Mozart and Salieri – extract from my translation

Little Tragedies

Mozart and Salieri

Scene 2 (A private room in a restaurant), lines 1-46:

You seem downcast today – why’s that?

Me?  No!

Something’s upset you, Mozart, I can tell.
The dinner’s good, the wine is marvellous;
but you keep frowning and don’t talk.

It’s true:
my Requiem is troubling me.

Oh really?
A requiem you’re writing, then?  Since when?

For some time, three weeks.  But a strange event…
Haven’t I told you?


Well, listen then.
It was three weeks ago; I came back home
quite late.  They told me someone had kept calling,
asking to see me.  Why, I can’t think – but
I spent the whole night wondering who it was.
What could he want from me?  The morning after
the same man came, and once again he missed me.
The third day I was playing on the floor
with my young son.  The servants called for me.
I went out.  And a man dressed all in black
greeted me civilly, asked me to compose
a requiem, then vanished.  There and then I
sat down and started writing.  Since that time
my man in black has never been again.
But I’m quite happy: I’d be loath to part
with my new work, although it’s now quite finished,
this requiem.  But meantime I…

Yes, what?

I feel ashamed to tell you…

Tell me what?

My man in black troubles me day and night,
gives me no peace.  He chases after me
like my own shadow.  There! – I see him now,
or seem to see him, sitting at our table
with us.

No more of this!  These fears are childish.
Give up this fantasizing.  Beaumarchais
used to say this to me:  “Salieri, listen,
my friend,” he’d say, “when black thoughts come to you,
uncork a bottle of champagne, or else
reread my Mariage de Figaro.”

Oh yes!  You were a friend of Beaumarchais;
you wrote the music for his script Tarare,
a splendid opera.  There’s one tune in it…
It goes round in my head when I am happy…
La la la la…  Oh, is it true, Salieri,
that Beaumarchais gave someone poison?

I think not: he was far too fond of fun
for any business such as that.

A genius! –
like you, and me.  And genius and murder
are surely two things that don’t go together.

You think so?

(He drops the poison into Mozart’s glass)

Have a drink now.

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