Six of the performances in the summer run of Sylvia Milo’s The Other Mozart were performed by the Austrian actress, Julia Rosa Stöckl. It was fascinating in itself to see the play performed by an artist other than the author, and above all by a countrywoman of Nannerl Mozart herself. As at the other performances the house was almost sold out, and Ms. Stöckl received a resounding ovation for her elegant and psychologically penetrating performance.
Julia Rosa Stöckl
One of the most remarkable theatrical presentations I saw in 2013, continuing on at various theaters in the United States and Europe, is Sylvia Milo's The Other Mozart, a rich one-woman play she has conceived, written, and plays in, about Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's sister Anna Maria, or Nannerl, as she was known in the family. Today it is easiest to identify her as "Mozart's sister," since even specialists know her mainly as one of the composer's closest confidantes and correspondents. They shared parents, provincial Salzburg, travels, musical gifts, and scatological humor. While "Wolfi," as she calls him, went to Vienna to seek his fortune in the odd limbo between musical servant, entrepreneur, and stable employment, at least in a preliminary form—which is what was available to him at the time, she accepted the conventional prescriptions of her father. A child prodigy at the keyboard, her musical scope became severely limited once she reached marriageable age. Music became an ornament rather than a profession for her; she had to learn housekeeping—all to attract a husband. At the late age of thirty-three, she was finally married to a husband chosen for her by father Leopold and lost whatever was left of her continually diminishing self-determination.
John Douglas Thompson's brilliant performance as Louis Armstrong in Terry Teachout's Satchmo at the Waldorf was one of the great moments of Shakespeare and Company's 2012 season. As we rose from our seats after the performance, my companions and I were emotionally drained, that is, deeply moved, and we agreed that the play and its message were important. With John Douglas Thompson on stage the whole experience seemed overwhelming and beyond criticism. Yet shortly after the performance, an encounter with some of those responsible brought me down to earth and forced me to enunciate the flaws I'd noticed in as succinct and helpful a way as possible. The lighting needed polishing, mostly simplification, as did the play itself. Satchmo just got a little too busy with his tape recorders at points, symptomatic of a deeper problem in the narrative process of this extended monologue and the protagonist's relation to the audience. There were and are other problems, which I'll discuss later. Thompson's acting was so powerful that one had to dig beyond it to get at these. There were only a few moments when it was tangible on stage.
The Austrian Cultural Forum in New York (ACFNY, or Österreichische Kulturforum New York/ÖKF), apart from the recent events mentioned in our account of the "Vienna, City of Dreams" Festival centered at Carnegie Hall, hosts a lively series of concerts and exhibitions in its clean, if somewhat edgy, modernistic structure on 51st Street, just East of Fifth Avenue—the design of Raimund Abraham, a Vienna-trained architect from the Tyrol, who has practiced in New York since 1971. As this example suggests, the Forum takes care to balance cultural initiatives from Austria with local creativity, often collaborating with the equally progressive Czech Center, housed in its equally up-to-date facility on East 74th Street.