This past Sunday afternoon, Hill Auditorium hosted a sold-out showing of “Amadeus” with live musical accompaniment from the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and the University Musical Society’s Choral Union.
“Amadeus,” the 1984 film directed by Miloš Forman starring Tom Hulce as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and F. Murray Abraham as Antonio Salieri, recounts the interesting life of Mozart and his complex relationship with Antonio Salieri.
There was a nostalgic excitement present as I waited in line, hearing mumurs of “I haven’t seen it since it was in theaters” and “You’re going to really enjoy it.” Only, this nostalgia was unfamiliar to me; I had not seen the film prior to this unique showing, but it would fail to interfere with the experience.
After a brief word from UMS president Matthew VanBesien on the relevance and influence of the film in musical society, the film began with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and the UMS Choral Union playing along to the film.
I was unsure if the soundtrack was accurate to the original film or if the Detroit Symphony Orchestra or its Music Director Laureate, Leonard Slatkin, had put an individualistic spin on the score. Provoked by curiosity, I spoke with an audience member by the name of Alexandria who had seen the film in the past. She told me that the score was exactly the same as the original soundtrack from 1984.
I learned that the Detroit Symphony Orchestra has performed shows like this in the past at the University, with one of their most recent being the live performance of the soundtrack to “2001: Space Odyssey” in Sept. 2018. I noticed that despite my sitting very close to the orchestra, I was more focused on the film than the musical performance, which is perhaps the goal of such an event. As such, the work from DSO and the UMS Choral Union was secondary to the film itself, though I am curious if my fellow audience members who had seen the film in the past felt similarly or not.
Even so, the live musical accompaniment made the film come to life. The orchestra and choirs fell into perfect synchronization with the film, in a seamless transition from on-screen to real-world that I had never experienced.
As the film progressed, it was interesting to hear the audience of Hill Auditorium erupt with laughter amid a contemporary, classical score. There were admittedly some niche classical music jokes that went over my head. I enjoyed the film, although it felt as if I had infiltrated a cultish meeting of “Amadeus” fans.
The most poignant aspect of the night came during the end credits. As the screen faded to black, the orchestra began the piece of music that accompanies the rolling credits, but no one in the audience got up to leave. We all sat still, with our attention completely focused on the orchestra for the first time of the night, taking in their grand finale of sorts as they closed out the life and legacy of Mozart.