As Mozart’s short life showed, being one of God’s chosen vessels hardly makes for a smooth journey.

The announcement that Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus won most of the major 1981 Tony awards suggests that American theatre may be experiencing some interest in theological issues. While hardly constituting major interest in Christian matters, it points up some interest and insight in theological questions that should command the attention of evangelicals.

Amadeus is an impressive production, well acted and imaginatively staged by John Bury. The play, on the life and career of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart as seen through the eyes of one of Mozart’s most resentful fellow composers, the long-since forgotten Antonio Salieri, alternately deals with the doctrine of election and God’s sovereignty and a reverse view of the Faust legend. It is not simply a routine biography of a famous composer.

The perspective of the drama comes from Salieri, in old age, looking back on his life. At the outset, he informs us that, as a youth, he dedicated himself to God, asking only for the gift of music, and pledging in return to use this gift for God’s glory.

Salieri’s prayer is apparently heard. He rises quickly in the world of music of his time and finds himself court composer under Joseph II, emperor of Austria. On the surface, Salieri has maintained his vow, but at a deeper level, pride and self-satisfaction begin to surface in his character. The turning point occurs when the much-heralded protégé, Mozart, then about 20, visits the court of Joseph II. At first, Salieri, playing the role of tutor, is delighted to make the acquaintance of the young musician. Before long, he sees that Mozart’s musical ability is not simply profound: it goes beyond genius. Salieri ...

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