Washington D.C. – New York Metropolitan Opera star Janet Hopkins will be featured on the Concert Stage at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. on October 6th, 2010, at the performance of the historic Defiant Requiem. 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 diva 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.”
Miss Hopkins will be the featured lead soloist in the Defiant Requiem.
“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.”
For over 16 years, Janet Hopkins has thrilled audiences at the New York Metropolitan Opera and on stages around the world. Recognized as one of the most gifted voices of the modern opera era, Miss Hopkins has performed a broad range of operas and concerts. Her numerous recordings have garnered critical acclaim in the United States and abroad.
Defiant Requiem at The Kennedy Center
The October 6th performance of the Defiant Requiem will take place at 7:30pm in the Concert Hall at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. The Concert Hall is the largest performance space in the Kennedy Center, seating 2,442. This state-of-the-art facility sets new standards for accessibility and sound. Tickets are on sale at the Center box office and are $30 – $85.00. The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts is located at 2700 F Street, NW Washington, DC 20566 *EVENT IS SOLD OUT*
A Iimited number of complimentary tickets are available for Holocaust survivors. Sponsorship opportunities are available for gifts of $1000 and above. Contact Louisa Hollman for details [email protected].
Defiant Requiem Sponsors
Sponsors for this production of the Defiant Requiem include: the governments of the Czech Republic, Austria, Germany, Israel, and Sweden; American University; the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum; Alice and David Rubenstein, Chairman of the Kennedy Center; Ronald Lauder; The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee; The Annenberg Foundation; The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation Inc., and Elie Wiesel. The educational components are supported by a grant from the National Endowment for The Humanities. The performance is supported by the bipartisan leadership of the United States Congress.