Los Angeles Opera will launch in March a multiyear "Recovered Voices" project focusing on music suppressed by the Nazis. The series of concerts, to be led by L.A. Opera music director James Conlon, will be underwritten by a $3.25-million gift from Los Angeles philanthropist and opera board member Marilyn Zierling, L.A. Opera general director Placido Domingo is expected to announce today.
In addition to her own gift, Zierling has raised an additional $750,000 for the project from opera supporters, for a total gift of $4 million to the company, putting it among the top five gifts in the company's history, according to company spokesman Gary Murphy.
"I'm doing this really out of love for opera and out of the conviction that the voices that were silenced during the Third Reich should be heard," Zierling said Friday. "Wonderful music was written and wonderful music was suppressed, and as a result of the suppression these composers can be forgotten. But I believe that as long as a person is remembered, they're really not gone."
Speaking from Rome on Friday, Conlon said: "This is the first time any major American opera company has made any steps in this direction. Almost anything we will do in the project in the coming years will be a first in America. For me, it's a mission. It's something I feel passionate about. My hope is that it won't have an end in Los Angeles and that it will make other companies do the same elsewhere."
The project will begin March 7 and 10 at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion with excerpts from operas by Franz Schreker, Walter Braunfels, Ernst Krenek, Viktor Ullmann, Erwin Schulhoff and Erich Wolfgang Korngold. A complete performance of Alexander Zemlinsky's "A Florentine Tragedy" will also be on the bill. All were Jewish except for Krenek, who was considered too radical by the Nazis.
Though popular at the time, these composers and their works fell victim to the anti-Semitic and ultraconservative politics of Nazi German. Except for Korngold's "Die Tote Stadt" and Krenek's "Jonny spielt auf," their operas are little known today.
Ullmann's opera "The Emperor of Atlantis," which was written and rehearsed (but not performed) while he was interned in the concentration camp of Terezin, even references Nazi politics and atrocities, although it has universal applications. Ullmann died probably at Auschwitz in 1944. Conlon co-created a production with the Juilliard School in New York in 2003.
Schulhoff died in a camp in Bavaria. Krenek, Korngold and Zemlinsky emigrated to the United States. Schreker died in Germany in 1934. Braunfels survived the war and died in Germany in 1954.
The "Recovered Voices" project, which Conlon said is open-ended, subsequently will include full-scale productions of complete operas by Zemlinsky, Ullmann, Schreker and Braunfels.