Free Folger Friday: Mozart vs. Salieri (2019)

Ian Merrill Peakes (Salieri) and Samuel Adams (Mozart) in Amadeus. C Stanley Photography.

Free Folger Friday: Mozart vs. Salieri, one of the Talks and Screenings at the Folger, was held in the Elizabethan Theatre on Friday, November 22, 2019 at 6:00pm.

At this event, James Jacobs of Classical WETA explored the history of the “Mozart vs. Salieri” myth, providing historical context for the action of Peter Shaffer’s play, Amadeus.

How does mediocrity stack up to genius? Did Salieri really poison Mozart? While these composers did and wrote much to create this historical fantasy, they were helped along by two centuries of pop culture; their rivalry depicted in opera, film, and literary adaptations. Despite all of this, a recently-unearthed cantata believed to be co-written by Mozart and Salieri hints at a professional understanding that may have existed after all.

James Jacobs


James Jacobs can be heard Tuesday through Friday evenings on Classical WETA 90.9 FM. He has worked as a radio host and producer since 1999 with programming on WNYE, WNYC and WGBH in Boston.

In addition to radio, James has had a long career as a musician, educator, and composer. He has appeared on "A Prairie Home Companion," "Saturday Night Live," BBC Radio Four’s "Soul Music," and has written for The Washington Post and Moment Magazine. Recently, he conducted his own English-language adaptation and chamber arrangement of Mozart’s Così fan tutte for Act Too Studio, a opera program for teenagers in Western Massachusetts.