15 September 2011 0 Comments

Film prequel to MOZART’S LAST ARIA

The French cinema has very kindly provided a period piece on release now in the US about the early years of Wolfgang Mozart’s sister Nannerl. To whet appetites for my forthcoming historical thriller MOZART’S LAST ARIA, in which Nannerl is the narrator.

MOZART’S LAST ARIA, which has been out for some months in the UK, is the story of a 40-year-old Maria Anna Mozart, known by the diminutive “Little Nanna,” or Nannerl in German. She’s living in a remote village with a boring husband – as indeed the real Nannerl did – when her famous brother dies. Learning that Wolfgang thought himself poisoned, Nannerl goes to Vienna to find out who killed him. The plot introduces musical riddles, Masonic plots, and international espionage.

All of this is taken on by a woman who in reality was a musical genius perhaps on a par with her brother – and certainly with great talent and potential.

Mozart’s Sister, the new French film by director Rene Feret, grapples with the early years of Nannerl life in which she and Wolfgang were carted all over Europe by their ambitious father, performing for the rich and royal. Gradually Nannerl was overshadowed by cute little Wolfgang. It’s still unclear to historians whether that was the result of a greater talent or a tendency in society at large and Mozart pere in particular to overlook the capacities of women.

Feret seems quite sure it was the latter – and I agree with him.

Nannerl’s letters – and the references to her by others – suggest she was of a very similar personality to Wolfgang, sensitive and excitable. If that was less in evidence as the years went on, it’s probably because she was crushed by the stultifying duties of a daughter to an aged widower father and, later, by the responsibilities of a stepmother who was married off to a boring functionary in a remote village posting in the mountains near Salzburg.

What I’ve done with MOZART’S LAST ARIA is to revive the spark of genius and inquisitiveness that was so evident in young Nannerl and to give it to the middle-aged woman. In reality she never visited Vienna after Wolfgang’s death. In my novel she heads for the Imperial capital on a mission of love for her brother.

Historical fiction has, in recent years, turned increasingly to the lives of women of the past. Historians have typically ignored them, and certainly in their day they were often treated as lacking talent or intelligence. They were neglected as Nannerl Mozart was, and I hope my novel – like Feret’s film – will go some way toward redressing the disservice done to a great female artist over 200 years ago.

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