Thirty-two years ago, Fort Collins actor Jonathan Farwell confessed to poisoning Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Starting Saturday, he will resume this confession as he portrays Antonio Salieri in OpenStage Theatre Company’s production of “Amadeus.”
As coincidence would have it, the play begins 32 years after the death of Mozart, with Salieri confessing his sins to the audience.
“One of the essential differences is that when I played it I understudied,” says Farwell about a 1982 national tour, where he later took over the lead.
“It was like being part of a machine. There wasn’t much room for creative exploration. I was obliged as a professional actor to fit myself into the glove that had already been put on the play by the director,” Farwell said.
OpenStage director Peter Anthony has previously directed and designed “Amadeus” for two productions.
“Peter (Anthony) has allowed me to explore a little more the emotional highs and lows in my own terms, so I feel, in a sense, it’s a very liberating experience. My challenge has been to erase all my notions of how I did it 30 years ago so that it doesn’t interfere, and that was probably more difficult than most people realize,” he said.
The play is structured very much like an opera in which a narrator directly acknowledges the audience. This story is also filled with deceit, scandal and some surprising 18th century flirtation.
“The beauty of music is that there’s symmetry and a mathematical beauty, as paradoxical as that sounds. This play is structured like a symphonic work in many ways,” Anthony said.
Salieri, after concluding that Mozart’s music is that of an artistic genius, is surprised to see the contradiction of Mozart’s personality when he meets him in person for the first time.
After seeing the truth, Salieri renounces his faith to God and plans to ruin Mozart’s career as revenge.
“Salieri can come off as a villain and the real beauty of the play is that Salieri gets trapped in a bargain with God. What Salieri himself forgets is that when he makes his bargain with God … he asks God for fame, so he gets fame, but when he meets Mozart he realizes he should have asked for genius,” Farwell said.
In “Amadeus,” Mozart is portrayed as a genius and a fool from Salieri’s point of view. Salieri is the only person in Vienna at the time that sees Mozart as a musical genius no matter what his personality may say otherwise.
“He was a child prodigy so there was a sense that he was paraded about like child stars today. They’re not socially adapted,” Anthony said.
Celebrating its 40th anniversary, OpenStage also welcomed back Stetson Weddle as Mozart, Lisa Rosenhagen as his wife Constanze and Bruce K. Freestone as Emperor Joseph II, all of whom performed in the 1992 production of “Amdeus,” also through OpenStage.
“It’s an experience you don’t get to revisit very often in life. To get to do this is really an honor and a pleasure,” Rosenhagen said. “I think there’s a chemistry between Peter, Stetson and (me). It’s hard to copy that.”
Rosenhagen described her return to Constanze as a transformation of emotions and maturity, very much like Constanze herself between acts one and two.
“Mozart was so gifted. Anyone that has ever known anyone gifted, they are eccentric. Constanze was his home base. (She) loved him no matter what,” she said.
Above all, Rosenhagen and Anthony agree that from the chemistry of the cast to the story of Salieri, the show encompasses love.
“The resonance of it is what big love demands. What sacrifice are we willing to make for that? It’s very frightening to be confronted with that kind of overwhelming love. And that’s what Salieri is confronted with. This kind of love dismantles every belief we hold,” Anthony said.
A Tony Award-winning show for Best Play and Academy Award-winning film for Best Picture, “Amadeus” is a performance not to be missed.
There will be no advanced reservations for Thursday, Feb. 21. Instead, cash and check donations will be accepted at the door.
On Friday, Feb. 22 all seats are $14 and include a free beer at intermission, compliments of Odell Brewing Company.
Childcare will be provided by Young People’s Learning Center for the March 1 and March 15 shows. Call 970-482-1212 for childcare reservations.