The Mozart Question

The Mozart Question at the New End TheatreNew End Theatre
3 March – 14 April


From the opening notes played on the violin we are hooked by Paolo Levi’s story of how he borrowed the violin that his mother had shown him, had it repaired, and, with the aid of a street performer, whose playing had captivated him, learns about his parents’ secret past and why he must never play Mozart in his father’s presence whilst he is still alive.

This one man show, captivatingly and brilliantly performed by Andrew Bridgmont is a testament to the power of intimate story telling. On a minimal set with a table, two chairs, a violin stand and a window frame set within blacks we are transported in time and space from the eve of Paolo’s 50th birthday, with both parents now dead, to his childhood in Venice: we learn of his helping out in his father’s barber’s shop, his pestering of his mother to know more about his father as a musician, his being shown the instrument in secret, and his awakening of an inborn love and passion that leads the street performer to give him lessons.

What he and we learn is that this man and his parents know each other, that he was in fact their teacher when they were young and that music was their lifeline and their guilty secret – for they were part of the group of musicians whose lives were spared at Auschwitz for agreeing to play concerts for the Nazis and later at the arrival of the trains. Mozart’s music was what they were made to play during the “separation”, when families were divided and those destined for the gas chambers were led past them.

It is this guilty secret that is finally spoken when Paolo brings his teacher back to the house in order to confess that he has been learning to play the ‘borrowed’ violin. Instead of a scolding it is like a release valve that allows the three adults to talk about their past; as Paolo says “time to tell the truth because secrets are lies”.

This secret world is skilfully scripted by Simon Reade in his adaptation of the original story and Julia McShane allows Andrew Bridgmont the time and space to engage and captivate the audience completely. My only criticism being that the lighting effects in the first half hour are a little overdone and unnecessary, distracting rather than directing attention.

-Dave J