Charbonnier, Rita

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Charbonnier, Rita


Born in Vicenza, Italy. Education: Greek and Latin Theatre Institution, Syracuse, Italy, graduate; National Music Conservatory, Mantua, Italy, fifth-year piano diploma and third-year diploma of operatic art.


Home—Rome, Italy. Agent—Luigi Bernabo Associates s.r.l., Via Cernaia, 4, 20121 Milan, Italy.


Writer and actress. Has acted in various stage productions in Italy and the United States for over fifteen years; worked as a novelist and as a screenwriter for Radiotelevisione Italiana (RAI).


La Sorella di Mozart: Romanzo, Corbaccio (Milano, Italia), 2006, English translation by Ann Goldstein published as Mozart's Sister: A Novel, Crown Publishers (New York, NY), 2007.

Also author of the Rita Charbonnier blog.


Historical fiction writer Rita Charbonnier was born in the ancient northern city of Vicenza, Italy. She studied piano and attended drama school in Syracuse, Italy, before pursuing a career spanning nearly fifteen years as an actress and theatrical performer. Prior to publishing her first novel, she attended the HB Studio, in New York, New York, where she studied the arts. She has also served as a television host, a journalist, and a screenwriter for Radiotelevisione Italiana (RAI). Charbonnier published Mozart's Sister: A Novel in 2007 after its original Italian release in 2006.

Mozart's Sister is a fictional narrative of the life of Austrian-born Maria Anna "Nannerl" Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's sister, and her struggle to maintain and pursue her musical talent despite the difficulties she encountered as the sibling of an equally talented prodigy. While her ability is initially encouraged, Nannerl is soon forced to relinquish her burgeoning musical career, the recognition attached to it, and her passion for creating and performing when she is placed into a more ancillary role as an educator in order to provide financial support for her family. Although she eventually finds a love interest, Nannerl must make a decision regarding her loyalties that places her family and her romantic suitor in opposition with each other. Gender bias is a prominent theme throughout the novel. In an interview with Michelle Moran for History Buff, Charbonnier shared her motivations for writing this story and stated: "I found it both fascinating and saddening to think that two children had been born into the same family, one male and one female, musically gifted alike, but that only the boy succeeded in expressing his talent; the girl child did not get the chance…. I decided that I absolutely had to tell this story." In the History Buff interview, Charbonnier remarked that the first part of the novel takes the form of Nannerl's autobiographical "correspondence" given to the man that she has fallen in love with and that, while Charbonnier was influenced by actual Mozart family letters, as they provided relevant historical evidence, Nannerl's written message is entirely fictional. Charbonnier explained to Moran that "the main characters are all based on real people," but she added that numerous dates and events were altered as needed to "create a dynamic between them that was coherent with the emotional web" of the narrative.

Karen Ann Cullotta, in an article for BookPage, reported that Mozart's Sister "defies the constraints of literary genre itself" and described the text as a "dissonant literary opera which provokes more questions than it answers." Cullotta also felt that the novel would sway "even the most cynical readers with its plaintive lyricism and beguiling narrative." A Kirkus Reviews contributor found the "novel presents the slim facts of Nannerl's life in a rather tortured story"; however, the reviewer also expressed that Charbonnier's inclusion of Austrian "stratified social relations" is a "rich" addition to the novel. Furthermore, a reviewer for Publishers Weekly pointed out that Charbonnier "is more concerned with bursts of emotion than period detail throughout" the narrative, but the critic also added that it is an "energetic debut." Margaret Flanagan, in an article for Booklist, claimed that Charbonnier provides "a vivid picture" of the Mozart clan's "tangled web of family dysfunction." Indeed, the story offers many conflicts that form the core of this "family dysfunction," including a domineering father and an unrealized romance. Susanne Wells, in her contribution to the Library Journal, reflected that "the family's mania is expressed in the rapid transitions between time frames and voices." Despite this familial tumult, Nannerl does find a measure of solace at the conclusion of the novel when she is tasked with preserving her brother's musical legacy.



Booklist, October 1, 2007, Margaret Flanagan, review of Mozart's Sister: A Novel, p. 31.

Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 2007, review of Mozart's Sister.

Library Journal, September 15, 2007, Susanne Wells, review of Mozart's Sister, p. 48.

Publishers Weekly, August 6, 2007, review of Mozart's Sister, p. 170.


BookPage, (July 31, 2008), Karen Ann Cullotta, review of Mozart's Sister.

Curled Up with a Good Book, (July 31, 2008), Luan Gaines, review of Mozart's Sister.

History Buff, (July 31, 2008), author interview with Michelle Moran.

Official Rita Charbonnier Web site, (July 31, 2008).

Rita Charbonnier MySpace Page, (July 31, 2008).