The Amadeus Project: Day 16

Rehearsal: Day 16

Meeting with the Salieris, Constanze, Teresa and van Swieten

3rd July 2019

Following tea and some settling talk –– checking in with people, speaking about the plan for the evening –– we began a warm-up: feeling the space, the walls, using the walls as support, using the floor, moving in a different way to usual.

Summer picture windows reveal green fields and blue skies. Birds chirp all the time. The music from the playlist is familiar; the movement intended to get the entire body flowing and awake; aware of oneself in the room and within the group; deriving pleasure from the movement and the activity. The actors begin to meld into the characters automatically, walking, moving, without my instruction.

Then back to the very beginning: centering and bringing awareness to the working centre, moving from this place and returning to stopping, trying this a few times –– being in readiness, alert.

And on to the development of this exercise with the Touch Awareness exercise. One actor touching the other (with eyes closed) in different areas of their body (as actor rather than character), with the awareness flowing from the centre to the point of touching and back again; the tempo and intensity increasing throughout the duration.

Constanza and van Swieten worked together, serious, full of intent.

An Aside

Peter, who teaches and coaches Qigong and Kung Fu, recommended that when  touching someone on the head during this exercise, it is a good thing for the recipient to place their tongue on the upper palate of the mouth, in order to close the circle of energy; and so the energy can flow and be grounded.

I asked the Salieris to work with the actor playing Teresa in this exercise –– to solidify their working relationship together.

It felt best to work with one actor at a time so Salieri the younger did this exercise while Salieri the elder observed from a distance.  I’ll give the elder Salieri an opportunity to do this exercise also at a later stage.

An Aside

It was interesting to me that I placed the elder Salieri quite close to the others at the beginning of the exercise, deliberately, thinking that she would be part of the experience, but shortly after starting, I suggested she move back a little, to remain an observer but to allow for the actors working to be comfortable.

Another Aside

For an actor, closing ones eyes and allowing an exercise to happen –– trusting all who are present, especially the person you are working with, requires absolute respect.

Preliminary discussions

In trying to understand how Salieri and his wife, Teresa, were in their relationship we had talk of the strain in it. Teresa’s upset at being humiliated by his flirtations has come to the fore in other rehearsals, although as a character without any lines and rarely featuring in the script, we haven’t had a lot of exploration of this.

We wonder if there is no sexual connection or intimacy between them at all; only strain and difficulty for them. There is no mention of their children in the play. Did they not have any? Did he ‘marry up’? –– a practical decision? Is her status diminished by his philandering behaviour?

An Aside

I did a bit of Salieri research online subsequently and found this information Salieri.

While I had realised that Peter Shafer had taken quite a liberty in the story of Amadeus, and in particular, in the creation of such antipathy by Salieri towards Mozart, our views on his relationship with his wife were quite inaccurate. They seem to have been very much in love and had six children.



In Salieri’s long speech, at the very beginning of Act 2, I asked Teresa to join in the set with him so that the elder Salieri would play to a real person. And then I brought Teresa closer again before him. He held her hand to create the internal connection.

Eventually,  the younger Salieri came into the circle also, so he too could feel the words.

Teresa and the Salieris

Teresa tidies for Salieri, really she was snooping, the servants did all of the domestic work. As a musician herself, she wanted to see his compositions. She finds some manuscripts and reads urgently.

Salieri arrives and sees her. He involves her in his attention briefly … she receives a kiss on the cheek before he moves away and withdraws to compose his music silently to himself and then he leaves the set.

Teresa feels her cheek, then leaves the room.

We repeat, drawing back her playing; sad and lonely.

A Thought:

Teresa must be lower in status, because of the role of women at the time –– 18th Century.

How does that fit in with the 2019 version? Is she Melania Trump-like?

Van Swieten, Mozart and the Salieris

We read through a scene where van Swieten tries to contain Mozart’s exuberance.

Van Swieten’s personality is straightforward, with sincere, yet intractable, beliefs, not devious, though political and manipulative to gain advantage to what he believes is the ‘right’ result.

Playing with physicality of the character is interesting, hold and stance representing the personality traits of the character.

Constanze and Salieri

Beginning of Act 2, Constanza has decided to submit to Salieri in return for gaining employment and favour for Mozart, and so she returns to make her move. He is surprised, why has she come?

When she challenges him physically, initially he recoils, his status is utterly reduced.

We played a little with how to show this physical interaction between them. At Peter’s offering, we tried a choreographed slap across the face. Lots of talking as to the aim of the scene, the purpose of the physicality. Eventually we came to a fumbling with arms.

In the text, Salieri says that he never wanted Constanza more than at this moment as she lay before him, having challenged his authority.

We continue, and Salieri plays with the status –– losing face but then returning to high status; he doesn’t show his reaction (loss of face) to her; then he touches her on the shoulder (bringing Touch Awareness into play). We see her wonder and fear.

In the final version, Salieri again loses status, but we see him regain composure over a longer period, culminating in a touch from right shoulder to left, then whispering in her ear; then rejecting her, he casts her aside; and she leaves.

Sexy and fascinating.

The Amadeus Project: Day 15

Rehearsal Day 15

26th June 2019

Workshop with the Salieris, Mozart and Constanze

We discussed the plan for the evening over a cup of mint tea –– to focus on particular sections of the writing, with a gentle exploration of the text and the characters for everyone.

I also voiced awareness of the need of the actors to read the entire play together to the end and to explore text that is intense towards the end (Mozart particularly).

Dividing the Salieri text is also important. My theory at this stage is that it almost doesn’t matter who takes which lines (not including the very obvious moments: where Salieri is in conversation with another character, for example). Whatever the Salieris say will be right, once they have the character nailed down –– physically, vocally, psychologically –– and are sensitive and in tune with one other. Particularly following the ‘…ghosts of the future…’ speech that had worked so well in the workshop on The Amadeus Project: Day 12, it feels like the atmosphere and the intensity will carry the work.

The discussion between Mozart and Constanze of her role and character, her relationships within this society was lively and impassioned; ideas and notions around her as a young woman and the actor playing a youthful woman. Seems playful and lovely at this stage of the work.

Warm up

Moving around the studio space in Clair’s house, using and exploring surfaces that may be sometimes ignored: the walls (as support sometimes), wherever and whatever appealed. As we did this individual work, we listened to the music choices made by each of the actors present as their characters.

Various readings of the text

We read Act 1, Scene 7 where Salieri and Mozart meet for the first time and talk music. Mozart takes Salieri’s offering of the march he composed for Mozart and alters it easily and quickly. He is utterly unaware of the implications of his actions on another, it seems. (Note to self: explore this a little further –– might he be more aware and disregarding of the implications??)

We seek an understanding of Salieri’s developing jealousy and self-induced humiliation; his inability to see what his place could potentially be, if his role to date has now been usurped, as he assumes.

In Scene 11, Constanze secretly comes with Mozart’s manuscripts and is propositioned by Salieri. She reacts with astonishment and, in the turning of the status, she humiliates him by hitting him ‘on the botty’. Her laugh at him in that moment –– brilliant.

Scene 12, at the end of Act 1, Salieri is alone. We read the monologue about him and his conversation with God. He will turn from God, because he knows that Mozart is the favoured one; that the music he himself composes is not because he has been chosen.

The bargain he had made with God years earlier, to compose music to celebrate his divinity, is discarded and cast aside. From now on God is his eternal enemy, ‘Nemico Eterno‘. The intensity of rage is red-hot in this speech, a hard, cold tone with God.

The Amadeus Project: Day 14

Rehearsal: Day 14

 25th June, 2019

Meeting with the Salieris

Salieri as an older man
Antonio Salieri

I met with Clair and Victor to discuss what is our expectation for the two Salieris. I wasn’t entirely certain how this might be achieved … coffee and a chat?, a physical rehearsal?

At the beginning, we began speaking of how separate the two characters were and I outlined that I thought the two characters probably needed to be connected in some way, physically anyway: the younger pushing the elder on stage, perhaps.

I was reminded of the sculpting exercise on The Amadeus Project: Day 8 where Clair and Victor were working together, one sculpting the other, first physically and later from a distance. So too in the relations between the two actors in the two roles could one Salieri influence the other, even from a remove.

Both Salieris would be onstage the entire time, each one at different times being the focus of attention and at others reducing their impact, withdrawing their radiation.

I was sure there would be definite and important interaction between them but was unsure how it would be as each Salieri got into their stride, as it were. But possibly they would weave and interact even then.

Are they two different sides of the same person? To be answered…

 A Concern

Would the use of the two actors be seen as a convenient way of dealing with a large role, and a large cast?

Not a concern of mine, I believe this will work, I have no doubt.

There is an exploration in this process, we will figure it out as we go along. We also talked about a belief that at the very least, all of the actors involved have bought into this process –– that’s the first entirely necessary step.

Dividing the role

Initially I had the idea that Clair, as the elder Salieri, would have all of the first Scene to herself. As I read through the Scene in preparation for this meeting, searching for the meaning, it came to me that this may not be right … it didn’t feel entirely right. 

In the reading, Victor suggested taking one of Clair’s lines, that felt good. So, we’re moving now to a process of bringing the text to life in rehearsal … when we will have the right energy and right build-up, that will be the moment to decide on the division of the role.

Step by little step, the threads are unravelled.

By the end, I felt that the two Salieris should use the Monday rehearsal following to determine who takes what line, after the others are finished.

Salierie Day 7
Antoni Salieri

Thoughts since:

Do the Salieris decide by themselves how they should split those lines?

Do the Venticelli decide themselves?

Nyah!!! not entirely, I think.

But, what I am sure of, when we have warmed up and are ‘in the moment’ a better understanding of the lines will come with the flow of energy.

The richness of the Salieri role is in direct contrast to the cardboard cut-out nature of the smaller roles. We had some discussion about lines being read at rehearsal by an actor who read really well, as if with understanding of the implications behind the lines … makes the play more revealing?

My thought: Keep the cardboard cut-out idea. (Cardboard: stiff, rigid, a pastiche of the character.) Have a stylized version? –– characters representing ‘everywoman / man’.

Other ideas that arose

We had a long discussion on power structures –– society, mediocrity. What is genius? When do we recognize it? When someone tells us? When something has lasted? Why does it last? Because of what we’re told? Who does the telling? The victors in life? The men?

At the time of the Italian Renaissance those in Northern Europe were further advanced in painting techniques, but the Italians were better at getting the message out –– spin? PR?

It seems to me that in our current world where fame, celebrity and fashion have a stranglehold on creativity and the message delivered to the public, that this play is relevant still. Hence my desire to use visual metaphors linking to today’s obsessions –– the actors as their characters posing as the Annie Liebbovitz photo, for example. Would Mozart be Michael Jackson in the late 20th Century?

The Amadeus Project: Day 13

Rehearsal: Day 13

24th June, 2019

Thoughts behind the pre-summer workshop 

Our final big rehearsal with the Amadeus Troupe before the summer break. Seventeen of the actors were present.

The aim of the evening was to consolidate what we had done to date, give the participants the opportunity to clarify anything that they were uncertain of and bring this first section of the rehearsal process to a close for a break of a few weeks.

Trees in summer.jpg
It’s the summertime!

There is a sense that the work up to now has had a playful quality to it –– we are constantly searching and challenging ourselves, still with an atmosphere of (sort of) unlimited potential.

When we return on the last week in August, I believe the atmosphere will be more intensely focused. There’s nothing like a looming deadline to focus the mind. We’ll still have six weeks to rehearse, one can do a lot in six weeks. And  I also believe that the stimulation that has been begun will continue on in the subconscious minds of the participants throughout this rest period, although we may not have a super-focused, joint workout together.

For those actors who are concerned about the length of time before the next segment in August, we have offered a ‘holding’ workshop on 10th July, loosely linked but different to the regular workshops.

It’s amazing how much colour impacts the eye and the mind. I can no longer work in the black / navy / grey outfits. Perhaps it was the splendour of last weeks photoshoot with red / pink / orange swathes of fabric and colour.

So a late email went to the Troupe asking them to wear a colourful t-shirt. Much better, and simple; feels like the right thing at this stage of the process.

Day 13 Aims.jpg
Look how anaemic this ‘Aims’ diagram is … either the actors have this play cracked or I am getting tired!

The warm up has become a dance

The time has come in the rehearsal process when the individuals working together have reached that moment of symbiosis: working separately but together on this project.

During this section they moved and stretched, and worked into their characters, with little interruption or suggestion from me. Eyes bright and attention focused, familiar with the needs of their own body to warm up, each person was at their own stage of exploration; yet attuned to the whole body of performers.

Back to character

I went through each person and their role, to remind them, and myself, of our stage of work, steadying everyone in relation to the stage in the process we were. For the actors who are creating their roles without having lines, it has been a more difficult process as they don’t have those lines or inspiration from the play text (aside from prompts from me or the response to the  work with others) to create from.

They are becoming comfortable with not being secure and we have arrived too at a point where the fluidity in gender has become something we are comfortable (and playful) with.

Actors have suggested that they might change their gender from one performance to another, depending on the night.

An Aside

You might like a listen to this related interview on an artist, Tea Uglow, ‘growing into herself’and issues of gender fluidity –– it’s from a podcast called ‘Design Matters’ by Debbie Millman.

Another Aside

The title to this paragraph ‘Back to character’ has a double meaning that appealed to me.

When I am stuck in answering a question in this process, I return to the character.  What do I have to do, as Director, or ask someone else to do –– the actor, another helper –– to enlighten / elucidate this character in this moment?

If the actor is comfortable in their role, then everything else falls into place –– I’m repeating … or reminding … myself!

One other new aspect tonight was that of exploring the voice of the character, considering all aspects of the aural in exploring the character; inviting actors to find different qualities in tone and range; finding different modes and emotions to express a line of text.

The walks included the  Hunter and the Pounce exercise which we first did on The Amadeus Project: Day 7 , to remember the level of attention and concentration required for this exercise and to achieve a high state of readiness and alertness for the evening ahead.

An unexpected moment …

In the character walks, for the first time, I interrupted the walks to take off on an impromptu moment of improvisation that had arisen with Salieri. The moment had arrived for the ‘Ghosts of the Future’ to appear, for us to see the fear at this occurrence, the effect that the whispers of ‘Salieri, Salieri‘ and ‘Assassin‘ had.

Then we had a brief sojourn into the familiar mirroring, but back to the very basic steps of that exercise, working with the assigned partner: Person A leading, followed by Person B, and then swap. Back to the beginning to confirm that we had those steps spot on.

The work on the text 

The Italian Lesson

There are a good few lines in Italian in the script and the tension between the German and the Italian sensibility features strongly so I invited Sara from Padua to come and give us a run through of the Italian text. It is fantastic to hear the words read by a native speaker –– the vowel sounds are completely different to an English pronunciation and the emphasis often on different syllables.

Mozart becomes Mow (as in, rhythming with ‘cow’) -zaaart. Brilliant!!

Everyone joined in, for the fun and the learning.

More to do though, for those with many ltalian lines!

Venticelli groups

I moved to the next section where the Venticelli groups will combine, to a scene where Venticello 1 & 2 bring Mozart’s manuscripts to Salieri. The others group around and observe, join in, creating a picture, an impression, emotion. The Valet and Cook are centre stage of course, being the conduits, but the others add further body to the moment.

Really, this was a first look, just to see what might would look like and to move the Venticelli groups along.

I’m finding that I am tired from the work at this point, so having the requisite energy for group creativity is tricky.

Amadeus Day 13.jpg
Venticelli Groups and Salieri

Mozart is first introduced to the Court

In the story, he has met some of the minor characters but is being formally introduced to the Emperor and Salieri. 

At first, there is some talk between the Emperor, van Swieten, von Strack, Orsini Rosenberg and Salieri –– movement between them of the elastic band type shows great potential, exciting!

And another exciting thing. The Emperor sat in state higher than the others, framed by the window. It looked quite amazing –– the angle we viewed it from, the positioning of the other characters as a result, their response.

Again, just a first look –– and it was a bit awkward, with scripts in the actors’ hands –– but great potential!

Mozart then arrives into the mix and we have the playfulness with the other characters, his flamboyance and exuberance at odds with them, with their societal conventions and mores.

Coming Together

We had a finishing up moment in one large circle; a coming together to remind ourselves of the plans for the next few weeks for various individual characters and the entire group on the 10th July, for whomsoever is available.

There is a lovely atmosphere in the Troupe. We have worked hard up to this point but a break will be good too. In fact, for me a break is vital at this juncture, to recharge energy levels (mental and physical) and creative ideas to advance the work with a large group of people.

And I look forward to the next part of the learning in the Autumn.

There will a certain amount of set design, sound design and lighting arrangements to be made, we’re not entirely free of planning yet. More meetings for Julia, Alyn and I. But more contained, and featuring coffee!!

Email to the Amadeus Troupe:  6th July, 2019

Hey Amadeus Troupe,

the sun has arrived, I hope all of you are well and soaking up the Vitamin D!
The latest workshop has been published on the Amadeus blog, along with the Characters’ Playlist (fab!) and the first rehearsal with the Salieris ––
If anyone of you has any feedback you would like to share, I would be glad to put it up on the blog also. Or receive it in person, if you’d prefer that.
The ‘holding’ workshop will take place in the parish hall on Wednesday next, 10th July. Yoga finishes at 8pm so we might gather from then, with a view to beginning at 8.15 sharp.
The exercises and games will relate generally to the work we have done up to now but will not be so intensely focused on the play itself. Unless somebody has a wish to address something in particular.

And another on the 9th July, 2019

Hey all,

Been researching in the sun and found this bio of Salieri with references to Mozart, Orsini- Rosenberg, Emperor Joseph. You might find it interesting and not too demanding.
I liked this description of the French taste, also preferred by Joseph…remember, ‘…too many notes…’
…the French (
at least on the grand stage of their National Opera
) demand, not a ‘concert of which the drama is a pretext,’ as the abbé Amand so happily says, but a musical drama; hence no more music than serves to increase the beauty of the poem, enhance the effect of the acting, and strengthen the impression of the whole; grand arias are permitted only where their introduction will not retard the rapid progress of the action, nor jar the feeling of the moment, but rather intensify it. Hence they require no vocal virtuoso for the performance of these works but actors skilleddeclamatorySee


See you tomorrow.