Authors: Rita Charbonnier
Many people helped me directly in the production of the book you have in your hands. First of all, my heartfelt thanks to Crown and in particular to my editor, Allison McCabe, for her confidence, her perseverance, and her patience. I also wish to thank my Italian publisher, Corbaccio, in the person of Cecilia Perucci: she was the first to bet on my novel, and the result is deeply indebted to her. Last but not least, I would like to thank my literary agents, Dorie Simmonds and Roberta Oliva.
Many friends stood by me with encouragement and advice. My thanks to Doug McKinlay, who, as soon as I told him about my project, literally shouted in my face, “It’s a great idea!” I would like to thank psychologist Giulia Corrao, for our long, intense conversations on the character of Nannerl, and for drawing attention to the most profound recesses of her soul.
Various people helped me indirectly: I refer to the teachers I have been fortunate to meet during my studies. I want to thank, above all, Lucia Lusvardi, my wonderful piano teacher. My thanks to Dara Marks, a teacher of screenwriting and storytelling, whose fascinating work is based on deep psychological research. I thank José Sanchis Sinisterra, a teacher of dramaturgy, a refined intellectual, and an exquisitely simple man.
Thanks to Genevieve Geffray, of the Mozarteum in Salzburg, who welcomed me within the precious walls of the Mozart Library and helped me with my research.
A special thank-you goes to my sister, Chiara, who, many years ago, first spoke to me of the mysterious sister of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to every thing.
A woman’s education must therefore be planned in relation to man. To be pleasing in his sight, to win his respect and love, to train him in childhood, to tend him in manhood, to counsel and console, to make his life pleasant and happy, these are the duties of woman for all time, and this is what she should be taught while she is young.
Salzburg, February 21, 1777
Dearest Fräulein Mozart!
I am entrusting this letter to Victoria, on the eve of a mission that will keep me away from the city for some time, because I wish you, my charming young friend, to have in your hands something that, during this period, will remind you of me. It’s a bold wish, I’m aware, but stronger than modesty is my fear that what happened may dissipate in our ordinary daily actions and remain confined to a single night.
The thought of you has been with me from the moment I saw you vanish into the darkness. I didn’t want you to leave me, even if it was I who insisted; but it would not have been proper, I think, to stay longer, with the risk of being discovered by a passing watchman. I don’t know what excuses you gave your family for your late return, and I do not intend to ask; I am sure that you did not involve me in the matter, and that is sufficient. Little Victoria, for her part, was fast asleep, and when I asked her to take this to you she didn’t blink. I think, in fact, she was pleased.
Dear Fräulein Mozart, you must know how rare it is to meet a person who possesses such depth and clarity of thought, such a remarkable and keen sensibility. It was a pleasant surprise for me to discover these qualities in you, since in Salzburg (and I hope you are not upset by my frankness) you are known, rather, as a woman who is aloof, intimidating, and quick-tempered. You know that I don’t frequent the salons of the beau monde and do not willingly indulge in gossip; besides, it would be unseemly, given my position. But whenever I have chanced to hear you named at the Palace by a colleague or an aide, it has been to contrast you with your brother, Wolfgang: he so lively, with his ability to entertain large audiences, not only through his music but, in particular, thanks to a ready tongue and a fluent and sometimes salacious wit; not to mention his generous spirit, which is legendary. Of you, however, people say the exact opposite!
In no uncertain terms I will tell you that I consider it a shame. Why do you conceal from the world your charm and sweetness, sides of you that I have had the great privilege to see?
But I care little for the world or its gossip. Truly, what is important to me is to give you a token of my friendship: a friendship that I hope may be affectionate, if you will allow me to offer it. I would be extremely happy to have the pleasure of your company again, as soon as I return to Salzburg, and, until then, to continue to write to you and to read with trepidation the longed-for replies that you might wish to send. When Victoria comes to her piano lesson, she will be able to bring you my letters, and in return take yours to send to me, thus enabling you to avoid embarrassing and premature explanations to your family.
If, however, your feelings are not the same as mine, I will withdraw into the shadows without a word and not disturb you further; have no fear. You don’t even have to say no: confine yourself to not answering; and, I pray you, in that case destroy this.
With respectful admiration,
Major Franz Armand d’Ippold
Salzburg, February 28, 1777
I have a suspicion that Victoria read your letter…and maybe you are reading this, too, naughty girl! Fold it up immediately and don’t you dare interfere, do you understand? Otherwise you’ll never have another lesson with me, and your precious hands will be reduced to horrid dry twigs!
And now, my dear Armand, see how that image of intransigence and scorn behind which I habitually hide, and behind which I have chosen not to hide from you, suddenly lifts. Why conceal oneself from the world and reveal oneself to few? Believe me, I don’t do it on purpose; but I know that, after all, in the little universe that I inhabit, my personal behavior matters in a very relative way. What is most important is to be an outstanding teacher of girls who aspire to play the piano; and if I have the reputation of being severe, no one doubts that I am an equally capable teacher…and this gratifies me, and satisfies me. And if at one time, in a child’s too-vivid fantasy, I had higher musical ambitions, today I am truly happy with what I have, and of art I ask nothing more, truly nothing.
But now enough of these excuses…the letter inscribed by your hand is here, beside me on the table, and the trembling light of the candle warms your already affectionate words, which have roused so much emotion in me. A drop of wax has fallen beside the words “little Victoria,” as if to point them out to me, as if to make me smile with greater tenderness toward the one who bears that name, toward the one who gave it to her, and toward that somewhat incongruous (forgive me…) adjective. Perhaps, dear Armand, Victoria will forever be “little” to you; and yet she is the same age as Wolfgang, or only five years younger than me, so she is over twenty by now. My father, imagine, stopped considering me a child when I was barely twelve…but now that I’m speaking of it, I wonder if it was a good thing or not.
The truth is that I am writing to you without restraint, in the middle of the night, which is my friend, tossing out the thoughts as they come: for you are the first person to allow me this, the first who hasn’t judged me. For that reason I am not afraid to open up to you…and for that reason, too, I long to see you and embrace you again. Yes, I wish for that moment, which I hope is not too distant, Major d’Ippold; I tell you that officially…and I respond to your declaration of friendship with an equally intense ardor; for indeed I, too, have been thinking of that night, from the moment we parted; and the thought of you is with me constantly, in every waking moment, and I am happy, yes, to begin this correspondence with you, as happy, perhaps, as I have ever been…
I will stop here, for now. With that fundamental mutual assurance, the rest can be tasted and enjoyed in every syllable, in every blink of an eye. Don’t you think, my dearest?
With grateful affection,
Vienna, March 10, 1777
My dear, dearest Nannerl!
Your letter made me happier than I can ever remember being. You, sweetest girl, have wakened in me sensations I felt certain were closed off to me forever. In recent days I have performed every duty with a light heart, and even the other officers have noticed my state of mind. Thank you, Nannerl; thank you sincerely for responding to my feelings! Now, though we are distant, I can feel you near me, and it seems to me that I can caress your lovely face, and recall with intense emotion every moment spent at your side. Yet I don’t think I know the right words to express what I feel; besides, I have never been good at expounding on certain subjects. The only thing I can tell you is that I, too, long for our next meeting and wish to do my utmost so that everything between us will be smooth, and a token of our growing affection.