Warsaw’s opera house revives work for victims of holocaust
WARSAW - Agence France-Presse
Warsaw’s Chamber Opera is marking its own anniversary with performances.Almost seven decades after the Holocaust, Warsaw’s Chamber Opera is marking its own anniversary with performances of rare works from composers who lost their lives in Nazi Germany’s genocide.
The tiny venue, founded in 1961 and already unique for its annual performances of the complete works of Mozart, wants to bring a handful of largely forgotten pieces back into the public eye in a festival running into next March.
Among them is “The Emperor of Atlantis, or Death’s Refusal” by the German-speaking Czech Jew Viktor Ullman. Ullman, who studied under Austrian master Arnold Schoenberg before World War I, composed the one-act work in 1943 in the Theresienstadt concentration camp.
Located near the Czech capital Prague, Theresienstadt was used as a “show camp” by the occupying Nazis to try to cover up the real nature of the Holocaust.
“The Nazis organized cultural activities in the camp to create the illusion that conditions weren’t all that bad, and that the musicians had their own concert venue,” the Warsaw Chamber Opera’s director Stefan Sutkowski told AFP.
Sutkowskiis passionate about seeking out little-known or lost works that symbolize the destruction of a generation of Jewish artists. The style of Ullman’s opera swings from Gustav Mahler to Kurt Weill. The libretto by fellow Theresienstadt prisoner Petr Kien is a denunciation of the Nazis, masked as a fairy tale and dream sequence.
Rehearsals of the work were held in the camp until the Nazis finally banned it. Both Ullman and Kien were later sent to the Auschwitz death camp, where they perished in 1944. The manuscript survived the war thanks to another Theresienstadt inmate, was rediscovered in London after World War II, and premiered in Amsterdam in 1975. Rarer still is the ballet-oratorium “Alles durch M.O.W./Matrimonio con variazoni,” the only stage work by Polish Jewish composer Jozef Koffler. “This has never been performed,” underlined Sutkowski. The 1932 work mixes German cabaret and French music hall forms. “It is one of the most original musical works not only in the Koffler oeuvre, but in all Polish music of the first half of the 20th century”, according to musicologist Maciej Golab.