Leopold Mozart sired two musical prodigies. One, his son Wolfgang, made something of a name for himself. But the other, his daughter Nannerl, was never given a chance to fulfill her potential and has been largely forgotten. Playwright and actress Sylvia Milo remedies that historical oversight in her moving one-woman show The Other Mozart, which she is performing at the Rubicon Theatre after a successful off-Broadway run. It’s not a subtle piece, but it will resonate with anyone who chafes at the still-robust barriers to women’s advancement.
A highly expressive actress, Milo tells Nannerl’s story in the first person, focusing mainly on her adolescent years, when she and her younger brother toured Europe as a piano duo. Using Wolfgang and Leopold’s letters as source material (Nannerl’s were destroyed, along with all of her compositions), she offers a vivid portrait of a high-spirited young woman. But over time, her palpable joy and creativity get crushed as Wolfgang’s career is prioritized and their parents insist she focus on finding a husband.
They are not monsters: The family’s financial health is not good, and they are genuinely fearful for her future. Rather, the culprit is the patronizing, patriarchal society, revealed with cutting clarity in sexist remarks from some of the greatest thinkers of the day. Nannerl’s virtual imprisonment is depicted visually, as the mound of fabric she romps around in is revealed to be a giant formal dress. When she finally puts it on, she morphs into a living music box — a striking image to conclude a poignant show.