by Espii · July 12, 2014
“Imagine an eleven-year-old girl, performing the most difficult sonatas and concertos of the greatest composers, on the harpsichord or fortepiano, with precision, with incredible lightness, with impeccable taste. It was a source of wonder to many.” –Augsburger Intelligenz, May 19, 1763.
The story of Nannerl Mozart leaves much to the imagination. History remembers Amadeus Wolfgang Mozart as a musical prodigy, but fails to tell us about his older sister who was also a prodigy. The Other Mozart, written and performed by Sylvia Milo, tells us the other side of the musical family.
Nannerl was influential in Wolfgang Mozart’s development in music. She taught him his first piece of music, and their father took them touring across Europe as they grew up together. But as they got older and Wolfgang was unable to obtain a position playing for royalty, Nannerl’s future was brought into question. If he couldn’t land that job, how would he help provide for the family after their parents were gone? Would touring and playing music endangered her chances of marrying and settling down with her family?
Still the touring continued, although it began to slow down. Nannerl’s mother tried to enstill some domesticated skills, although Nannerl did not enjoy it too much. Nannerl was left at home more and more as Wolfgang continued to tour across the continent. Once their mother died, Nannerl’s world took a sharp turn toward becoming a societal woman in the home and away from performing music.
The unique thing about The Other Mozart is that it’s based mostly on fact. Nannerl’s story is one left behind in correspondence and newspaper articles. Sylvia Milo brings Nannerl to life as a lighthearted woman eager to see and bring beauty to the world through her music. Sadly, the world is not willing to give her the same care and affection.
The lights circling the room and the harpsichord take us through time, into Nannerl’s music, and across Europe to different countries. Nathan Davis and Phyllis Chen create a harpsichord tune that repeats itself throughout the piece, allowing us to imagine performances. What’s interesting about Joshua Rose’s lighting design is that the lighting gets harsher as time goes on, showing Nannerl’s aging and weariness.
The focal design point is the 18-foot dress made of written letters, designed by Magdalena Dąbrowska. Sylvia Milo runs around freely in bloomers gathering letters from underneath her. Once societal expectations catch up to her, she constrains herself in the corset of the dress.
Director Issac Byrne was able to bring all of the elements in The Other Mozart together. Each design and acting choice was strong on its own and brought a richness to the performance as a whole.
Mark Twain once said, “Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because fiction is obliged to stick to possiblilities; truth isn’t.” The real tragedy in The Other Mozart is that there were no possibilities for Nannerl. Her life was what it was, and society never got to see the possibility of fame as her brother did. Even Nannerl herself was unaware of the fame that Wolfgang Mozart would receive after death. At the end, Nannerl Mozart leaves us with the thought, “Could it not have been me?”