On October 16 Project Elysium will present Cornet: Viktor Ullmann’s Legacy from Theresienstadt – A performance of Ullman’s final work, written in a concentration camp.
We asked Cornet producer, Catherine Laub, a few questions about the presentation.
This will be the first time the artists of Elysium will be performing in Canada – however, Elysium-Between Two Continents has been presenting the work of Viktor Ullmann in the United States and Europe since the 1990s. Could you tell us about this organization and their work?
Founded in 1983, Elysium was the first and (at that time) only organization in New York which dedicated all its efforts to the presentation of music by composers who were banned, silenced, or persecuted by the Nazis. The many concerts and musical-literary collages presenting works of mostly forgotten artists– works Elysium had found in archives in the US and Europe–had a trailblazing effect. Other organizations and individuals soon followed in Elysium’s footsteps. Some of these composers, who were unknown a few years ago, are now regularly featured in concert and onstage around the world. As an organization, Elysium, together with the Lahr von Leïtis Academy and Archive, has three interrelated components: research and collection, performance, and education. Elysium’s mission statement reads, “Fostering artistic and creative dialogue and mutual friendship between the United States of America and Europe. Fighting against discrimination, racism and antisemitism by means of art.”
Can you tell us a little more about the artists involved ?
Gregorij H. von Leïtis is the artistic director of Elysium, between two continents. He has directed operas and plays in major theatres throughout Europe and in New York and will provide the recitation for “Cornet.” Herr von Leïtis is an advisor for the Viktor Ullmann Foundation and a consultant for the Jewish Music Institute in London. His awards include the Knight’s Cross of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany and the New York Theatre Club Prize.
Michael Lahr is the executive director of the Lahr von Leïtis Academy and Archive and Elysium’s program director and will provide the opening lecture. Also a published author, Herr Lahr has curated numerous international exhibits and conceived programs such as Music from Theresienstadt and Degenerate Music. He serves on the advisory board of the Neitzsche Forum in Munich and regularly lectures on topics of social and political importance.
“Master pianist” Dan Franklin Smith is Elysium’s music director and frequent recital soloist and collaborator. Described as “an incredibly sensitive player,” his “breathtakingly beautiful” artistry will bring Ullmann’s piano sonata to life and provide the musical background for the recitation in “Cornet.” As a chamber musician and vocal accompanist, Dan has performed at major venues throughout the United States and toured Bermuda, Taiwan, and Puerto Rico.
What inspired you to produce this presentation?
When I was a few years out of graduate school, I participated in the Elysium Academy in Bernried, Germany with all three of these artists on faculty. In the years since then, I have been increasingly inspired by the second part of Elysium’s mission statement “fighting against discrimination, racism and antisemitism by means of art.” I reconnected with Gregorij von Leïtis and Michael Lahr in Munich nearly two years ago now and spoke with them about coming to Vancouver at some point to present one of their concerts. Initially, I had planned for there to be only once performance at the Roedde House, but once I began sharing their work with others, I was encouraged to make this music available to a wider audience. In terms of the historical context of the music, we are able to honour the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII in 2015 and also mark the actual date of the composer’s death in 1944, mere months before the end of the war. There’s a really moving story here, and one that is particularly timely right now as our global society has issues of runaway political regimes, discrimination, and displacement once again brought to the forefront of our collective consciousness.
Is there anything else you would like audiences to know about this presentation?
While it isn’t possible to rewrite history, this project functions as a kind of musical “rescue mission,” bringing recognition to a brilliant composer whose work was nearly lost to us. His story and his music allow us to make a more personal connection to a time that is almost too overwhelming to contemplate. This connection is essential as it helps us not only mourn but learn.
Cornet: Viktor Ullmann’s Legacy from Theresienstadt
Friday, October 16 at 8PM, Historic Theatre at The Cultch – Buy Tickets Here
Saturday, October 17 at 8PM, Pyatt Hall – Buy Tickets Here
* Please note that this event is taking place off-site at 843 Seymour St
Sunday October 18 at 3PM, Roedde House – by Invitation only
For more information please visit www.project-elysium.org