Mozart Minute: Mozart and Salieri – From Russia With Love, Part 1

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Catch The Mozart Minute every Friday at noon during the Amadeus Deli, and listen to the podcast at wosu.org/podcasts.(Photo: Wikipedia)
Catch The Mozart Minute every Friday at noon during the Amadeus Deli, and listen to the podcast at wosu.org/podcasts.(Photo: Wikipedia)

In the stage play and film Amadeus, the composer Antonio Salieri is portrayed as envious of the young Mozart’s genius to the point of murder. But Amadeus the play and the film were not the first dramatic works to take up the theme of Salieri’s envy.

An earlier work far less well known to us today was Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera Mozart and Salieri, based on Pushkin’s drama of the same name. 

The opera unfolds a dialogue between the two title characters, covering various moments in their relationship, leading up to the end, when Mozart lies dying from poisoning, implicitly at Salieri’s hands. In one of the opera’s episodes, Mozart improvises at the keyboard; in another he tells Salieri the story of the mysterious man in black who commissioned him to compose a Requiem.

Of course, opera being opera, the Mozart character had to die in Rimsky’s opera.  But in the final scenes, there’s still a place for Mozart’s immortal music.

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