Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Other Mozart at the Player's Theatre

photo: www.anthonycollins.nyc
On Saturday night, I was immersed in the experience of  THE OTHER MOZART .  It's a one-woman drama about Maria Anna Mozart and is a theatrical experience not to be missed.

Although I've always thought that Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was my favorite composer, I never realized that he had sister, much less that she was as much the progeny that he was. I was nothing less than transported in to her world by  Sara Florence Fellini as she sensitively and beautifully performed the monodrama.

Maria Anna Mozart, known as Nannerl, was almost five, and longing to play music, when her brother Wolfgang Amadeus was born.  At age 7, she was finally taught the harpsichord by their father.

Wolfgang's insane musical brilliance and young death is simply a part of our culture, but the story that unfolds about his sister is one that is profoundly sad although enlightening.  As she tells her own story we see her mature but resign herself to her fate as a product of the 18th century.  It's maddening to realize the waste of her own brilliant musical talent merely because it was not proper in juxtaposition to the expectations that she fulfill the duties of wife, housekeeper and mother.   

As a child, Nannerl traveled with her father and brother sometimes performing on her own and then as sort of the opening act for Wolfgang at royal courts all over Europe.   Through her recounting, lines taken from her actual letters to her family, we are taken into the 18th century and into the age of the Enlightenment as we see it through her excited eyes and words.  Sadly, as she matured, it was decided for her by her father that she should return to a rather lonely existence in Salzburg to prepare for marriage and children.  She was allowed to continue practicing and even wrote her own compositions, although they were never published or possibly heard by the public.  Her life was confined in poverty and circumstances until she finally was eventually married to a rather cruel widower, at age 33, and had her own children, all of it portrayed as rather prison like in the play, as her freedom of music was stripped away into a rural, cold life that was completely opposite of the life she had known as a child traveling and performing in the royal courts of Europe. 

Maria Anna Mozart's legacy may be that she preserved all of correspondence and manuscripts of her brother, ensuring that Wolfgang was not lost to us.

THE OTHER MOZART is by Sylvia Milo, who shares the performance schedule with Sara Florence Fellini when she steps into the role every other Saturday.  The production of THE OTHER MOZART is stunning.  Performed in the 50 seat black box of Steve & Marie Sgouros Theatre on the 3rd floor at the Players, the experience is immersive in light, by Joshua Rose and design by Anna Sroka.  

The set is a 18-foot dress, designed by Magdalena Dabrowska from the National Theater of Poland, that almost takes on a life of its own.  The actress is dressed in pretty period undergarments with corset and the donning of the dress, i.e., set is an culmination of the evening.  Even the hair design, by Courtney Bednarowski, lends to the feel of the period.  The choreographer is Janice Orlandi who has designed the movement on and within that dress, sometimes manic, sometimes childlike, sometimes defeated, finally accepting.

The sound, which is rather magical, is provided by Nathan Davis and Phyllis Chen (of Lincoln Center's Mostly Mozart Festival and the International Contemporary Ensemble) using clavichords, music boxes, bells, teacups, and fans.  All under the direction of Isaac Byrne,  the light, sound, and even scent, combined with the emotional fervor and performance by Sara, transport into Nanerl's world and life. 

Sara Florence Fellini very believably takes us through Nannerl's life from childhood to late in life with a lithe, witty and sometimes manic performance.  She's ethereal at times and never anything less than breathtaking. 

THE OTHER MOZART is a thrilling and sensual evening of theatre.  My senses were completely on edge by the final moments; I wanted it to end yet I wanted, almost needed, to see it all over again.  I feel almost overwhelmed to know about his sister now and I need to know more.

THE OTHER MOZART runs until April 25th at the Player's Theatre at 115 MacDougal Street.  Tickets are available online via Ovationtix or call 866-811-4111.  When you go, use the one glass door that is marked 115 on the doorframe.  It's rather inconspicuous and there isn't really a box office (I've seen many productions in this space and theatre goers are always ridiculously confused at this location).  Take the stairs up to the third floor.  Tickets are available at the door, including reduced priced student tickets, however, all seats on Saturday night appeared to be filled.  

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