Simon Slater was the musical director and additional music composer for Michael Longhurst’s critically acclaimed production of ‘Amadeus’ at the National Theatre.
“This production of Amadeus sounds like dynamite” – The Times
Peter Shaffer’s iconic play had its premiere at the National Theatre in 1979, winning multiple Olivier and Tony awards before being adapted into an Academy Award-winning film. In this new production, directed by Michael Longhurst (Constellations,The World of Extreme Happiness), Lucian Msamat plays Salieri, with live orchestral accompaniment by the Southbank Sinfonia.
Journalist Sarah Crompton joined Simon Slater and the team during rehearsals and wrote in The Times: ‘It is also up to the music director, Slater, who has collaborated with Longhurst on six productions including Carmen Disruption at the Almeida, to make sure that the music doesn’t become too dominant. He and Longhurst have decided to present some sections of Mozart absolutely pure — “Why wouldn’t you? They are so beautiful and so moving” — but he has written an underscore that helps the transitions between scenes. This has the texture of Mozart but is full of what the orchestra call “Slater chords”. “I am trying to write for Salieri, for his bitterness, pain and jealousy, so I try to make my music represent that world,” he explains.
There are also a couple of moments where Mozart’s music is more radically reworked, including a Magic Flute “megamix”. Will purists be shocked? “Some may be, but not many,” says Slater, firmly. “Why should they be? Sometimes the musicians say, ‘Oh that’s in the wrong time,’ but I say, ‘No, it’s not a concert. We’re in a theatre now and the music has to tell a story.’ That for me is the most exciting thing.” The integration between the different disciplines — in Slater’s words, “getting the actors to sing well and the singers to act well and the orchestra players to move well” — is one aspect of the production that everybody has enjoyed.