Thanks for visiting my English site! I’m Rita Charbonnier, author of Mozart’s Sister. The novel was published first in my mother tongue, Italian, and then translated into English, French, German, Spanish, and Dutch. It tells the fascinating story of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s older sister, Nannerl — whose talent may have equaled her brother’s.
I played the piano from a very young age and I loved Mozart’s music. One day, several years ago, I found out that the Maestro had a sister, she was called Nannerl and had been a child prodigy, like him. I was struck by the idea that such an important fact should be so little known.
So I went to find out more. I left for Salzburg with the aim of visiting the Mozarteum library and the places where the Mozart siblings were born and lived. In one of the two museum-houses that belonged to the family there was a room dedicated to Nannerl, where the following phrase stood out in bold, large letters.
She gave up her artistic career for the sake of her brother.
The more I went on, the more I became convinced not only that I had to tell the story, but that the story deserved to be told. I found it both interesting and saddening to think that two children had been born into the same family, one male and one female, musically gifted alike, but that only the boy succeeded in expressing his talent. The girl did not get the chance.
How many artists have we lost in history, because they were born in the body of a woman?
I was born in Vicenza, in the north of Italy, and I live in Rome. I started to read when I was four years old and at the age of five I received my first copy of Pinocchio as a present; at eight I used a type-writer to produce a little local newspaper for the area, or rather for our block, that I found the courage to sell and that a few people even found the courage to buy.
After high school I went to drama school in Syracuse, in Sicily. In fact, when I went for the admission interview, I didn’t want to be an actress; I was actually thinking of being a playwright or director. However, someone told me that performing on stage for a short period would be a useful thing for me to do. The short period lasted nearly fifteen years.
I worked with various prestigious Italian theatre companies; acting and singing on the stage, and on occasions I also played the piano. I had an important role in a musical with Nino Manfredi, one of the most prominent actors in the “commedia all’italiana” film genre. I also took part in various comedy television programmes. I then went to New York for a few months, where I followed courses at the HB Studio and featured in a musical at the NYU.
But I didn’t like being on tour. As there are no fixed theatre companies in Italy, the only way to act in the theatre is to be constantly on the move, sometimes in a new city every day. However, above all, I had begun to live with the uncomfortable feeling that my artistic life lacked something important. So I started to stick a laptop into my suitcase (it was the 90’s, when laptops were more like tabletops) and I began to jot down my thoughts, wherever I found myself, and to cherish vague plans of writing.
I started working for a theatre review. The first article I wrote, on an idea of mine, was about women directors, playwrights and composers: did they have to struggle more than men to make themselves heard? And why? It was then that I first wanted to tell the story of Nannerl, Mozart’s sister. I only knew that she had been a child prodigy, like her brother, and that at a certain point she sank into oblivion.
That was 1996. Ten years later, Mozart’s Sister was published in Europe, Canada and America. I wrote two other novels, but they haven’t been translated into English yet.