Regional Reviews: Phoenix
The Other Mozart
See Gil's review of Nina Simone: Four Women
Set in the opulent world of Europe in the mid-18th century and set against the class dynamics of the time, which found many people living lavish lifestyles while others succumbed to death, disease and poverty, the play is told in retrospect and follows the life of Nannerl Mozart, from a young girl to an adult married woman. It focuses on how Nannerl was just as talented as her famous younger brother–both as a young prodigy musician and a composer. However, in an age when women were reduced to playing the harpsichord but not allowed to play the violin, and with her little brother being dubbed a musical genius, Nannerl is pushed into the background by her father, even after he has capitalized on their musical talents by parading them both across Europe looking for a patron to support their endeavors. She also has to deal with her mother, who pushes her to get married and settle down. Jealous of her brother, and faced with the class rules and social constraints of the time that she is forced to obey, Nannerl still fights to make a better life for herself and her family as she navigates her way through life to find her place in the world.
Sylvia Milo did extensive research in writing the piece, which has toured around the world and been performed in several languages, and her attention to detail shows in the richly detailed play. Milo pored over family letters (some excerpts are used as dialogue in the show) to create an in-depth, historical, and factual document of this fascinating woman and the Mozart family.
Daniela Galli does a wonderful job morphing from the precocious and playful young girl to the elegant and refined, yet frustrated, lonely and restricted, married woman in a performance full of charm, passion and strength. Director Isaac Byrne provides a wonderful touch to the production that is playful at times and commanding at others. Galli masterfully portraying every character in the piece simply through a change in her body language and vocal inflections. The scene in which she uses a fan that she masterfully, and quickly, moves and flicks in front of her face as she morphs between a host of characters at a dinner party when Nannerl first encountered Mozart's wife, is beautifully staged and performed.
The only other thing on the stage besides Galli is a large, heavy dress, made of what appears to be yards and yards of white fabric, set flat on the stage floor in a circle, designed by Magdalena Dabrowska. This serves as both a costume, a prop, and a place for every letter, teacup, music box, and miniature piano to be hidden away in its many pockets and pulled out at the appropriate time to provide detail to Nannerl's life. In the center of the dress is a metal corset created by Miodrag Guberinic that becomes a cage of sorts once Nannerl is married and the restrictive nature of society's views toward women at that time are forced upon her, literally and figuratively locking her up. It's a highly effective costume and prop piece.
The production uses pieces of music from Mozart and Marianna Martines, who was an idol and inspiration to Nannerl, as well as sound effects and an original underscore by composers Nathan Davis and Phyllis Chen. The combination of the music, the dress, the performance, Joshua Rose's lighting, Courtney Bednarowski's period hair design (which resembles a huge dollop of cotton candy), and the balletic, regal movement by Janice Orlandi, creates an atmospheric setting which immerses the audience and transports us back in time. The only slight downside is that the sound design is a bit muffled and unclear at times.
The Other Mozart is a beautiful, theatrical drama that depicts one woman's search for identity in a restrictive world where she was never allowed to let her talents be known. Maria Anna Mozart's work has now all been lost but this play lets the story of her life and her memory live on.
The Other Mozart runs through April 10, 2022, at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, 7380 E 2nd St, Scottsdale AZ. For tickets and information, please visit www.scottsdaleperformingarts.org. For more information on this play, and possible future performance dates, visit theothermozart.com.
Written by Sylvia Milo