Mozart & Salieri

Stage Direction

OPERA | Mozart & Salieri

Music > N.A.Rimsky-Korsakov | Text > A.Pushkin | First performance at the Royal Opera House | Salieri > Ashley Riches | Mozart > Pablo Bemsch | Puppet Manipulation > Jihoon Kim | Chorus > Dusica Bijelic, Susana Gaspar, Justina Gringyte, Hanna Hipp, David Butt Philip, Michel de Souza, Jihoon Kim | Conductor > Paul Wingfield | Keyboard > Michele Gamba | Orchestra > Southbank Sinfonia | Designs > Pedro Ribeiro & Sophie Mosberger | Lighting > Warren Letton | Movement > Mandy Demetriou | Marionette > Sophie Mosberger| London UK | 2012

Backdrop Image: © ROH / Richard H Smith 2012 | Riches as Salieri, Kim with puppet, Bemsch as Mozart

> Director’s Note

With “Envy”, the original title that Pushkin gave to this text, everything would have been easier… These two characters are so charged with historical references that it is almost impossible to be dissociated from them… But this Mozart and Salieri is not about Antonio and Wolfgang. We’re not looking for historical characters, but for embodied ideas. Envy, genius, crime, friendship, music, ambition, pride, fame, justice, religion, art, these are just some of the components that Pushkin added to this exercise that questions us, makes us doubt, makes us uncomfortable. Bringing our “geniuses” down to earth is a hard task, but realizing that they are made of flesh and bone like us is a pleasure.  


The staging was stark, shadows playing off a dim room with a paucity of unembellished furnishings. (…) During an especially evocative moment, Mr. Bemsch’s Mozart speaks of his work and begins to finger the air in front of him as though there were an invisible piano only perceptible to him. A beam of light eerily glanced his hands as he touched the unseen keys (…) Another highlight occurred near the end (…) just before Salieri is to plant the poison in his wine, a row of tall candles is discreetly lit behind them. A chorus emerged from the gloom of the wings (…) the effect was haunting.Can criminality and genius be intertwined?’, Salieri asks himself before the curtain falls; in that instant, it is the genius of the fallen composer that resonates poignantly throughout the darkening room. Mozart and Salieri had also never had a previous showing in Covent Garden. Mr. Ribeiro’s astute production has given it a strong introduction. (…) Judging from this performance, the Young Artists are certainly an asset to the company. It is well worth keeping an eye out for them this season.

> John E de Wald | Opera Britannia ****

“(…) Korsakov’s opera Mozart and Salieri (1897) received its first ever performance at the Royal Opera House (…) Mozart and Salieri is unusual. The part of Salieri so dominates the work that it is more psychodrama than opera. Mozart and Salieri barely interact. Mozart isn’t a character so much as the embodiment of music. (…) Mozart is seen playing invisibly on stage, his hands lit with golden light. A magical moment. (…) This production was one of the most sophisticated I’ve seen for a group with these relatively limited resources. Sophie Mosberger and Pedro Ribeiro designed an elegantly simple set, which suggested that Salieri, despite his  wealth and status, was a fundamentally isolated man. The little puppet figure buffeted by figures in the darkness suggested that both Mozart and Salieri were victims of forces greater than themselves. Exquisite lighting by Warren Letton, colours changing as mysteriously as the music. A stunning finale, where the dark figures singing the Requiem move around lighted candles. Since financial problems will haunt the opera world for a long time to come, this restrained but poetic minimalism may be the way ahead. This production was intelligently thought through, and musically sensitive.

> Anne Ozorio | Opera Today

“Mozart and Salieri, also directed by Ribeiro (…) handled as effectively as it is here, it’s highly affecting. (…) Men in suits against a starkly lit black background with the simplest of props makes for an arresting visual.  Mozart playing keyboard on a horizontal beam of light is a moment of inspiration. (…) The technique of puppets is a little over-used in the opera house but it works well here and there’s a haunting snatch of the great Requiem from an anonymous chorus of men (and women) in black.(…)”

> Simon Thomas | What’s on stage ***

Set on a very darkly-lit stage, Mozart and Salieri is beautifully produced here (…) Puppetry comes into play in this sometimes candlelit production as the two men seem to find common ground, but this not prevent Salieri slipping some poison into Mozart’s wine glass (very Agatha Christie!). It’s a good story (…) and is equally well served in this imaginative production (…) This is a double-bill worth catching (…) The Rimsky holds the attention and seeps into the consciousness, and this ‘black’ production is a winner (…)”

> Colin Anderson | Classical Source

 “This double bill by the Jette Parker Young Artists was a delight. (…) The amusing incident of a badly played and out of tune violin, which one of Salieri’s friends used to poke fun at Mozart — though the trick was roundly dismissed by Salieri — was an entertaining interlude, much appreciated by members of the orchestra. On-stage this was mimicked by a puppet representing Mozart, which we saw lying sideways centre stage at the start. Then at the end Mozart himself lay in exactly the same position. These were clever aspects of this simple but excellent production by Pedro Ribeiro. Designs by Ribeiro and Sophie Mosberger worked well, and I loved Warren Letton’s lighting, particularly at the end of Mozart and Salieri. (…) Not to be missed.”

> Mark Ronan | markronan.wordpress

“Rimsky-Korsakov’s darkly atmospheric two-hander Mozart and Salieri (…) The same production team opted for an all-black setting – the men’s suits blended into an impenetrable background – concluding with a candle-lit sequence in which Salieri secretly added poison to Mozart’s wine; it was finely judged.

> Margaret Davies | Opera Magazine


“(…) Ribeiro’s production – suits and black, with excellent lighting giving the right sense of melodrama, shadows and darkness – seemed to me to capture very nicely this haunting little piece.”

> Opera Notes

“(…) Ribeiro resists the temptation of referencing the movie and instead presents a gloomily lit empty stage, which serves to highlight his few theatrical flourishes – a puppet as a street violinist, a single beam of light illuminating Mozart’s hands as he plays air piano amongst them.”

> Intermezzo