Forbidden Opera

What are we thinking? Where are we heading?



As part of our Reclaimed Voices Series we will be taking our first look at the composers of opera that time has forgotten. After the Second World War, opera, like operetta, faced the daunting task of having to not only reinvent itself, but also to reclaim the music silenced by The Third Reich. The consequences of this systemic uprooting and eradication of Jewish composers, accompanied by the Nazi cultural branding of modernist music as “Degenerate (Entartete),” was widely felt both before and after the War. Our concert has been largely inrspired by Michael Haas’s book. Forbidden Music: The Jewish composers banned by the Nazis.

While composers Viktor Ullmann, Gideon Klein, Hans Krasa, Pavel Haas, and Erwin Schulhoff perished in the Nazi Holocaust, their music lives on. Their works remain not only an important link to the past, but are imbued with great originality and vitality that make them valuable on their own merits. The more fortunate ones (Ernst Toch, Hans Gál, Kurt Weill, Hanns Eisler, Arnold Schönberg, Egon Wellesz and Erich Wolfgang Korngold) would ply their craft in their newly adopted homelands. But composers who died before the War, and in many instances at the heights of their career, the post war years would represent the double indignation of not only being silenced by the Nazis but also having no one to champion their music after the war. Two classical composers Erich Wolfgang Korngold and Franz Schreker were victimized and frowned upon as remnants and reminders of a bygone era that the world wanted to forget. Their stories are one of many.

Our concert Forbidden Opera will feature their works along with the other opera composers deemed degenerate by the Nazis. This multi-media concert will feature five singers, a narrator and a small chamber orchestra. October 19 and 21 at the Illinois Holocaust Museum’s Goodman Auditorium. Tickets are now on sale.