A bravura performance: Rupert Everett as Salieri
A bravura performance: Rupert Everett as Salieri

I was struck by a thought while watching Jonathan Church's fine production at the newly-renovated Festival Theatre. Peter Shaffer's play is wonderfully appropriate for a world dominated by X Factor and reality TV: Salieri's realisation that his fame will be short-lived while his more talented rival will live forever is touchingly conveyed by Rupert Everett in a bravura performance that beautifully captures the jealousies of the composer for his younger rival.

Everett conveys the self-importance of the man; not talented enough to be remembered for his compositions now but talented enough to recognise genius. Everett's Salieri is not an outright villain but an all-too-human figure, mixing pride with jealousy with a topping of self-hatred - a rich a mixture as the Italian desserts that he so greedily consumes.

Only his transformation into the elderly Salieri jars a little; there's perhaps a bit too much vigour there for a man in his 70s, haunted by his actions of the past.

Everett's Salieri is well complemented by Joshua McGuire's potty-mouthed and irritating Mozart, stuffed with conceit, with full awareness of his genius but struggling in a Vienna music scene dominated by Italians.

While ostensibly the victim of Salieri's manoeuverings, McGuire leaves us with little sympathy for Mozart until a touching final scene with Salieri in which McGuire imbues the ailing composer with a humility lacking up to that point.

There are good supporting performances too from Jessie Buckley as the loving Costanz, fully in tune with her husband's sense of humour, and from Simon Jones as the bovinely dull emperor.

Simon Higlett's designs use the space of the transformed theatre superbly, and with generous lashings of Mozart's music scattered throughout, this is a wonderful production to open the new theatre.

One thing more - and it's only a very minor quibble - but surely with all the planning for a grand opening, the actors could have learned to pronounce the word "fräulein"? Perhaps Mozart was right: Germans aren't treated with enough respect.