By Page Forrest
Maria Anna “Nannerl” Mozart lived her adult life in relative anonymity. For two nights, playwright and actress Sylvia Milo brought Mozart’s story to light at the Tennessee Williams Center.
“The Other Mozart” is a solo performance that captures the life and trials of Nannerl Mozart who also conceived and wrote the show. As the title character, Milo recounts how she grew up playing the harpsichord and piano, touring cities with her brother Wolfgang — and often outshining him. However, her parents and societal norms of the 18th century prevented her from pursuing a professional career in music. Instead, Nannerl married a widower and had three children, while Wolfgang became famous.
A one-woman show can be difficult to conduct, but Milo had no trouble captivating the audience. Those present watched with rapt attention as she brought the play to life with the help of a dress, the 18-foot skirt of which was fanned out on the entirety of the stage containing hidden pockets, letters, notes, and musical compositions from Mozart’s life. Magdalena Dabrowska from the National Theatre of Poland designed both the costume and set. Alena Kochinski (C’18), a theatre student and costumer in the Tennessee Williams Center, says the dress “was the centerpiece of the play, and she never left it. The fanned dress represents her life and her constant struggle for independence and notoriety.”
In 2015, the play was nominated for the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Sound Design, the Off Broadway Alliance Award for Solo Performance and won the New York Innovative Theatre awards for Outstanding Solo Performance and Outstanding Original Music. “The Other Mozart” arrived at Sewanee directly from New York City, where the show ran for four months at the Players Theatre. Unfortunately, “The Other Mozart” was only at Sewanee on January 21 and 22. Those who missed the show and are eager to see it can follow Milo to upcoming performances around in the world, from Pennsylvania to California to Austria.
Milo brought to life an incredible and often forgotten woman not only through her script, but also through her performance. “The Other Mozart” breathed fresh air in The Tennessee Williams Center, groundbreaking in its design and powerful portrayal of a woman whose craft was lost to gendered norms of the time.