ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Antonio Salieri is the golden boy of the Viennese court.
Austrian Emperor Joseph II considers him a favorite.
Then this boorish, foul-mouthed and graceless guy named Mozart, arguably the greatest musical genius of all time, shows up. His appearance launches a roller coaster of jealousy, genius and revenge.
The Albuquerque Little Theatre will present Peter Shaffer’s “Amadeus” beginning Friday, Aug. 23. The play runs on weekends through Sept. 8.
Salieri has given himself to God to achieve his most cherished ambition: to be a great composer. But Mozart possesses what is beyond Salieri’s envious grasp: genius.
“Salieri is the court composer in Vienna, and he’s everybody’s darling,” ALT Executive Director Henry Avery said. “Then along comes this little upstart named Mozart.”
Salieri practically foams with a jealousy that flames into a plot to destroy his rival. But what started as professional envy explodes into a rage against God.
“Mozart shows him how mediocre he really is,” Avery said. “By the end, he realizes how he has destroyed himself.”
“Amadeus” won the 1981 Tony Award. Playwright Shaffer adapted it for the 1984 movie of the same name. It won eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
Avery produced the play in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in the early ’80s. ALT is borrowing that same wardrobe of frock coats and 18th century finery.
“I designed a lot of clothes for that production, and they kept them,” he said.
Although “Amadeus” is the play’s title, the story is more accurately about Salieri’s journey. His failure to reconcile Mozart’s outlandish behavior with the talent God bestowed upon him fuels his rage. He renounces God and vows to do everything in his power to destroy his rival. Throughout most of the play, he masquerades as Mozart’s ally.
“I think the story of Salieri is just fascinating,” Avery said. “It’s so delving into the mind of someone who’s consumed by jealousy. He’s angry at God, he’s angry at Mozart and blaming everybody, and then he realizes he’s killed himself.”