Mozart and Salieri. Requiem


Nikolay Andreyevich Rimsky-Korsakov, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Art Director of the Production – Dmitry Bertman
Stage Director – Ilya Ilyin
Musical Director – Konstantin Chudovsky
Set and Costume Designers – Igor Nezhny and Tatiana Tulubyeva

Light Designer – Denis Yeniukov
Premiere  –  September 29, 2010
Language of performance – ​ Latin, Russian

"Mozart and Salieri"... Since Pushkin's "little tragedy" about these composers appeared, nobody would believe Salieri's innocence. Seems, Pushkin dotted all the i's... But what if everything was completely different? Or quite different?

Working on an opera upon Pushkin’s text, Rimsky-Korsakov tried to avoid opera tradition of the XIXth century and gave with a fresh start. He started the experiment looking for his new style and didn’t need the experienced librettist, who always knew that innocently killed tenor is always right, the bass is a villain and it is supposed to weep at the end. 

Who of them was right? The music is supposed to answer the question. Rimsky-Korsakov quotes only the little fragment from REQUIEM, the very same Mozart's work, which Pushkin says about. REQUIEM is performed as a whole on Helikon-Opera's stage, closing the old debates of genius and villainy.


Since “Mozart and Salieri” — a “little tragedy” by Aleksandr Sergeyevich Pushkin appeared, the hypothesis of the Salieri’s guilty has been hardened much. Nikolay Andreevich Rimski-Korsakov shares this point of view in his opera. The idea to decline the services of librettists and to take original Pushkin’s texts as libretto belongs to Aleksandr Sergeevich Dargomyzhsky. He first implemented it in the ballet opera “Triumph of Bacchus”, revived in “Rusalka” (with some deviations) and brought to perfection in “The Stone Guest”. Rimski-Korsakov was the composer, who orchestrated “The Stone Guest” after the death of Dargomyzhsky. In 1897–1902 he returned to “The Stone Guest” and created a new edition, having significantly changed not only his own orchestration, but also the original music.

Rimski-Korsakov in his own manner retried he Dargomyzhsky’s experience in “Mozart and Salieri”. It is his first opera based not on the Slavic plot, that’s why it may be considered as an experiment. Besides, in “Mozart and Salieri” the composer set the goal to work out a new, “figurative” melodic style, purely vocal in itself. It is based on a “little tragedy” by Pushkin with insignificant cuts. The score contains citations of the fragments from “Requiem” and the aria of Zerlina from “Don Giovanni” by Mozart. There are two bars from “Tarare” by Salieri in the Mozart’s speech (but only two!). Rimski-Korsakov worked on the opera in 1897 and by autumn he had shown the novelty to his close friends, accompanied by fortepiano. Among the first performers of “Mozart and Salieri” there were Fyodor Chaliapin and Sergey Rachmaninoff.

The author was afraid for the destiny of his composition, deprived of any theatrical effects on the big stage, beyond the first private performances. He was also afraid for the “outdated” orchestration without any usual décor. The first production of “Mozart and Salieri” was premiered on 6 (18) November 1898 on the stage of the Mamontov’s Private Russian Opera in Moscow.

Scene 1

A Room in the House of Antonio Salieri
Antonio Salieri has ascended to the climax of glory. He is a respected Master of the King’s Music; his compositions are popular in Vienne and out of the city. But he feels depressed since Mozart has appeared in his life — six years younger, less successful but a real genius. There is a deep tragedy hiding behind the external friendship of these two people: Salieri envies Mozart, while Mozart suspects him to hold back Mozart’s career at court. One day Mozart comes uninvited with a blind fiddler to play a joke on his respectable colleague. Hardly has Salieri revolted as Mozart strikes him with a genius improvisation. 

The friends decide to have a dinner together. Salieri has been rattled. He recalls of the poison he has been carrying around for eighteen years — “The Gift of Isaure’”.

Scene 2
A Separate Room in a Tavern
At the table Mozart is talking about the Requiem he is working on and about the strange wicked circumstances under which it was ordered. Salieri discreetly adds the poison into his glass. Mozart is proposing a toast “for the sincere union… of the two sons of harmony”. Having drunk his wine, Mozart shows Salieri the manuscript of the Requiem. Amazed, Saliery is listening to the music and can’t tear himself away from the Great Masterpiece, living out each act of it. The Requiem is over. Mozart passes away…

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