“MOZART’S SISTER” – Third string cinema

Sean Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Photo by Lynn Imanaka

It seems very tempting, Mozart’s Sister – the opportunity of another 18th century costume picture, this one from France – produced, written and directed by René Féret. For those who enjoy historical fiction, the film poses as yet one more chance to unlock the doors and peer into the closets of the family of composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. After all, it’s been twenty-seven years since the spectacular emergence of director Milos Forman’s Amadeus, which gathered eight Oscars, including Best Picture – as well as for the author of its screenplay, Peter Shaffer, adapting and shaping his multi-Tony Award-winning theatrical masterpiece into iconic cinematic genius. Since the film’s 1984 premiere, business keeps booming in the Mozart industry; a chance at playing either of the Leading Roles of the so-called “rivals” – Mozart and (the nearly forgotten and second-rate) composer Antonio Salieri – continue to inflame the ambitions of many a stage actor; and a recent release of the film into Blu-Ray format proves that Amadeus is here to stay and with guaranteed re-incarnation into whatever format is on the horizon. Mozart’s Sister is destined for landfill.

David Moreau (Wolfgang) and Marie Féret (Nannerl)

Amadeus and Mozart’s Sister are both of the “re-imagined” variety. In other words, for its authors, Truth is but an adjunct to Creative License. Re-imagining the adventures of the Mozart family begins somewhere in a flurry of sheet music, ribbon-bound letters, yellowing diaries, and stories heard around any Music Conservatory. Somewhere in this reverie, René Féret and Peter Shaffer both employ the same controlling gimmick — “I coulda been somebody!” For Shaffer, Salieri knows his musical gifts are lacking, but the Viennese Court doesn’t know it until Mozart suddenly shows up. According to Féret, Mozart’s sister Nannerl believes that – had she been born as Wolfgang’s brother – they might have become the first European Dynamic Duo. No need for Certitude here. “Re-imagined” needs just a few facts and figures, but the finished product requires the entertainment value of Barnum & Bailey. Mozart’s Sister barely limps into town.

“Nannerl Mozart” (Marie Féret)

Le Dauphin (Clovis Fouin) and Nannerl Mozart (Marie Féret)

René Féret’s shooting script of Mozart’s Sister cannot avoid comparison to Amadeus. Peter Shaffer nurtured his idea through the disciplines of live Theatre. The structure and rhythm of his re-imagined Amadeus is developed through much rehearsal and three continuous years on Broadway before he re-vamps the script for Hollywood. By contrast, Féret’s end product is a plodding, witless and gloomy bore. His treatment of the premise that Nannerl Mozart is a suppressed and thwarted genius composer with Box Office appeal similar to that of her brother’s – is flaccid and void of artistic climax. Likewise, there’s no satisfaction to be had in the tedious and bloodless performances rendered by director René Féret’s daughters – Marie as “Nannerl” and Lisa as “Louise of France”. Someone find René Féret a Casting Director!

On the other hand, Salieri would applaud Mozart’s Sister and its inherent mediocrity.

Louise de France (Lisa Féret) and Nannerl Mozart (Marie Féret)


» Don’t miss a thing. Get Sentinel breaking news alerts delivered to your inbox.

See related material:

SF EARLY MUSIC SOCIETY – Season Opens with the Catacoustic Consort and Wildcat Viols
“ONCE IN A LIFETIME” – 1930 Comedy Open’s 2011-12 Season at A.C.T.
SF ARTS COMMISSION – Debuts New Public Artwork at the Ortega Branch Library
36th ANNUAL SF OPEN STUDIOS – Every weekend, October 1st—30th
SELECTED HISTORIES: Discover Latin American Art at SFMOMA
POLARIS: VOYAGE FOR ORCHESTRA – With the San Francisco Symphony
“HEART OF A SOLDIER” – SFOpera Presents World Premiere September 10th
GRANTS FOR THE ARTS – 50th Anniversary, A Free Celebration At City Hall
THE MOURNERS: Tomb Sculptures from the Court of Burgundy
MEROLA OPERA’S GRAND FINALE – Meet Daniel Curran and Mark Diamond
SAN FRANCISCO OPERA – Opens with Puccini’s “Turandot”, September 9th
HELP IS ON THE WAY XVII: Gotta Sing! Gotta Dance!
Previewing two exhibitions coming to the de Young Museum and Legion of Honor
NEW ON CD – “Live from the Marlboro Music Festival”
100th BIRTHDAY – San Francisco Symphony throws free concert bash in Civic Center Plaza, September 8th
KEVIN SPACEY IS “RICHARD III” – At the Curran, October 19th—29th
FOUR SAINTS IN THREE ACTS – Gertrude Stein and Virgil Thomson’s Experimental Opera at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 8/18–21
3rd i’s QUEER EYE – August Festival focuses on the South Asian LGBT experience
BALI: Art, Ritual, Performance – At the Asian Art Museum until September 11th
FOLGER COFFEE BUILDING – Becomes Downtown Hub for University of San Francisco
“STUFFED AND UNSTRUNG” – The Henson Puppets, Totally Uncensored – At the Curran, 8/18—27th
San Francisco Opera and Musicians Union – Ratify new 3-year contract
DIANA ROSS – One Night Only! – At the Golden Gate Theatre, 9/16
SAN FRANCISCO OPERA – Free Concert at Stern Grove, August 21st
TURANDOT – San Francisco Opera Opening Night Gala, September 9th
“THE BARBER OF SEVILLE” – Presented by the Merola Opera Program, 8/4-7
KIRK DOUGLAS – On Stage At The Castro Theatre
“CASABLANCA” – The SF Symphony accompanies screening
“HE WHO GETS SLAPPED” – A conversation with composer and pianist Matti Bye
ABEL GANCE’S “NAPOLEON” – San Francisco Silent Film Festival to present complete restoration by Kevin Brownlow in 2012
SEPTEMBER 11th – “Opera In The Park” – The City’s Civic Observance of the 10th Anniversary of 9/11
SAN FRANCISCO OPERA – Single tickets go on sale Sunday, July 10th, at 10 AM
THE CASTRO AMBASSADORS – Got questions? Have answers!
MARY GIBBONEY – An Interview with the star of “ABSOLUTELY SAN FRANCISCO”
“BILLY ELLIOT” – A high flying hit at the Orpheum
HEIDI MELTON – An Interview with “Sieglinde” in San Francisco Opera’s DIE WALKÜRE, 6/29
“DAS RHEINGOLD” – The slippery steps to Valhalla
“BILLY ELLIOT” – Leaps Into the Orpheum June 27th
PICASSO — Now at the de Young Museum
SONDHEIM’S “ASSASSINS” – Ray of Light Theatre is right-on target
“TALES OF THE CITY” – Totally Sensational, Totally San Francisco
“THE STOPS” – At NCTC – Come On and Get A Faith Lift
BRENDEN GUY — British Clarinetist In Concert, June 2nd
SILENT FILM FESTIVAL – Opens July 14th with re-discovered film by John Ford
THIS GUN FOR HIRE, 1942 – Looking at “Now you see it, now you don’t” sung by Veronica Lake
Seán Martinfield YouTube with Janet Roitz – ‘Marked Woman’ (1937) and the song that gave it pizzazz – ‘My Silver Dollar Man’
“Would You Like A Souvenir?” – Sean Martinfield and Janet Roitz explore a song from Film Noir classic NORA PRENTISS (1947)
SFMOMA — The Steins Collect: Matisse, Picasso, and the Parisian Avant-Garde
“ASSASSINS” – Ray of Light Theatre presents Stephen Sondheim’s controversial musical, June 2–25
VICE PALACE – All Singing! All Dancing! All Hedonism!!!
PICASSO: At the de Young Museum, Tickets on sale 5/11
BETH WILMURT – A stunning “Alma” in The Eccentricities of a Nightingale, at the Aurora Theatre
THE PRINCESS OF MONTPENSIER – Les yawns, les sighs
CD: ZUILL BAILEY, Cellist – Brahms Works for Cello and Piano
TIIT HELIMETS – An Interview with “Prince Edvard” of SF Ballet’s THE LITTLE MERMAID
NO EXIT: A Helluva Great Time at the American Conservatory Theatre
KIRK DOUGLAS – On stage at the Castro Theatre, July 24th
NEW CONSERVATORY THEATRE CENTER – Announces 2011-12 Pride Season
NEW PUBLICATIONS: PUBLIC TRUST BETRAYED. An Interview with author and real estate appraiser, James E. Manning
NEW CENTURY CHAMBER ORCHESTRA – Presents “Mastery of Schubert”, Featuring Soprano Melody Moore
FLORAL DESIGNER NATASHA LISITSA – Creating the Fantastical in the Wilsey Court for “Bouquets To Art 2011″
ZHENG CAO – A Conversation with A Miracle Artist
MELODY MOORE – Soprano shines in SF Ballet’s “Nanna’s Lied”
MARNIE BRECKENRIDGE – An Interview with “La Princesse” of Philip Glass’ Orphée
AVENUE Q – A Totally Fabulous Place To Be

Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Seán Martinfield, who also serves as Fine Arts Critic, is a native San Franciscan. He is a Theatre Arts Graduate from San Francisco State University, a professional singer, and well-known private vocal coach to Bay Area actors and singers of all ages and persuasions. His clients have appeared in Broadway National Tours including Wicked, Aïda, Miss Saigon, Rent, Bye Bye Birdie, in theatres and cabarets throughout the Bay Area, and are regularly featured in major City events including Diva Fest, Gay Pride, and Halloween In The Castro. As an Internet consultant in vocal development and audition preparation he has published thousands of responses to those seeking his advice concerning singing techniques, professional and academic auditions, and careers in the Performing Arts. Mr. Martinfield’s Broadway clients have all profited from his vocal methodology, “The Belter’s Method”. If you want answers about your vocal technique, post him a question on AllExperts.com. If you would like to build up your vocal performance chops and participate in the Bay Area’s rich theatrical scene, e-mail him at: sean.martinfield@comcast.net.


  1. “REAL STEEL” – Reels of money-making crap starring Hugh Jackman « AndFed.com – Breaking News | Latest News | Current News - October 8, 2011

    [...] at Gough Street PlayhouseA “WORLD PREMIERE” – Mozart’s Concerto for Horn and Orchestra“MOZART’S SISTER” – Third string cinemaSF EARLY MUSIC SOCIETY – Season Opens with the Catacoustic Consort and Wildcat Viols“ONCE IN A [...]