Los Angeles Opera Receives $4 Million Gift to Revive Music Suppressed by Nazis

Classic Arts News   Los Angeles Opera Receives $4 Million Gift to Revive Music Suppressed by Nazis
 
The Los Angeles Opera has announced an ongoing project called "Recovered Voices," which will present the work of composers suppressed by the Nazis. The endeavor will be funded largely by a $4 million grant raised by company board member Marilyn Ziering.

Los Angeles Opera music director James Conlon, an active champion of composers silenced by the Third Reich, will conduct all concerts in the series.

"Recovered Voices" will launch with two concerts in March, which will include excerpts from Schreker's The Stigmatized, Braunfels's The Birds, Ernst Krenek's Johnny Tunes Up (Jonny spielt auf), Ullmann's Der Kaiser von Atlantis, Erwin Schulhoff's Flames and Korngold's Die tote Stadt. The concerts will also feature a complete performance of Zemlinsky's A Florentine Tragedy, a one-act opera based on Oscar Wilde's play of the same name.

Conlon will lead the Los Angeles Opera Orchestra and soprano Tatiana Pavlovskaya, tenors Anthony Dean Griffey and Rodrick Dixon, and baritones Donnie Ray Albert and Martin Gantner. The concert will also feature visual art and multimedia presentations.

Future concerts in the project will include full-scale productions of complete operas by Zemlinsky, Ullmann, Schreker and Braunfels. Some works will receive their U.S. premieres at at Los Angeles Opera, the nation's first major opera company to address this body of work in a comprehensive way.

Ziering, whose late husband was a Holocaust survivor, herself gave $3.25 million for the project; she raised an additional $750,000 from local leaders and other company supporters.

L.A. Opera general director Plšcido Domingo commented, "James Conlon has won worldwide respect not only as a conductor, but as a longtime advocate of those composers whose lives and careers were impacted by Nazi Germany. There is so much previously lost music that has now reached the stage due to his effort."

Conlon has programmed the repertoire of composers such as Pavel Haas, Karl Amadeus Hartmann, Bohuslav Martinu and Kurt Weill, among others, in North America and Europe. In August, Conlon conducted the U.S. premiere of Ogelala, a ballet by Czech-Jewish composer Erwin Schulhoff, at the Aspen Music Festival in Colorado. The work was performed in 1925 and 1927 before being banned by the Nazis.

As music director of the Ravinia Festival, Conlon presents a different composer from this group each summer with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. He has already highlighted works of Viktor Ullmann and Erwin Schulhoff; in 2007 he will focus on Alexander Zemlinsky. In addition, a production conducted by Conlon of Ullmann's Der Kaiser von Atlantis ("The Emperor of Atlantis") — a work written while the composer was interned in the Theresienstadt concentration camp — has been performed at the Juilliard School, the Spoleto Festival in Italy, the Ravinia Festival, the Houston Grand Opera and the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

"The Third Reich silenced two generations of composers, the greatest single rupture in what had been a centuries-long stream of German classical music," said Conlon in a statement. "The creativity of the first half of the 20th century is far richer than we think. We have a special opportunity at L.A. Opera to present works recovered from oblivion and at the same time mitigate a great injustice. We can take an important step toward reviving the music of those whose lives were affected by the Holocaust or whose work was otherwise deemed 'offensive' by that authoritarian regime."

Conlon's discography includes nine recordings of the operatic and orchestral works of Alexander Zemlinsky with the G‹rzenich Orchestra-Cologne Philharmonic for EMI. He has also recorded the works of Schulhoff, Ullmann, Hartmann and Bohuslav Martinu.


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