FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Carrie Kikel
Director of Public Relations
OR Addy Bittner
Public Relations Coordinator
Portland, Ore.... Oregon Public Broadcasting and the Oregon Symphony will partner to produce a national PBS special focussing on Resident Conductor Murry Sidlin's "Defiant Requiem: Verdi at Terezin," a Nerve Endings-style concert/drama honoring the man who brought spiritual hope to thousands of imprisoned Jews by organizing and leading 16 performances of Verdi's "Requiem" while interned at the Nazi concentration camp in Terezin during World War II.
Maynard Orme, President and CEO of OPB, said: These performances, of a Catholic mass sung by Jews while interned in a Nazi concentration camp, are testament to the power of the human condition in the most dire of circumstances. OPB is proud to share this poignant moment in history with the Oregon Symphony. This production continues our partnership in bringing quality music to our audiences."
The national special, which will recreate the musical and dramatic elements of the production to best utilize the television medium, will be taped in conjunction with the Symphony's "Defiant Requiem" performances April 20 and 21 at the Portland Expo Center; an airdate for the special has not yet been scheduled. Funding for the production is provided by PBS and the John S. and James L.Knight Foundation; additional fundraising is underway locally and nationally. The program will be directed by Phil Byrd of Brandenburg Productions, a prime-time Emmy award-winner whose recent PBS credits include "Jessye Norman: A Holiday Homecoming," "Detroit Symphony: Mahler's Beethoven" and "Colorado Symphony: Jazz for Orchestra."
"The 'Defiant Requiem' will be one of the most powerful and moving concert experiences of a lifetime," said Symphony President Tony Woodcock. "We are deeply grateful to OPB for allowing us to share it with a national audience."
Conceived, written and conducted by Sidlin, the concert/drama will recreate as closely as possible, through the starkness of the performance site and dramatic elements, the "defiance" and power of performances of Verdi's "Requiem" led by little-known choral conductor Raphael Schächter at Terezin, the concentration camp where thousands of Jewish intellectuals, artists, writers and poets were interned. Actors will assist in communicating the political, philosophical and humanistic aura of the Nazi camp.
"I want to make Schächter famous, as the hero he was," said Sidlin. Many Terezin survivors say that Schächter, who is believed to have died on a death march out of Auschwitz in January of 1945, has never been fittingly honored.
The irony of a Catholic mass being performed by Jewish prisoners amused the Nazis, Sidlin said; they were oblivious to the meaning specific sections of the mass held for the Jews. Adolf Eichmann, one of the designers of the plan to exterminate the Jews (the "final solution"), commented during one performance that the Jews were "singing their own requiem," he said.
"Throughout the rehearsals of the Verdi, Schächter said to the choir many times that the Dies Irae meant that God would judge the Nazis, that the Nazis claimed a higher authority than God and their fate was clear, sealed and soon!" said Sidlin. "He also spoke of the Libera Me, liberate me, Oh Lord; and in this context the Latin was translated to mean liberation from Nazi imprisonment."
Schächter used one vocal score to teach, by rote and while pounding out notes on an old deficient piano, to a 150-member choir that was eroded after each performance by deportations of prisoners from Terezin to Auschwitz. As a result he was forced to recruit and train new singers three times over the course of the 16 performances in 1943 and 1944.
Several living survivors of the camp, who have been videotaped for the broadcast, continue to attest to the spiritual strength performing the mass brought to them.
"In explaining to the participants the meaning of the Latin Mass, I am sure Rafi (Schächter) gave them hope that the day of wrath and punishment of the oppressors will come," said Edgar Krasa, a member of the "Requiem" chorus who roomed with Schächter at Terezin. "It had that impact, uplifting the performers as well as the audience, allowing them to forget the reality of their current status. There was a tremendous desire to participate in the choir because of the meaningful composition, and none minded to spend late in the evening to rehearse and rerehearse after a day of hard work with very poor nutrition."
"Defiant Requiem: Verdi at Terezin" will feature the chorus of the Portland Opera. The concert/drama will be surrounded by a two-week commemoration of the artistic and scholarly events of the Terezin concentration camp, "Terezin Remembered: The Art of Resistance," and the affirmation of the human spirit for survival and dignity, said Sidlin. Events are presented by the Oregon Symphony in partnership with Pacific University and the Oregon Holocaust Resource Center. Pacific University will host the conference. The events also are a part of Expressions of Human Dignity Month, a community event endorsed by the city of Portland for the month of April to encourage every citizen and organization to create outlets for positive human expression. OPB will air serveral prime-time programs relating to the Holocaust during April.
Concert tickets to "Defiant Requiem: Verdi at Terezin" are $25 and are available through the Symphony Ticket Office, 923 S.W. Washington, or by calling 503-228-1353 or toll free (800) 228-7343.
"Defiant Requiem: Verdi at Terezin" is the first special concert based on the Symphony's nationally recognized "Nerve Endings" series. "Nerve Endings" concerts present classical music in a very "unclassical" way and often use dramatic elements to enhance the concert experience. The series was launched by a "Magic of Music" grant from the Knight Foundation; additional funding was awarded to the Symphony in 2001 to share Nerve Endings concepts with other American orchestras and to explore Nerve Endings in the television medium.
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