Rehearsal: Day 16
Meeting with the Salieris, Constanze, Teresa and van Swieten
3rd July 2019
Following tea and some settling talk –– checking in with people, speaking about the plan for the evening –– we began a warm-up: feeling the space, the walls, using the walls as support, using the floor, moving in a different way to usual.
Summer picture windows reveal green fields and blue skies. Birds chirp all the time. The music from the playlist is familiar; the movement intended to get the entire body flowing and awake; aware of oneself in the room and within the group; deriving pleasure from the movement and the activity. The actors begin to meld into the characters automatically, walking, moving, without my instruction.
Then back to the very beginning: centering and bringing awareness to the working centre, moving from this place and returning to stopping, trying this a few times –– being in readiness, alert.
And on to the development of this exercise with the Touch Awareness exercise. One actor touching the other (with eyes closed) in different areas of their body (as actor rather than character), with the awareness flowing from the centre to the point of touching and back again; the tempo and intensity increasing throughout the duration.
Constanza and van Swieten worked together, serious, full of intent.
Peter, who teaches and coaches Qigong and Kung Fu, recommended that when touching someone on the head during this exercise, it is a good thing for the recipient to place their tongue on the upper palate of the mouth, in order to close the circle of energy; and so the energy can flow and be grounded.
I asked the Salieris to work with the actor playing Teresa in this exercise –– to solidify their working relationship together.
It felt best to work with one actor at a time so Salieri the younger did this exercise while Salieri the elder observed from a distance. I’ll give the elder Salieri an opportunity to do this exercise also at a later stage.
It was interesting to me that I placed the elder Salieri quite close to the others at the beginning of the exercise, deliberately, thinking that she would be part of the experience, but shortly after starting, I suggested she move back a little, to remain an observer but to allow for the actors working to be comfortable.
For an actor, closing ones eyes and allowing an exercise to happen –– trusting all who are present, especially the person you are working with, requires absolute respect.
In trying to understand how Salieri and his wife, Teresa, were in their relationship we had talk of the strain in it. Teresa’s upset at being humiliated by his flirtations has come to the fore in other rehearsals, although as a character without any lines and rarely featuring in the script, we haven’t had a lot of exploration of this.
We wonder if there is no sexual connection or intimacy between them at all; only strain and difficulty for them. There is no mention of their children in the play. Did they not have any? Did he ‘marry up’? –– a practical decision? Is her status diminished by his philandering behaviour?
I did a bit of Salieri research online subsequently and found this information Salieri. http://www.salieri-online.com/bio1.php
While I had realised that Peter Shafer had taken quite a liberty in the story of Amadeus, and in particular, in the creation of such antipathy by Salieri towards Mozart, our views on his relationship with his wife were quite inaccurate. They seem to have been very much in love and had six children.
In Salieri’s long speech, at the very beginning of Act 2, I asked Teresa to join in the set with him so that the elder Salieri would play to a real person. And then I brought Teresa closer again before him. He held her hand to create the internal connection.
Eventually, the younger Salieri came into the circle also, so he too could feel the words.
Teresa and the Salieris
Teresa tidies for Salieri, really she was snooping, the servants did all of the domestic work. As a musician herself, she wanted to see his compositions. She finds some manuscripts and reads urgently.
Salieri arrives and sees her. He involves her in his attention briefly … she receives a kiss on the cheek before he moves away and withdraws to compose his music silently to himself and then he leaves the set.
Teresa feels her cheek, then leaves the room.
We repeat, drawing back her playing; sad and lonely.
Teresa must be lower in status, because of the role of women at the time –– 18th Century.
How does that fit in with the 2019 version? Is she Melania Trump-like?
Van Swieten, Mozart and the Salieris
We read through a scene where van Swieten tries to contain Mozart’s exuberance.
Van Swieten’s personality is straightforward, with sincere, yet intractable, beliefs, not devious, though political and manipulative to gain advantage to what he believes is the ‘right’ result.
Playing with physicality of the character is interesting, hold and stance representing the personality traits of the character.
Constanze and Salieri
Beginning of Act 2, Constanza has decided to submit to Salieri in return for gaining employment and favour for Mozart, and so she returns to make her move. He is surprised, why has she come?
When she challenges him physically, initially he recoils, his status is utterly reduced.
We played a little with how to show this physical interaction between them. At Peter’s offering, we tried a choreographed slap across the face. Lots of talking as to the aim of the scene, the purpose of the physicality. Eventually we came to a fumbling with arms.
In the text, Salieri says that he never wanted Constanza more than at this moment as she lay before him, having challenged his authority.
We continue, and Salieri plays with the status –– losing face but then returning to high status; he doesn’t show his reaction (loss of face) to her; then he touches her on the shoulder (bringing Touch Awareness into play). We see her wonder and fear.
In the final version, Salieri again loses status, but we see him regain composure over a longer period, culminating in a touch from right shoulder to left, then whispering in her ear; then rejecting her, he casts her aside; and she leaves.
Sexy and fascinating.