Pushkin’s “Mozart & Salieri”

Tom Hulce as Mozart (l) and F. Murray Abraham as Salieri (r), as depicted in the 1984 Miloš Forman film, Amadeus. (Fair use/CCL).

In the winter of 1823, Antonio Salieri is committed to a psychiatric hospital after surviving a suicide attempt, during which his servants overhear him confess to murdering Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The young priest Father Vogler approaches Salieri for elaboration on Salieri’s confession. Salieri recounts how, even in his youth in the 1760s, he desired to be a composer, much to his father’s chagrin. He prays to God that if He makes Salieri a famous composer, he will, in return, promise his faithfulness. Soon after, his father dies, which Salieri takes as a sign that God has accepted his vow. By 1774, Salieri has become court composer to Emperor Joseph II in Vienna. Seven years later, at a reception in honor of Mozart’s patron, the Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg, Salieri is shocked to discover that the transcendentally talented Mozart is obscene and immature. Salieri, a devout Catholic, cannot fathom why God would endow such a great gift to Mozart instead of him and concludes that God is using Mozart’s talent to mock Salieri’s mediocrity. Salieri renounces God and vows to take revenge on Him by destroying Mozart.

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