Double-click to start typing
Double-click to start typing

Operatunity Foundation for the Arts


Week of Remembrance:  A Celebration of Jewish Artists

April, 2012

Beginning Sunday April 15 through Saturday, April 21, 2012 Opera-tunity Foundation and the USC School of Music will present a very special project:  A Week of Remembrance....a Celebration of Jewish Artists

The University of South Carolina (USC) Symphony Orchestra and the USC Choirs under the direction of Maestro Donald Portnoy and Larry Wyatt will offer the South Carolina premiere of Defiant Requiem: Verdi at Terezin and begin a week-long tribute to Jewish culture. They will be joined by The York County Choral Society, David Lowry conductor.

This production honors those who were interred in the World War II concentration camp at Terezin, sometimes called by its German name of Theresienstadt.

The Defiant Requiem is a powerful multi-media production which tells the story of the courageous and innovative prisoners who used their performances of the magnificent music of Verdi?s Requiem to show their defiance to their captors. The work interweaves Verdi?s Requiem with video clip interviews of actual Terezin survivors, dramatic readings from inmate?s diaries, and Nazi film footage.

Famed conductor Murry Sidlin is the creative motivation behind the Defiant Requiem. Upon learning the story of the musical feats of the Terezin prisoners and their leader Raphael Schächter, Sidlin?s passion for telling it morphed into his production which he titled the Defiant Requiem.

Located in Czechoslovakia, now the Czech Republic, Terezin concentration camp held as captive a large number of intellectuals, artists, and musicians. Among them was a talented young Jewish conductor, Raphael Schächter. Upon his arrival at Terezin in November of 1941, he immediately immersed himself into bringing music to the prisoners. When not engaged in hard labor at the camp, he organized singers and musicians, producing operas and various musical productions. Schächter actually smuggled a make shift piano into the prison camp.

A chorus of 150 members initially performed the renown Verdi Requiem at Terezin. Schächter had but a single worn copy of the score which he had smuggled into the prison camp. He taught the singers from it, all learning it in Latin. The 16 performances of the Verdi Requiem at Terezin were gloriously performed accompanied only by a legless piano propped up on boxes.

The chorus assembled by Schächter was constantly having to be replenished with singers as members were frequently shipped to Auschwitz where they met their death. Others died at Terezin, victims of the stark living conditions. These setbacks never deterred Schächter, He persevered and used his vigilant spirit to lift up those around him.

The International Red Cross visited Terezin in June of 1944, accompanied by high ranking SS officers. The Nazis staged a carefully arranged charade about how happy was life in the camp. Although reduced to only 60 singers, Schãchter performed the Requiem for the visitors. The Red Cross failed to see through the Nazi ruse.

Terezin camp member Bedrich Borges recalled: Rafael Schächter literally poured spirit into people. I remember, for example, how he was working with choir in opera The Kiss. I didn't sing and sat in the audience; I looked at Schächter and thought I was looking at Johann Sebastian Bach. The man was simply impregnated by music, a rock of a man.

Schächter chose to have his fellow inmates perform the Verdi Requiem because of its message of overcoming evil and darkness and the eventual retributions of judgment day. He was known to say, What we can not say to them, we will sing to them. The power of the music and lyrics of the Verdi Requiem was chosen to inspire and uplift the downtrodden prisoners of Terezin as their unified act of defiance to their captors.

Celebrating the courage and talents of the prisoners at Terezin makes this a very gratifying endeavor, notes Executive Director Janet Hopkins. This is one of the incredible stories in history that shines a light on the strength of the human spirit. I have performed all on the world on some of the grandest stages, but taking part in the Defiant Requiem may be the most important performance of my career. I am thrilled to be working with Murry Sidlin. His vision and musical genius are unparalleled.

I must tell the story, Sidlin declares, of an unsung hero, Raphael Schächter, who was a passionate conductor, a risk taker, and a man motivated by music to serve humanity.

Regarding the prisoners of Terezin, Sidlin notes, Their desire for culture was indeed a match for their desire for life. For more than three years, Rafi Schächter inspired the Terezin population until his deportation to Auschwitz on October 16, 1944 , from which he did not return. And now, we honor his blessed memory.

-Opera Pulse

Tribute Week:

Sunday, April 15 through Saturday, April 21, 2012

Description: Seven days of educational and inspirational activities  honoring more than 141,000 Jewish souls who were imprisoned and died at Terezin Concentration Camp.

Week-long Display at the Richland County Public Library and the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center

Lecture Series:

A Study of Mahler in lecture and Music

Murry Sidlin and the making of The Defiant Requiem

Ela Weissberger, original "cat" in all 55 Terezin Brundibar performances

Edgar Krasa, survivor, sand in all Verdi Requiem performances in Terezin

Film Series:

Ben Hur, Richland County Public Library

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas,  Russell House


Composers of Terezin and the Holocaust Rediscovered

USC Wind Ensemble performance of celebrated Jewish Composers

Defiant Requiem-Verdi in Terezin (Koger Center)

Brundibar, a Children?s Opera written and performed in the Terezin concentration camp

Original music by Ayala Asherov Kalus and Meira Warshauer

"The Jewish Soul" Recital

"Celebration of Inspiration" Recital

Holocaust Cantata

Visual Arts:

Photographic display of Art from Terezin supplied by Ms. Weissberger

Student Outreach:

Statewide contest for K-12 (of varying mediums) on their perception and understanding of WWII and the Holocaust

For More Details on these events, please see our Schedule page.


Facebook: OperaTunity 

Join us on Facebook!

Oops! This site has expired.

If you are the site owner, please renew your premium subscription or contact support.