'Amadeus' as a riff on Pushkin


Tom Hulce as Mozart in Milos Forman's Amadeus

Before today, I never knew that Peter Shaffer's play Amadeus, which was the basis for one of my favorite films of all time, was a riff (to be kind) on Pushkin. I learned from the essays for today's concert of the American Symphony Orchestra that Alexander Pushkin wrote a short play called Mozart and Salieri that is rather familiar to those of us who know the Shaffer play.

I love the words of Mozart towards the end of the Pushkin work. At this point he is unaware that he has been poisoned by by his friend Salieri (which has little, if any, historical basis). The "you" refers to Salieri.

If all could feel like you the power of harmony!
But no: the world could not go on then. None
Would bother with the needs of lowly life;
All would surrender to spontaneous art.
We chosen ones are few, we happy idlers,
who care not for contemptible usefulness,
But only of the beautiful are priests.
Is that not so? But I'm not well just now.
Something oppresses me. I need to sleep.

On a slightly related note, Tom Hulce is one of the producers of the excellent new musical, Spring Awakening, at the Atlantic Theater.

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