Discover the Rest of the Story: Mozart’s Real-Life Sister ‘Nannerl’ is the Other Mozart

Diana Wortham Theatre in downtown Asheville presents The Other Mozart, the true, untold story of Maria Anna Mozart, Wednesday and Thursday, March 15-16 at 8 p.m. as part of the weeklong festival, Asheville Amadeus.

The sister of Wolfgang Amadeus, nicknamed “Nannerl,” was a prodigy, keyboard virtuoso, and composer in her own right who performed throughout Europe with her younger brother to equal acclaim. Yet Nannerl was overshadowed by Wolfgang Amadeus, and her story faded away, lost to history.

Maria Anna (called Marianne and nicknamed Nannerl) was – like her younger brother – a child prodigy. The children toured most of Europe (including an 18-month stay in London in 1764-5) performing together as “wunderkinder”. There are contemporaneous reviews praising Nannerl, and she was even billed first. Until she turned 18. A little girl could perform and tour, but a woman doing so risked her reputation. And so she was left behind in Salzburg, and her father only took Wolfgang on their next journeys around the courts of Europe. Nannerl never toured again. 

Not to be deterred by history, actress Sylvia Milo, the production’s creator and performer, brings Nannerl to life in this fascinating and intelligent performance, featuring a stunning 18-foot gown with exterior corset, representative of the social restrictions in which Nannerl was captive. Period style movement directed by Janice Orlandi creates a world of opulence and elegance through articulate delicacy of expressive balletic gestures, reverent court bows, and fan language. Directed by Isaac Byrne, The Other Mozart is based on facts, stories and lines pulled directly from the Mozart family’s humorous and heartbreaking letters. 

Along with music composed by her famous brother and Marianna Martines (a female composer who inspired Nannerl), original music was written for the performance by Nathan Davis and Phyllis Chen (of Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival, the International Contemporary Ensemble and BAM) for the instruments Nannerl knew intimately, such as clavichords, music boxes, and bells, as well as teacups, fans, and other ordinary objects that might have captured her imagination. 

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart repeatedly wrote that nobody played his keyboard music as well as Nannerl could, and their father Leopold described her as “one of the most skilful players in Europe” and that she improvises “so successfully that you would be astounded,” yet Nannerl’s virtuoso was sublimated.  

The Other Mozart had a critically acclaimed Off-Broadway run in NYC in 2014. The production has toured extensively in Europe (at the Mozart Wohnhaus and the Neue Residenz in Salzburg, at the Pasinger Fabrik in Munich, and in Estonia and Tyrol), in Toronto, and in the U.S. (Cherry Lane Theater and Lotos Club in NYC, RVCC in NJ, the Berkshires, Alabama, CT, TX, FL, Charleston, New Orleans, Kingston, and San Diego). In September 2016, the play was presented at St. James Theater in London to critical acclaim.

Enhance your experience: Pre-show discussions, led by noted composer and percussionist Nathan Davis, will be held in conjunction with these performances. Nathan Davis’s recent album, On The Nature of Thingness, composed with Phyllis Chen (who also composed music for The Other Mozart), recently won the Independent Music Award for Best Contemporary Classical Album. These pre-performance discussions are presented by Diana Wortham Theatre on stage at 7:00 p.m. prior to the 8:00 p.m.performances, and are free to ticket holders. 

Asheville Amadeus: These performances are part of Asheville Amadeus, a ten-day festival March 10-19, 2017, celebrating the life and music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Organized by the Asheville Symphony, this biannual festival includes events throughout the city of Asheville; the inaugural festival in 2015 comprised more than 65 public and private events and performances and drew more than 20,000 people to festival events.

To obtain more information on the Mainstage Series or to purchase tickets for the March 15 and March 16, 2017 performances of The Other Mozart at the Diana Wortham Theatre (Regular $35, Student $30; Child $20; Student Rush, day-of-the-show with valid I.D. $10), call the theatre’s box office at (828) 257-4530 or visitwww.dwtheatre.com

About Shelby Harrell
Shelby Harrell is the news editor of the Biltmore Beacon, editor of The Guide arts and entertainment tab and is a staff writer for Mountaineer Publishing. Originally from Asheville, she has worked in journalism for more almost six years and currently lives in Clyde, NC.