For pianist Natasha Kislenko, the 1984 film Amadeus is a distant memory that’s about to become a very immediate challenge. “Honestly, I haven’t seen it since it came out,” Kislenko told me, adding that she remembers “enjoying the Hollywood style, but being a little uncomfortable with the inaccuracies.” Based on the Peter Shaffer play, Amadeus does in fact play up the silly side of Mozart’s personality, as well as exaggerating the envy of his rival Salieri in order to achieve a more dramatic effect, yet the dazzling mise-en-scène remains a potent reminder of the ability of motion pictures to create alternate worlds. When the Santa Barbara Symphony takes the stage this Saturday and Sunday, March 16 and 17, they will do so with Kislenko at the keyboard and a full chorus, all of them ready to play along with a giant 4K projection of the film. Through the generosity of the Chrisman family, the Granada is one of the few theaters in the world that is properly set up to achieve this level of musical/cinematic synchronization, and so far at least, audiences are finding they enjoy it.
Any reservations about the veracity of the film quickly vanish when my conversation with Kislenko turns to Mozart’s music. “He’s perfect in every way,” she said. “Mozart is by far the hardest composer to perform because the ordinary rules of interpretation don’t apply with him. Every note is like gold, or diamonds; nothing is questionable, so you have to play it exactly right.” Asked about the film’s depiction of the Salieri-Mozart rivalry, she admits that envy is not unknown in the music world. “It’s true, there is jealousy, as there is in every field,” she said. “There are always people who advance who shouldn’t, and there are always going to be those who, like Mozart, seem to find it easy to do things that others find difficult.” Here’s hoping that the ease of Amadeus rubs off on everyone who attends either of these special concert events this weekend. Call (805) 899-2222 or see thesymphony.org.