Last Updated on October 26, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 555
Antonio Salieri (sahl-YEHR-ee), a court composer and later Imperial Kappellmeister to Joseph II, emperor of Austria. He has dedicated his life and his talents to the greater honor and glory of God and has obtained fame, reputation, and the emperor’s favor. Salieri belongs to a clique of Italians who have culturally colonized the court. His composure is shaken when Mozart, an upstart Austrian prodigy from Salzburg, comes to Vienna and makes a favorable impression on the emperor. Although he never questions Mozart’s talent, Salieri becomes insanely jealous, schemes to ruin Mozart’s career, and ultimately confesses to having killed Mozart before insanely attempting suicide. Salieri is an evil-minded, satanic figure, proud, vain, and humiliated by Mozart. He is the main player and narrator in a parable demonstrating the sin of envy.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (VOHLF-gahng ah-mah-DAY-ews MOHT-zahrt), the genius composer, presented as a crude, vulgar, and tactless young egotist who has absolutely no modesty with regard to his talent. The victim of the drama, Mozart is innocent and naïve in the devious world of court politics, too tactless to veil his contempt for the court Italians and Salieri’s music and too naïve to recognize Salieri as his most dangerous enemy.
Constanze Weber, the daughter of Mozart’s landlady in Vienna and, later, Mozart’s wife. She is well-intentioned, innocent, and tolerant of her husband’s behavior, but she shares his vulgarity. She drives a wedge between Mozart and his father, Leopold, who later dies in Salzburg. She secretly visits Salieri when the couple needs money to survive, taking original manuscripts, but later she is suspicious of Salieri. She loves her husband but is unable to help him at the end, when she returns from Baden to find him, dying, in the company of Salieri.
Joseph II, the emperor of Austria, Mozart’s patron, who loves music but is too dense to fully appreciate Mozart’s talents. Essentially a man of mediocre intelligence and taste, he prefers Salieri to Mozart and is therefore easily influenced by Salieri. He appoints Mozart to replace Gluck as chamber composer after Gluck’s death, but, on Salieri’s advice, at only one-tenth of Gluck’s salary.
Baron Gottfried Van Swieten
Baron Gottfried Van Swieten (GOT-freed fan SWEE-tehn), the prefect of the Imperial Library and an ardent Freemason who helps to support Mozart and his family after Mozart becomes a Mason, until Mozart writes The Magic Flute and alienates his benefactor by utilizing Masonic rituals (at Salieri’s suggestion) and revealing Masonic secrets in that opera. Because of his old-fashioned musical preferences, he is known as “Lord Fugue.” He pays for Mozart’s pauper’s funeral.
Count Johann von Strack
Count Johann von Strack (YOH-hahn fon SHTRAK), the royal chamberlain, who conveys the emperor’s orders to commission Mozart to write a comic opera in German, which further alienates the court Italians.
Count Franz Orsini-Rosenberg
Count Franz Orsini-Rosenberg, the director of the Imperial Opera and part of the Italian faction. He argues against opera that is non-Italian and criticizes Mozart for employing “too many notes.” He believes that “all prodigies are hateful.”
The “Venticelli” (VEHN-tee-CHEH-lee), or “Little Winds,” which serve as “purveyors of information, gossip, and rumor” and function as a chorus to the action.