Skip to main content Skip to footer site map


Joint Venture Makes For Cohesive AMADEUS

Collaboration among Western New York arts groups can only help serve the better good of the community and a happy pairing of Irish Classical Theatre with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra is playing out at Kleinhans Music Hall, as both groups present Peter Shaffer's TONY and Academy Award winning AMADEUS. While integrating live music with theatrical plays may have been commonplace at one time-- think Beethoven's Overture and incidental music to the play EGMONT or Mendelssohn's interludes to ROMEO AND JULIET, it is a custom that has all but died of extinction in the 20th century. So the novelty of having the full BPO join forces with one of Buffalo's premier theatre companies is truly a rare theatrical opportunity.

On most accounts, Mr Shaffer's comic drama lends itself beautifully to musical accompaniment as the story of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's career is told through the eyes of his arch nemesis, the Austrian court composer Antonio Salieri. While the factual information regarding the two composers private meetings in reality is slim, Shaffer creates fascinating encounters for the two, often playing up the young Mozart's immaturity and sense of fun.

Director Fortunato Pezzimenti has placed all forces on the stage, with the acting area in front of the orchestra, and a small chorus placed at the side. This helped fill the vast Kleinhan's stage somewhat, but often one hoped for more intimacy than lighting effects alone could allow. Veteran actor Vincent O'Neill has the daunting task of portraying the conniving Salieri. O'Neill begins the play as an elderly man looking back at his career. Through posture and subtle voice changes O'Neill successfully morphs from elderly to a young man, sinking his teeth into the meaty role. Long declamatory passages by Salieri help the audience to understand the complexities of the young Mozart's composition as Salieri deconstructs a Mozart serenade. One wished for slightly better timing between the O'Neill and the music, as the script is quite specific in it's descriptive language of the score. Mr. O'Neill's brings the appropriate sense of awe, as well as jealousy towards the innovative young Mozart, helping to understand Salieri's inner desire to prevent Mozart from out shining his own compositions.

Mozart is played by PJ Tighe, who essentially is called upon to be a buffoon idiot savant. Mozart's childish playfulness is in stark contrast to his brilliancy in composing. We learn that entire operas were already written in his head- he merely needed to take the time to write them out. Tighe shone with boundless energy and an infectious giggle in the early scenes, as if the young Mozart was a sufferer of ADHD, always moving, bowing, and making off color noises. His frenzied conducting of the overture to THE ABDUCTION FROM THE SERAGLIO, clad in a pink wig, made it clear that no one had seen the likes of this composer before. As the play unfolds the brilliant Mozart is not fully accepted into the musical community and becomes destitute. Here is where the BPO forces are at their best at serving the drama, underscoring his physical and mental breakdown with segments of the the dark ominous DON GIOVANNI overture and the REQUIEM mass. Tighe's unraveling and ultimate death scene is poignant and highly nuanced, without being melodramatic. Dying in the arms of his wife Constanze, ably played by Kathleen Macari, one ponders how such a genius could have lived out his final years penniless and buried in a paupers grave.

The talented cast was rounded out with David Lundy as Emperor Joseph II, whose bluntly honest opinion regarding the length of the Mozart operas and suggestion to cut some of the notes may be equally shared by opera goers today. His 3-4 hours operas often are taxing to many, despite their beauty. Elliot Fox as Count Orsini-Rosenberg and Doug Weyand as Baron Gottfried Van Swieten were great foils to the young Mozart. The small chorus made up of some of the Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus members helped add pathos to the drama, but their solo voices in the operatic arias were not up to the caliber of talent surrounding them on stage. Costume Designer Dixon Reynolds has produced elaborately detailed period costumes to complement the drama.

After the play's conclusion, Maestro JoAnn Falletta smartly chose to play the final movement of Mozart's "Jupiter" Symphony, allowing the audience to sit back and bask in the majesty of his music. Contemplating all that had been visually played out and thankful for the abundance of music he produced in his short life, this year the BPO allows us to celebrate Mozart's birthday weekend with the added benefit of the theatrical gem that is AMADEUS.

AMADEUS runs from January 20 through 22, 2017 as a collaboration with Irish Classical Theatre and Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra at Kleinhans Music Hall. For tickets and information, call 885-5000.

From This Author - Michael Rabice

Michael Rabice has over  40 years of experience attending plays, musicals and opera all over the world. He is a frequent performer in opera and has appeared with the Glimmerglass Opera, Artpark... (read more about this author)

July 14, 2022

A breezy comedy of manners, as only Oscar Wilde could pen, is a welcome way to return to Niagara-on-the Lake's SHAW FESTIVAL. For it's 60th anniversary audiences are in for a familiar treat as THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST returns to the stage in all it's witty charm. Hints of covid still pervade the air as a notice of two understudies stepping into two leading roles greeted us. But fear not, their polished presence assured there was never any cause for concern.

Review: GASLIGHT at Shaw FestivalReview: GASLIGHT at Shaw Festival
June 20, 2022

A Victorian thriller melded with a dash of 21st century female fortitude makes up the fabric of the Shaw Festival's gripping new production of GASLIGHT. Over the years the Festival has mastered presenting these chilling stories in it's quaint jewel box  Royal George Theatre. Memories of REBECCA and AND THEN THERE WERE NONE always pervade my memories in that theatre. Even at first glance, the dimly lit set primes the audience for an afternoon of intrigue and escapism to another era.

Review: THE ONION GAME at Irish Classical TheatreReview: THE ONION GAME at Irish Classical Theatre
June 16, 2022

Another wholly dysfunctional family has entered the literary realm in a new play by Bryan Delaney and Buffalo's Irish Classical Theatre gets to show them off in all of their wretchedness. Dublin-born playwright Delaney has been named ICTC's Playwright in Residence and is best known to Buffalo audiences for his plays the The COBBLER and THE SEEDBED. His newest play, THE ONION GAME,  is a wicked black comedy set in rural North County Dublin and the results are mostly satisfying for it's revelatory nature and unexpected twists.

BWW Review: DAMN YANKEES is a Winner at Shaw FestivalBWW Review: DAMN YANKEES is a Winner at Shaw Festival
May 23, 2022

Americana and the Golden Age of the Broadway musical has happily landed at the Shaw Festival in their knock it out of the park production of DAMN YANKEES. After years without a staged musical at the Festival Theatre and repeated cancellations of it's production of GYPSY (thanks Covid!), the magic of the American musical comedy can be seen once again.

BWW Review: AIN'T TOO PROUD at Shea's Buffalo TheatreBWW Review: AIN'T TOO PROUD at Shea's Buffalo Theatre
May 11, 2022

The evolution of the American musical has morphed from operetta to Vaudevillian musical revue to the classic  integrated musical comedy. The advent of the jukebox musical began as MAMMA  MIA and ALL SHOOK UP shoehorned popular music into a script to showcase Abba or Elvis Presley’s music into paper-thin plots. Now, for better or worse, the bio-concert emerges, as the slick new touring production of AIN’T TOO PROUD : The Life and Times of THE TEMPTATIONS opened at Shea’s Buffalo Theatre. The music of the Motown wonder group THE TEMPTATIONS is one of the  latest properties to take to the Broadway stage. And since it's debut, other biographical musicals are being given similar treatment, telling the stories of Cher, Tina Turner and Michael Jackson.