defenders, Baron Van Swieten.
  • Mozart worked on his final piece, the Requiem Mass, with the sense that it would be played at his own funeral.
  • He died, however, before he could complete it and was buried, unceremoniously, in an unmarked, mass grave.

The Referenced Mozart Musical Works

Requiem (death mass)
A musical composition performed at a funeral to honor the deceased. Salieri commissions Mozart to write a Requiem, and he plans on performing this Requiem at Mozart’s funeral after killing Mozart.

Abduction from the Seraglio (1782)
An opera with dialogue in German. The plot concerns the hero Belmonte’s attempts to rescue his love Konstanze from the seraglio (harem) of the Pasha Selim.

Don Giovanni (1787)
An opera in Italian with a libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte. A blend of comedy, supernatural, and melodrama, it is based on the Spanish tales of the legendary lover, Don Juan.

Così Fan Tutti (1790)
A comic opera in Italian with a libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte. The title is sometimes rendered in English as “Women are Like That.” There is some evidence that Salieri also had attempted to set the libretto to music, but abandoned it.

The Marriage of Figaro (1786)
A comic opera in Italian with a libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte based on a play by Pierre Beaumarchais. The plot concerns servants Figaro and Susanna foiling Count Almaviva’s attempts to seduce Susanna. In Amadeus, Mozart transforms Salieri’s welcome march into the aria “Non piu andrai” from this opera.

The Magic Flute (1791)
An opera in German, in the singspiel style with both singing and dialogue. It is a fantasy in which hero Prince Tamino, along with comic sidekick Papageno undergoes a series of tests to win the hand of Pamina. They must oppose the evil Queen of the Night, Pamina’s mother. The Magic Flute uses veiled references to rites of the Freemasons. “The Queen of the Night’s” aria is one of the world’s most familiar pieces of vocal music.

Music by Salieri 

Piano Concerto in B Flat Adagio:

Famed mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli talks about Salieri:

For Amadeus, Peter Shaffer commissioned a march for Salieri to play as a welcome for Mozart, who creates a now-famous variation on it “Non piu andrai” Here’s a quick comparison of the two:

Did You Know?

History has immortalized Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, but very few people know that Mozart’s older sister, Maria Anna Mozart, was also a musical prodigy. At age 11, Maria, who went by the nickname ‘Nannerl‘, began performing publicly. She played the harpsichord and piano alongside a 6 year-old Mozart. Nannerl and Mozart, under their father Leopold Mozart’s supervision, toured for more than 3 years. Over the course of their tours, they travelled to 88 cities, and their performances received critical acclaim.

Nannerl stopped performing publicly when she turned 18. Leopold, who once took great pride in having two musical prodigies as children, ended her career because he deemed it improper for a woman of marriageable age to perform outside of the domestic sphere. Nannerl obeyed her father and left public performances to Mozart. This is unfortunate, since Nannerl’s love of music most likely influenced Mozart’s love of music. Leopold taught Nannerl to play the harpsichord years before teaching it to Mozart.

Nannerl, fortunately, continued her love of music despite being unable to perform for dignitaries or the masses. There is evidence that she composed music throughout her life: in some of his letters, Mozart praised Nannerl’s composing skills. When thinking of Nannerl, it is hard not to wonder whether she would have reached legendary status like Mozart if not for her gender.

17 years later, and by now close friends with Peter Shaffer, I worked on the Broadway production of AMADEUS which opened December 15, 1999 at the Music Box Theatre ran for 183 Performances and closed May 14, 2000. Starring Michael Sheen & David Suchet. Directed by Peter Hall.

FEATURED Project AmadeusBway

My COVID-19 Parody of AMADEUS in April 2020  

See over 100 more of my Broadway Parodies or my 75 Shanghai Lockdown parodies.

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