Rahel Romahn on Playing Mozart and Performing at the Sydney Opera House
And what it's like acting opposite Michael Sheen.
Born in war-torn Kurdistan, but now a star of Australian television and film, Rahel Romahn is a force to be reckoned with. Despite claiming he’s never been a winner and has suffered feelings of unworthiness throughout his life and career, Romahn came out on top when he won the coveted 2022 Heath Ledger Scholarship, which saw over 600 candidates in the running. Since then, he has played a small role in Shantaram — an American drama thriller television series, and is set to take the stage at the Sydney Opera House as Mozart.
“I’ve been an actor for 16 years and have done around ten plays. I feel as though I’m ready and pumped for this experience,” says Romahn.
The experience Romahn is referring to is his role as Mozart in the upcoming production of the 1979 play Amadeus. The play, by Peter Shaffer, sees Romahn play Mozart opposite his musical adversary, Antonio Salieri, played by the acclaimed Michael Sheen. For those unfamiliar with the play, the momentous production reimagines the lives of Salieri and Mozart. It uncovers Salieri’s inner torment as he grapples with Mozart’s genius and sets out to destroy him.
Romahn says rehearsing alongside Michael Sheen has been inspirational. “I feel privileged to share the stage with him, and he’s brought out the best of me,” he says.
This play is Romahn’s first time performing in Sydney Opera House’s Concert Hall. “I’m looking forward to bringing one of the best pieces of theatrical writing to the stage,” he says.
To prepare for the role, Romahn poured over Mozart’s biography. “There are lots of operatic moments in the play. They’ve taken some of the best parts of Mozart’s music and intelligently woven them into the story. I get to conduct; I get to sing. There are even parts where I get to speak the language of what Mozart would have spoken,” he says.
“I want to understand the moment-to-moment of what happened in his life so that it can inform me of all the moments that are not in the play and how that shapes someone’s body and physicality and voice and experience.”
Though Romahn loved the movie and play, he says he never realised he himself could bring the musical genius to life. “I’m used to playing a certain type of character,” he says. “A darker, more criminal character, the opposite of Mozart’s light, bright and ethereal nature.”
“You kind of see your own identity based on how people cast you, he says. “So if I’m always getting the really complex and troubled roles, then I feel like that’s my essence, but playing Mozart has revealed there’s another side to me.”
This is the perfect opportunity to be able to portray the more dynamic nature of what I can do as an actor, says Romahn. “It wasn’t a dream role because I didn’t think it was a reality. In the process, it has become a dream role.”