The Five Best Things to Do in Houston This Weekend: The Other Mozart and WWE Live!

There was another Mozart. Older sister to Wolfgang, Nannerl was said to be just as accomplished as a musician and composer.
Actress, producer and playwright Sylvia Milo discovered her existence nine years ago while visiting Vienna, and in the Mozart House saw a portrait of the two of them “playing a four-handed piece with their hands intertwined. It really surprised me because there was a woman who looked like an equal to Wolfgang.”

She began researching Nannerl Mozart’s life, discovered her talents and decided to write her one-woman, 75-minute show, The Other Mozart, making its Houston premiere courtesy of the newly minted Lott Entertainment, and it's our pick for this Friday.

“It seems like she was extremely kind and very supportive towards her brother. She could have been jealous. He stole the attention; he was her younger brother and he stole the attention by being a boy, being the one who could get a position somewhere, and he did overshadow her. The parents decided to promote his career because that made sense for the family,” says Milo, herself a classically trained violist and pianist. The Mozart family was not a rich one; they placed their hopes in what Wolfgang could do, made more difficult by the fact that he freelanced rather than attaching himself to any one patron, she says.

In Milo’s story, Nannerl is a ghost who appears onstage who then runs through the major events of her life. “She starts from the beginning. The first music lesson. The first tours the two children went on. The press Nannerl got praising her above Wolfgang at first.”

And, Milo says, the moment when Nannerl grows up and has to focus on getting married. At a certain point in the culture of the time, women did not go out onstage or on tours, Milo says. The hope was that Wolfgang could support her, Milo says, but he wasn’t successful enough to do so until after she married at the advanced age of 33 a man her father’s age who already had five children.
Onstage, Milo appears in a dress that’s 18 feet across and a hairstyle of the time fashioned after the portraits of Nannerl. “The hair is magnificent. It takes about two and a half hours to curl and tease it; it’s all my hair,” Milo says.

Sadly, none of Nannerl’s musical compositions were saved, so the music for The Other Mozart is taken from some of Wolfgang Mozart’s work as well as that of Marianna Martines (a female composer who inspired Nannerl), with new music by Nathan Davis (a Rice University graduate) and Phyllis Chen, composers with the Mostly Mozart Festival at Lincoln Center. This production has been performed in this and other countries and was nominated for the 2015 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Sound Design in a Play.

8 p.m. Friday and Saturday. MATCH, 3400 Main. For information, call 713?521-4533 or visit lottentertainmentpresents.com. $45. 

Houston wrestling fans get a post-holiday gift from the WWE this year in the form of a rare non-televised appearance by the biggest star in the company: Brock Lesnar, which we think is a great way to spend Friday night. It’s been more than a decade since Lesnar has been in a WWE ring in Houston, long enough for him to leave the company, win the UFC Heavyweight Championship, become one of the biggest draws in combat entertainment and return to the WWE to win his fourth WWE Championship. In a company full of larger-than-life superstars, Brock is the largest.

His return to Houston, like pretty much everything else he does with the company, is a big deal and something the city has earned.
“Houston has been a longtime stronghold for WWE,” a spokesman for the company told us.

Of course, no night of wrestling is a one-man show, and the company is bringing in the big guns for this show. In addition to Lesnar, the WWE’s top good guy (or bad guy, depending on your opinion), John Cena, tries to regain his United States Championship from Alberto Del Rio, and Dean Ambrose and Kevin Owens will go to war over the WWE Intercontinental Championship. Houston will also get a look at Team Bad, featuring Sasha Banks, who may just end up being the best women’s wrestler ever.

While WWE Live! events don’t feature all the pageantry of a TV taping, the matches are just as good, if not better, and they don’t have to slow down to throw to commercial. This Houston show is just the beginning of a very good year of pro wrestling in Texas.

7:30 p.m. Friday. Toyota Center, 1510 Polk. For information, call 713-758-7200 or visit houstontoyotacenter.com. $20 to $105. 

“Russia used to be on the Julian calendar. But after the revolution, it began using the Gregorian calendar,” Russian Cultural Center Executive Director Sophia Grinblat says, explaining why a New Year’s celebration would take place after January 1. “Many Russians still remember the old calendar.”

That’s the spirit behind the Russian Old New Year, which we like for this Saturday, a feast of Russian food, music and heritage. Grinblat jokes that Russians “celebrate Christmas twice and New Year’s twice. It sounds very crazy.”

But keeping the tradition alive is important for the Russian Cultural Center, which strives to showcase the best of Russian arts, food, writing and other heritage touchstones for Russian and Russian-American expats. Non-Russians are welcome at the bash, which Grinblat says will feature terrific bites and that Russian staple, vodka.

“It cannot be Russian without vodka,” she explains. “We’ll have blinis. The most popular in Russia are with caviar, so people will be able to try that. And pierogi with different stuffings.”

Grinblat says this is the second time the Russian Cultural Center has hosted the event. The tradition began, however, almost 30 years ago, with Greg Harbar, leader of The Gypsies, a band known for its colorful, folkloric Eastern European sound. He introduced the custom of celebrating the Russian New Year with a party to the Bayou City, turning the fete into a must-attend event.

8 p.m. Saturday. House of Deréon Media Center, 2204 Crawford. For information, call 713-395-3301 or visit ourtx.org/blog/2015/11/old-new-year-festival. $15. 

It was tough getting the interview with New Zealand-based artist/musician/educator Michael Morley, to discuss his exhibit “The Silencers and The Refused” at Gspot Gallery (now in its new location two blocks over). Not only was there a time difference (our Sunday is his Monday), but he also let us know that he was going to be off the grid “at a beach with no phone or Internet and sleeping in a tent so not so good for phone interviews.” (Our winter is his summer.) After a fourteen hour flight, the artist is in Houston for the opening reception — which we think looks like a lot of fun for this Saturday night; Morley also will engage in a music performance with Nina Canal.

In the late ’90s, Morley purchased 10,000 seven-inch records, used them in a museum installation and regained custody after the show closed. “So I had these 10,000 records sitting in the house. Anything that was rare I was pulling out and keeping. But there were thousands of junk records, pop records from the ’80s, and I was playing around with the records on the turntable in my studio,” says Morley. “Back story, my mother was a ceramic artist, a potter. [As a child] I would help her, glazing plates, spinning them around on the potter’s wheel. [For this] I did the same thing with a record using high-quality paint and resins, using the record player as a spinning device, making up colors.

“The record is the symbol of a lost commodity, and how I can silence the sound by painting to it.”

In addition to the circle paintings, he also has created “some more conventional, rectangular” paintings that were inspired by video games and their abilities to induce a meditative or hallucinatory state without the use of psychedelics.

There’s an opening reception 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday. Regular viewing hours are noon to 5 p.m. Wednesdays to Sundays. Through February 3. 310 East 9th. For information, call 713-869-4770 or visit ggalleryhouston.com. Free.

Of all contemporary film composers, only John Williams recalls the soundscapes of golden age Hollywood. His trumpet fanfares for Star Wars evoke Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s Adventures of Robin Hood; his ethereal strings for Schindler’s List suggest Alfred Newman’s Diary of Anne Frank; the spooky rhythms of Jaws recollect Bernard Herrmann’s slashing Psycho; the primordial textures in Jurassic Park let loose primitive echoes from Max Steiner’s King Kong. Williams is the reigning king of Hollywood film scores, and you can’t hear one of his distinctive leitmotifs without instantaneously seeing in your mind’s eye a malevolent giant shark, a boy riding his bicycle across the face of the full moon, an intrepid archaeologist out to discover the lost ark of the covenant, an alien spacecraft hovering majestically over Devil’s Tower in Wyoming, or an extinct tyrannosaurus rex rampaging through a theme park. Our recommendation for this Sunday, relive your favorite movie moments when maestro Michael Krajewski leads the Houston Symphony in this special tribute, Star Wars and John Williams. The force has been with Williams ever since he composed incidental music for the iconic television show Gilligan’s Island. After 49 Academy Award nominations (and five Oscars), 29 Grammys, four Golden Globes and five British Academy Film Awards, Williams is the sound of cinema.

8 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 7:30 p.m. Sunday. 615 Louisiana. For information, call 713-224-7575 or visit houstonsymphony.org. $35-$135. 

Holly Beretto, Margaret Downing, Cory Garcia and D. L. Groover contributed to this post.

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Susie Tommaney is a contributing writer who enjoys covering the lively arts and culture scene in Houston and surrounding areas, connecting creative makers with the Houston Press readers to make every week a great one.
Contact: Susie Tommaney