Friday, May 3, 2019

DEFIANT REQUIEM




Here's how this week's arts and culture column begins:

“Defiant Requiem” is both a documentary film and the name given to a multimedia concert drama, directed by Murry Sidlin, which was recently performed at UCLA’s Royce Hall.

The film features several former inmates of the Nazi concentration camp at Terezín, a concentration camp 30 miles north of Prague in the Czech Republic during World War II.

By September 1942, a town built for 6,000 held 60,000. There was never enough food. In a single year, half the population died from typhus.

Still, many of the inmates were intellectuals, artists, musicians.

Scholars began giving lectures on science, religion, psychology. Rabbis transformed a hidden room into a secret synagogue. The camp erupted into a thriving cultural center, “an academy of prisoners.”

When the transports east to an unknown fate began, inmate Rafael Schächter turned to one of his most precious possessions: a single score of Giuseppe Verdi’s Requiem Mass. A conductor, he decided to teach the inmates to play and sing what is universally acknowledged as one of the world’s most demanding choral pieces.

An outcry went out around the camp. Why pick a Catholic Mass when there are works by, say, Handel, on Jewish themes?

Because, explained Schächter, the Requiem takes as its central theme the notion of holy judgment. The “Dies Irae” (“Wrath of God”) runs:


“A written book shall be brought forth

which contains everything

for which the world will be judged.

And so when the Judge takes his seat

Whatever is hidden shall be made manifest,

Nothing shall remain unavenged.”

READ THE WHOLE PIECE HERE.

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