Music used as resistance to the Nazis captures new audiences

[From The Times of Israel]

A sold-out US tour of ‘Defiant Requiem: Verdi at Terezin’ indicates a growing interest in recovering — and reinterpreting — the productions staged by Holocaust victims as prisoners.

BOSTON – It might be hearing the survivors’ haunting voices, singing Yiddish songs recorded after the Holocaust, or maybe it’s listening to romantic songs from the “cabaret” at Westerbork, where Jews awaited weekly transports to death.

With many back-stories to choose from, a new wave of researchers and artists is elevating “music as resistance” to the forefront of Holocaust education. A leading project is the traveling mega-production called “Defiant Requiem: Verdi at Terezin,” a memorial concert for the musical prisoners of the Nazi camp Theresienstadt, also known as Terezin, outside Prague.

Launched in 2002, the production hinges on a lavish, full orchestra performance of Giuseppe Verdi’s seminal Requiem, a Roman Catholic funeral mass. It was this complex Latin arrangement that Jewish conductor Raphael Schachter, imprisoned in Theresienstadt, chose to perform with a chorus of 150 fellow prisoners in 1943.

To build their story around the 84-minute Verdi masterpiece, “Defiant Requiem” creators interspersed it with live narration, video testimony from Theresienstadt survivors, and “show” footage shot by Nazis inside the camp. The finished product has been performed more than 30 times around the world, and recently wrapped a coast-to-coast US tour.

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Filed under Holocaust in the news, Listening materials

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