Cinema goers have become used to watching live opera productions from around the world (such as from the Met or Covent Garden), from the relatively cheap seats of the local filmhouse. However, it is rarer to see a film screened in a concert hall with live orchestral accompaniment. It is thus a relatively novel idea that the RSNO is involved with tonight, but it works! The Usher Hall is equipped with a vast cinema screen above the organ gallery, with projection from the back of the hall. A reduced chorus fits underneath it, and the orchestra sits in its usual place.
The film is the multi-Oscar winning Amadeus: a real 1980s blockbuster directed by Miloš Forman. It is based on Peter Shaffer’s stage play depicting the life, and more significantly, the death of the composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and his relationship with his envious rival Antonio Salieri. A drama laden with psychological twists and turns, it is brought vividly to life on film.
So how does it work in this production? All the original soundtrack music is removed and the live orchestra plays all the excerpts instead. The RSNO and chorus are expertly conducted and cued by Ludwig Wicki, who keeps it all flowing well. The only music left in are the clips of Mozart playing the clavichord, the solo piano in one of the concertos, and the opera singers. All are accompanied by the live orchestra, who play to their usual high standard, despite having to play for nigh on three hours.
Does it work? It is good to have all of Mozart’s music live—it highlights the dramatic music especially from Don Giovanni and the Requiem—but it does take getting used to. As a concept it is interesting, and it will be good to see if the company behind it does any more. The production is excellent, and it is so good to see a well-filled Usher Hall. It is also good to be reminded of what a fantastic film Amadeus is.