John Axelrod
John Axelrod

Rivalry and Requiem

Even though it never claimed to be historically accurate, Milos Forman's Oscar-winning 1984 movie Amadeus, based on Peter Shaffer's play, put a juicy rumor into the history of classical music. God-fearing but mediocre court composer Antonio Salieri, made crazy by the divine talent bestowed upon his buffoonish and irreverent rival, actually commissioned the haunting Requiem and poisoned Mozart at the height of his career. Fact or fiction, it made for a great movie, play and, now, an Orchestra X concert.

In Amadeus: Madman for the Millennium, Orchestra X reinvents the legendary Salieri/Mozart rivalry by staging scenes from Shaffer's original play and warming them up with classic Mozart arias. Broadway actor Peter Webster stars as Salieri, David LeMaster plays Mozart, and Heather Bryson is Constanze, Mozart's long-suffering wife. Pianist Christopher Tainton plays the Piano Concerto K.488 in A Major, and four solo vocalists and a 20-piece choir perform selections from the Requiem mass.

"This is the way [Shaffer] actually hears Mozart's story in his head," says John Axelrod, Orchestra X conductor and artistic director, of the music-theater event. Clearly the story of Mozart speaks to Axelrod as well. He has been seen parading around in front of the camera in the composer's curly white wig, tights and lacy gentlemen's finery.

But in Madman for the Millennium, as in every Orchestra X concert, the venue's the thing. When the Gen-X band staged Carmen, the leads dressed in modern-day Houston street clothes and sang in the Mercado del Sol's open air. To salute composer greats Aaron Copland and Duke Ellington, they turned the Rice Hotel Crystal Ballroom into a 1920s speakeasy. In Madman, they'll take you back to Mozart's life in the 18th century via Le Grand Salon de la Comtesse at La Colombe d'Or Hotel, which, says Axelrod, is very much like the Grand Salon at the Palace of Versailles. Just watch out for Salieri.

Orchestra X performs Amadeus: Madman for the Millennium at the Grand Salon de la Comtesse at La Colombe d'Or Hotel, 3407 Yoakum, Thursday and Friday, November 18 and 19, 7 p.m. Call (713)225-6729 for more information. Tickets are $10 to $25.


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