Nannerl Mozart on Stage and on Screen

Nannerl on Stage: The Other Mozart

In 2013, Nannerl’s life was adapted into a solo theatre play that obtained outstanding reviews and is currently touring the US, Canada, and Europe: The Other Mozart.

The show was created by and stars the actress, writer and musician Sylvia Milo. The show is set in and on its costume — a stunning dress, eighteen feet in diameter, which spills over the entire stage. To represent Nannerl’s musical world, composers Nathan Davis and Phyllis Chen explore the potential of her imagination with pieces that use clavichords, music boxes, teacups, fans, and other objects that must have been familiar to her.

Directed by Isaac James Byrne, The Other Mozart has been called “Strikingly beautiful” (New York Times) and “A gem of a show” (The Stage, London). It has received two New York Innovative Theatre Awards: Outstanding Solo Performance and Outstanding Original Music. If you have a chance, go see it!

Nannerl on Screen: Mozart’s Sister

One day, a few years ago, the writer Stephanie Cowell (who has also written a novel revolving around the Mozart family, Marrying Mozart — see this article) sent me a message where she asked me whether the French film on Mozart’s sister, that had recently been announced, was based on my novel with that same title.

At the time the film was still being made and neither Cowell nor others had seen it, so the question was legitimate. The answer, however, is no: Féret’s film has nothing to do with my book. Clearly, both deal with the same historical figure and moreover have the same basic theme: a woman wasn’t allowed to compose music. But as for the rest, they only have one fact in common: both acknowledge that Leopold Mozart forbid his daughter to play the violin. The film seems somewhat distantly inspired by the novel The Secret Wish of Nannerl Mozart by Barbara Kathleen Nickel.

I state this without having seen the movie, since it was never released in Italian cinemas. I did read the script, however, which René Féret was kind enough to send me. Féret told me that he hadn’t wanted to read my novel (also published in French) before developing his story, so as to avoid being influenced by it. I confess that this statement struck me. I recall having read something along these lines some time ago by the Italian writer Tiziano Scarpa, in the afterword of his novel Stabat Mater (published in English by Serpent’s Tail). The author provides a list of books that deal with a story similar to his, and declares to have read them only after writing his book. I may be wrong, but I do feel that listening to different views helps one to better define their own. I don’t believe much in the mysterious and unconscious emerging of external influences.

Anyway, as always happens in such narrations, René Féret’s film alternates between documented facts and fantasy. It focuses on a single period in the life of Nannerl — that of her teenage years, and particularly when the little Mozarts where taken around Europe on the great musical tour that took place between 1763 and 1766. The Mozart family stayed in France from the end of the year 1763 to the beginning of 1764 (Wolfgang was 7 years old and Nannerl 12). The author of the screenplay imagines Nannerl’s encounter with the son of King Louis XV in Versailles, who urges her to compose music. But Nannerl is a girl and girls do not have the right to compose; therefore, she is forced to enter the palace in disguise…