Lost genius revealed at Rubicon
by Shirley Lorraine
The Rubicon Theater’s current offering, The Other Mozart, presents a side of history that has heretofore been sequestered. A one-woman show presented in one fluid act, the production is a study in language, music, movement and pure artistry.
Living in the shadow of another is never easy. Being a woman in the eighteenth century, Maria Anna (Nannerl) Mozart fought an uphill battle for most of her life. The older sister of Wolfgang Amadeus, Nannerl was herself a musical prodigy. Inspired by Austrian musician Marianna Martines for much of her life, sister Mozart’s musical virtuosity reached heights early and remained constant. Sadly, her natural talents at the harpsichord and composing music were diminished as soon as her younger brother began to show his talents.
As was the custom of the times, the focus was put on the boy’s skills while she was relegated to the background. And, although the children toured Europe to great acclaim showcasing their keyboard acumen, as she grew older Nannerl frequently found herself in Wolfgang’s shadow.
By the age of 18, Nannerl’s touring career had come to an end. She was encouraged to continue to acquire housekeeping, embroidery and child-rearing skills while Wolfgang pursued court appointments and concert bookings.
Primarily through a collection of letters, the story of the wickedly talented older sister Nannerl has come to light. Conceived, written and brilliantly portrayed by Sylvia Milo, The Other Mozart is a stunning piece of theater. In a compelling and thoroughly engrossing performance, Milo brings forth Nannerl’s passion for her music as well as for her brother, family and life itself.
The simply staged production is highly complex in its orchestrations of movement, props and emotional range. Original music by Nathan Davis and Phyllis Chen composed specifically for the stage show provides exemplary highlights at just the right places, amplified by many of Wolfgang’s writings.
The period piece showcases the challenges faced by a talented young girl in an age where women were subservient in all ways and “must be careful not to become too accomplished…” Struggling to break out of the societal mold, Nannerl nonetheless was forced to accede as she became of marriageable age. Her talents, hidden behind motherhood and the business of being the wife of a magistrate, eventually were lost to the world. Apparently, no written record of her compositions exists, at least none under her name. What a shame.
Ms. Milo has been touring with the production for several years now, garnering accolades all along the way. We are honored to usher her into and beyond her 100th performance of The Other Mozart at the Rubicon Theater. Through June 18 Ventura County audiences are treated to a rare performance of sheer electrifying beauty.
This play will doubtless inspire many to seek out more information on Nannerl and others of the time who possessed unrecognized talents. Through explorative works such as this it is hoped that more of the extraordinary woman who have blazed trails in all fields will become more than mere footnotes in the history books.
The Other Mozart plays Wednesdays to Sundays through June 18, at the Rubicon Theatre Company. Matinees: 2 p.m. Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays. Evening performances at 8 p.m., except 7 p.m. on Wednesdays, which features a post-show talk back with the cast. Tickets: $30-$55. The box office is open 7 days a week. There is 24-hour ticketing and seat selection online at www.rubicontheatre.org. 667-2900.