Very few people are aware that the great musical genius Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart had a sister, and that Maria Anna Mozart was, like her brother, a musical prodigy. However, because women were not expected to pursue music as a vocation — it was meant to be merely “ornamental,” a means to catch a husband — her talent was not nurtured and she lived a life of terrible frustration. Maria Anna, or “Nannerl” as she is called, bears a remarkable resemblance to Virginia Woolf’s fictional portrayal of Shakespeare’s sister, Judith; but Nannerl was all too real.
Working from historical documents, including the Mozart family letters, Sylvia Milo has created a beautiful play about this fascinating musical genius whose great talent and passion for music was so sadly left unfulfilled. This brilliant production by the Little Matchstick Factory has been touring Europe and the United States and is now playing at our very own Aux Dog Theatre in Nob Hill. This is theater at its very best and not to be missed.
“The Other Mozart” is a one-woman show, and Samantha Hoefer as Nannerl delivers a tour de force performance, utterly captivating from beginning to end. Hoefer, who is German but speaks perfect English, not only plays Nannerl at the many stages of her life, but impersonates as well a host of other characters, including everyone in the Mozart family. While this may be the story of a tragically unfulfilled life, there are moments of great humor as well, not least Hoefer’s hilarious characterization of the libidinous “Wolfie” and his new wife Constanze sexually frolicking. If you thought the puerile naughtiness of Mozart in the movie “Amadeus” was fiction, “The Other Mozart” illustrates that playwright Peter Shaffer had done his homework.
The show works on every level, all the elements — light, sound, costume — coming together to aid Hoefer in her forceful performance. In fact this is a very tech-heavy show, with Mozart’s music as well as original compositions by Nathan Davis and Davis’s brilliant sound design emotionally underscoring Hoefer at virtually every point. Unfortunately, as with her own letters, none of the music Maria Anna Mozart composed has survived.
The gorgeous scenic design — which it turns out is actually costume design (brilliantly designed by Magdalena Dabrowska and Miodrag Guberinic — consists of a very large white sphere of fabric rising in the middle and billowing out over most of the playing space; it is littered with Mozart family letters that Nannerl will read as she is confined at home while Wolfgang and family travel Europe performing. Eventually we discover that this fabric is an 18th century dress complete with corset, the cage-like structure ascending from the center. At the play’s end Nannerl slowly envelops herself within this massive costume and begins to exit the stage, difficult though it is to move in such confinement. It’s an apt metaphor for the stifling life she is forced to live.
Emotional fluctuation is not only accentuated by sound and music, but also by a very creative use of the lights. The white dress will periodically take on other colors and tones, such as pink or grey, depending on Nannerl’s mood. All this is accomplished by the exquisite lighting design of Joshua Rose. In short, everything works together to make a brilliant, unified piece of theatrical art.
“The Other Mozart” has a very limited run, so get your tickets now. Playing through Jan. 31. Go to auxdog.com or call 254.7716 for reservations.