Preview: Rock Me, Salieri

By Vincent Harris for Charleston City Paper 

What's perhaps most odd about Amadeus, the play by Peter Shaffer written in 1981 and made into an Oscar-winning film in 1984, is that its title character (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart) isn't really the main focus. Most of the dialogue is spoken by Antonio Salieri, a contemporary of Mozart's who, in this highly fictionalized version of their relationship, is jealous of Mozart's skill and fame and actively works to destroy him.

"It's not Mozart's story, it's Salieri's," says Kyle Barnette, who is directing a production of Amadeus with Charleston's What If? Productions theater company. "But there's no glory in calling a play Salieri when you can call it Amadeus. People are more familiar with that. Salieri has so many lines and these great monologues. It's definitely told from Salieri's point of view, experiencing this monster of a child. I kind of compare it to a fading pop star watching something new come on the scene and this person is suddenly like a relic. This was a raw, new approach to music, and Salieri's bitterness against that is what really drives the story. Even though it takes place in the 18th century, it's got such a modern feel in the way that Salieri has kind of got this catty, bitchiness about him, and Mozart's got this unhinged party-boy quality in him."

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