March 17, 2004
Murry Sidlin, in front of an image of Rafael Schächter, a conductor interned at Terezin who conceived of a performance of Verdi’s “Requiem” as a way for his fellow prisoners to “sing to the Nazis what they could not say to them.”
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Benjamin T. Rome School of Music at The Catholic University of America presents Murry Sidlin’s “Defiant Requiem: Verdi at Terezin,” as its Second Annual President’s Concert — the highlight of the university’s performance calendar — on Saturday and Sunday, April 17-18, at 7:30 p.m.
Sidlin, the dean of CUA’s Benjamin T. Rome School of Music, will lead 225 members of CUA’s Chorus and Symphony Orchestra in his documentary recreation of a full performance of Giuseppi Verdi’s “Requiem” by prisoners in the Nazi concentration camp at Terezin, located near Prague, during World War II. The concert will be staged at the Edward J. Pryzbyla University Center, located at the CUA campus, 620 Michigan Ave., N.E. Directions/maps are located at: http://welcome.cua.edu/.
The production is part of a weeklong symposium of events designed to honor Terezin’s artists and scholars, who created a rich musical, artistic and intellectual life in the face of overwhelming hardship and cruelty during the Holocaust. The symposium, “Terezin and the Art of Defiance,” will include lectures, recitals and film screenings held at CUA, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the embassies of Austria and Israel, and the D.C. Jewish Community Center.
Honorary chairpersons of the week’s events include CUA’s president, Very Rev. David M. O’Connell, C.M., in addition to President Vaclav Klaus of the Czech Republic, Israeli Ambassador Daniel Ayalon, and Austrian Ambassador Eva Nowotny. Father O’Connell will bestow the President’s Medal, the university’s highest honor, posthumously to humanitarian Hiram Bingham IV during the Saturday, April 17, performance.
Conceived, researched and written by Sidlin, the concert/drama “Defiant Requiem” incorporates Verdi’s powerful score with dramatic onstage reenactments of the original Terezin chorus’s experiences, taped survivor interviews and archival footage. Surviving members of the original chorus will attend the “Defiant Requiem” performance and will gather to speak during the Wednesday, April 14, portion of the symposium, to be held at the Holocaust Museum. The last concert is offered on April 18, the date of this year’s U.S. Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Terezin was a Nazi concentration camp used for propaganda purposes. Housing many scholars and artists, Terezin allowed its Jewish inhabitants to pursue their creative and intellectual work. Their work was displayed for visiting dignitaries — including a Red Cross delegation — giving the impression that such liberties were allowed throughout the internment system.
“Defiant Requiem” tells the story of Rafael Schächter, a conductor interned at Terezin, who conceived of a performance of Verdi’s “Requiem,” with its themes of God’s justice and liberation, as a way for the prisoners to “sing to the Nazis what they could not say to them.”
Sidlin’s concert/drama recounts Schächter’s efforts to marshal and prepare more than 150 musicians who managed to perform Verdi’s demanding work 16 times between 1943 and 1944, despite constant hunger, exhaustion and systematic deportation of chorus members to Auschwitz.
The critically acclaimed production was first performed in April 2002, when Sidlin was resident conductor of the Oregon Symphony; the performance was taped by PBS and aired across the country last August. Scheduled for another PBS airing in April, the production won the Bronze Plaque at the 51st Columbus International Film & Video Festival and the New York Film Festival’s Gold World Medal, its top award for television programming and promotions.
This spring’s production at CUA will feature the CUA Orchestra, soprano Sharon Christman, mezzo-soprano Eleni Matos, tenor Philip Webb and bass-baritone Gary Relyea, in addition to the CUA chorus, directed by Leo Nestor, in collaboration with members of The Washington Chorus, directed by Robert Shafer.
CUA musicologists Grayson Wagstaff and Andrew Shenton coordinated academic components of the weeklong symposium, “Terezin and the Art of Defiance.” For more information about the symposium, visit: http://publicaffairs.cua.edu/news/04DRSymposiumMain.htm
TICKETS: Symposia events are free; reservations are REQUIRED for embassy and Holocaust Museum events. Performance tickets for “Defiant Requiem” are: $30, $40 and $50; senior discounts are available. For tickets or more information, contact 202-319-5416.
MEDIA: The media is welcome to cover the symposium and concert performances. Contact Chris Harrison or Katie Lee in the Office of Public Affairs at 202-319-5600 to arrange for advance interviews or to secure media passes to symposium events or the “Defiant Requiem” performance.
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Music studies at The Catholic University of America began in 1927. A Department of Music was established in 1950, and the School of Music in 1965. It was named in 1984 in honor of Benjamin T. Rome, alumnus, trustee emeritus, and longtime friend and benefactor. The music school offers both undergraduate and graduate programs of study in performance of instrumental music (including chamber music and orchestral studies), piano, voice (including choral music and opera), composition and theory, musicology, conducting, musical theater, music education, voice and piano pedagogy. New programs include the Institute of Sacred Music, and an emphasis within the composition program of composing for the theater. The music school designs programs and curricula that inspire young musicians to be imaginative in the development of audiences, imaginative in providing musical service throughout communities and, in all ways, to connect with the evolution of American arts institutions and new ways that professional artists can and will serve humanity. The music school, through its Studio X sessions, regularly presents major performers, renowned composers, music technologists, critics and arts administrators to lecture and work with students. The studies within curricula are solidly traditional, and the paths for students are diverse and often new.
The Catholic University of America, an institution of higher learning in Washington, D.C., is unique as the national university of the Catholic Church in America. Founded in 1887 and chartered by Congress, the university opened as a graduate and research institution. Undergraduate programs were introduced in 1904. Today the private and coeducational campus has approximately 5,500 undergraduate and graduate students from all states and 90 countries enrolled in 11 schools of architecture and planning, arts and sciences, canon law, engineering, law, library and information science, music, nursing, philosophy, social service, and theology and religious studies.
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