One of my favorite plays and films is AMADEUS. It has been one of my favorites since I first saw the film in the theatre, in 1984. In college I performed in a 2-person opera, with original translated text from PUSHKIN’s poem about the young composer (played by me) and the older Salieri…the Russian poem, set to music by Russian composer, Rimsky-Korsakov. (In March 2021 I’ll be playing the role of “SALIERI” in the ALLEY THEATRE production of the play – that’s right, I’m not a young “Mozart” any more).
This Pushkin poem first introduced the idea that Antonio Salieri poisoned Wolfgang Mozart out of jealousy…it is a fantastical, though probably altogether fictional, idea. In the opera, the two singers never sing TOGETHER throughout the entire score. This idea was taken up by playwright, Peter Shaffer, and later turned into a film.
It is remarkable to think about Mozart’s genius mind: operas, symphonies, sonatas and more…all written and orchestrated by him since the time he was the age that I started playing the piano: age 5. The movie is a fictional account of a segment of his life, but there are several “nods” to reality in some truly extraordinary ways.
Wolfgang did indeed write every note of every instrument in his head, FIRST. Once edited and revised in his head, then he would take the pen and write it on the paper. There are not many scores, if any, that show changes or edits. Once, the night before one of his operas was to have its premiere, the concert master (first-chair violinist) frantically rushed to Mozart’s home and informed him that there was no Overture in the orchestra parts, Mozart had written the entire 2.5-hour opera but no Overture for the orchestra to play. Mozart calmly gave him a glass of wine, asked him to make himself comfortable and then proceeded to write out the Overture, one part at a time, from memory, while carrying on a conversation with the concert master. He didn’t even waste time writing out the entire score until much later, since he himself was conducting. Once, to make a deadline, he wrote out parts (not copied from the score, but written from memory) all night while his wife kept him awake by singing German folks songs!
The man was a gift from God, and if it weren’t enough that his genius was astounding, the music produced from his genius was and is absolutely beautiful; a gift to every ear, educated or not.
Although the storyline, which includes the composer Antonio Salieri (a contemporary of Mozart and, in reality, a friend and colleague), as an antagonist whose supposed jealousy causes him to poison Mozart (at least that fiction is inferred). But, in the script, Salieri has a valid question regarding his own talents, which he views as gifts from God, and Mozart’s greater talents.
His question is: Why do You (God) choose such a profane, rude and crass vessel (Mozart) for such incredible gifts…especially when I (Salieri) have given you my heart and soul and have not received the same?
The real Salieri may have indeed wondered about this and asked God. Salieri was the most popular composer of the era and place, when the young Mozart stepped onto the concert scene, and although Wolfgang probably wasn’t even half so much as crass as the character in the movie, he was, by all historic accounts, a “free spirit” who did not view the rules as applying to him. And again one asks the question: Why does God choose to speak through seemingly unholy instruments? OR why does God choose whom He chooses…for anything?
It is not inappropriate to ask, David asks it all the time in the Psalms. I don’t think God is offended by our questions of why “good things happen to bad people” or why the gifts of that which is good, beautiful and true in art, are given to those whom we feel are undeserving. However, there IS an issue when WE believe it’s fine to judge who is worthy of God’s grace and gifts, ourselves.
FIRST – we are NOT God. Choosing who to bless and who to use is HIS prerogative, NOT ours.
SECOND – We don’t have all of the information. We cannot see people’s hearts, we cannot know what they are capable of in the future, any more than we know what WE are capable of…we cannot see as God can see.
THIRD – The moment we usurp God’s role (by judging who is worthy and who is not) we place ourselves in the place where God should be. We cease being FOLLOWERS…and there is a difference between BELIEVING (which even Satan does) and FOLLOWING (which one can’t do, if they continually place themselves in front of the One they are supposed to be following)
FOURTH – the assumption that someone else is being “blessed” or “gifted” when they are seemingly unworthy, while we stand un-thanked, unheeded and unnoticed once again is an example of our impatience in thinking that the story is over. In the end (or beginning, as I see it) all truth, all blessings, all rewards will come to those who have, in God’s eyes, earned them…until then we are still in the middle of the story.
Holiness and purity are not always necessary to communication of beauty, truth, and goodness. After all, some of the most Godly and beautiful creations and art have come from some truly ungodly and pagan individuals, while some of the most “Godly” are not always the most talented…what’s THAT about? And what does that teach us about God?
In scripture AND in life. God gives, and gives, and gives…not to some…but to all.
MATTHEW 5:43-48 “You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven. For He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward will you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing out of the ordinary? Don’t even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
We also know EVERYTHING that is good, beautiful and true comes from God, no matter WHAT the vessel.
JAMES 1:16-17 “Don’t be deceived, my dearly loved brothers. Every generous act and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights; with Him there is no variation or shadow cast by turning.”
So how should we react when, like Salieri who seeks to do right and be blessed by His action sees another who, by Salieri’s measure, is unworthy of the gift?
We thank God for the gift. And we apologize to God for believing that our good works will go unrewarded…just because we don’t have the reward yet.
And primarily, we thank God that His grace goes beyond our own ideas of mercy…after all, there was time (and will be again) when we do not deserve the “greatness” He so generously pours on us.