This week, The Butterfly Club offers a rare chance to see both works side by side in an hour-long double-bill. It makes for an interesting comparison.
Pushkin’s two-hander is performed in modern translation by Edgar Wegner and Karlis Zaid, who will alternate in the roles of Mozart and Salieri through the run.
It begins with Salieri engaged in self-mortification, admitting his jealousy of Mozart’s genius. Mozart arrives unexpectedly with a blind fiddler, who proceeds to murder a Mozart aria – to Mozart’s amusement and Salieri’s annoyance – before Mozart plays Salieri a new piece, then accepts an invitation to dine later that evening.
At that last supper, Mozart confesses he’s haunted by an unfinished requiem – commissioned by an anonymous figure, who could be Death himself – and as the fatal moment nears, the nature of genius and its relationship to morality is explored.
If the histrionic skills on display don’t cover themselves in glory, the actors don’t disgrace themselves either. But the artifice and grandeur of opera does seem to make it a more natural form for the high passions and intense aesthetic argument.
Bass-baritone Adrian Tamburini as Salieri sings with an ardour for sublime artistic expression that curdles into resentment, self-justification and zealotry. Martin Buckingham’s Mozart tosses off notes in a skipping, flippant tenor before decelerating into self-doubt – a pensive vulnerability that seems almost calculated to wound his false friend.
Until December 14.