Review: Amadeus at the Grand Théâtre, Quebec City

Review: Amadeus at the Grand Théâtre, Quebec City

By Aileen Ruane,

Are we able to recognize genius in our midst? If so, how do we react to it, especially when it has the ability to completely change our lives and everything we hold dear? Alexandre Fecteau’s new vision of Peter Schaffer’s Amadeus entertains these questions in Le Trident’s vibrant, modern production. Fans of the 1984 Oscar-winning film adaptation will see something different here, from the smartphone-lit introduction to fourth wall-breaking interaction between Salieri and the audience.

Pol Quentin’s translation is spot-on in terms of interpreting the witty dialogue. Anne-Marie Bernard’s musical direction is quite possibly the greatest “plus” in this production, as it allows the music to take center stage through the production’s wise use of trained musicians and operatic singers. This is a treat for the ears, as it presents some of Mozart’s most famous works – the Queen of the Night’s celebrated aria and the first movement of his Requiem are particularly exceptional. In this adaptation (spanning the 1980s to the early 1990s), there are even a few electronic and punk versions of concertos and chamber music. More than anything, though, it creates a connection between Salieri and the audience – as Salieri hears one of Mozart’s operas for the first time, Jacques Leblanc’s physical and vocal reactions to it help to draw the audience in and experience Mozart’s music in a wholly unique way. We understand Mozart’s arrival and tragic end at the Viennese court through Salieri’s memories, presented through transitions from the “present day”, where he is walker-bound, tweeting his role in Mozart’s demise, to the past via the application and removal of a brown wig. The laughs come fast and fierce when Salieri asks the audience to imagine him as a 31-year-old court composer.

Michel Gauthier’s set design is elegantly minimalistic and architectural, which brings the focus back to the personal drama and the music. The cursive scrawl of “Mozart” on house left and “Salieri” on house right proves to do more than simply indicate who the protagonists are – as their names are painted across various flats, they serve as the means by which different settings (from Mozart and Constanze’s home to Emperor Joseph II’s palace) are revealed; when through the manipulation of these flats, the two names become merged, Gauthier signals to the audience the complex relationship between both men. All of this is complemented by Jean-François Labbé’s lighting design, which focuses the audience’s attention through dynamic changes and colours.

Helmed by Leblanc’s Salieri and Pierre-Olivier Grondin’s Mozart, the cast is as talented as it gets. Leblanc in particular brings a necessary level of complexity to a character that has the potential to be an over-the-top antagonist. In Leblanc’s hands, we experience the frustration and wonder that come from being in the presence of divinely inspired talent, yet not being able to partake in it, despite years of dedication and virtuous living. Grondin’s Mozart is the epitome of enfant terrible tantrums and ego, yet he also allows for some beautiful moments of clarity in many of his scenes with Constanze (played with both charming innocence and cynical experience by Mary-Lee Picknell).

Amadeus runs until May 19 at the Grand Théâtre, and has a run time of 2h50 with an intermission, for a total of about three hours. The physical energy of the cast and the strength of Quentin’s translation mean that the show flies by – you’ll leave wanting to listen to Mozart’s oeuvre and pondering the nature of genius.

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Categories: Arts & Culture, Reviews

About Author

Aileen Ruane

Aileen Ruane is a doctoral candidate in Études littéraires at Université Laval. She received an MA in French Studies from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and a BA in Theatre Studies and French from Kent State University. Her research primarily concerns the concepts of performativity, identity, and alterity in Québécois translations of Irish theatre. She was a founding member of Blackbird Theatre Company in Chicago. She also teaches Irish dance at Violon Vert here in Quebec City.

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