The Florida Orchestra to perform Verdi’s Requiem for the first time in ten years
March 23, 2018 [St. Petersburg, FL] – For the first time in 10 years, The Florida Orchestra (TFO) will perform Verdi’s Requiem April 20-22, featuring the Master Chorale of Tampa Bay, under the baton of Music Director Michael Francis. The Florida Holocaust Museum (The FHM) is partnering with the orchestra to tell the story of how the work became known as the “Defiant Requiem” during the Holocaust in the Theresienstadt (Terezín) Concentration Camp.
At the beginning of all three performances, The FHM’s Executive Director Elizabeth Gelman and TFO President & CEO Michael Pastreich will speak briefly about the connection between the Requiem and Terezín. A pre-concert talk starting one hour before each performance will take an in-depth look at the Requiem, including the Terezin connection. The talk is free to all concertgoers.
“There is an enduring fallacy that Jews did not resist the Nazis during the Holocaust. There were many methods of resistance including armed struggles and uprisings, as well as more spiritual forms. The story behind the Defiant Requiem tells how prisoners of Theresienstadt used music to resist Nazi efforts to degrade, deprive and dehumanize them,” said Gelman.
“Verdi’s Requiem is sublime all on its own. When you know this amazing connection with Terezin, it makes both the music and the story even more powerful. There is no doubt everyone in the concert hall will feel it,” Pastreich said.
Located 30 miles north of Prague, Terezin/Theresienstadt was turned into a Jewish ghetto and concentration camp by the Nazis after their occupation of Czechoslovakia. The camp was unusual in that inmates included highly-educated Jewish scholars and scientists as well as internationally renowned artists, musicians and actors including Czech composer Rafael Schächter and the famous German rabbi Leo Baeck. After grueling hours of forced labor, the malnourished prisoners would crowd together to hold discussions on philosophy and religion, to draw, to write poetry and to sing and play music. Baeck recounted that “all those hours were hours in which a community arose out of the mass and the narrowness grew wide. They were hours of freedom.”
In 1943, Schächter recruited 150 singers who met for months in a dimly-lit basement to learn the Verdi Requiem. Using a single vocal score, he taught the complex music through rote and repetition, accompanied only by piano. Schächter conducted 16 performances of the Requiem for audiences of other prisoners. Replacements for choir members were needed at least three times, as transports of prisoners were continually sent to the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp.
After the deportation of Danish Jews to Terezin, King Christian X of Denmark demanded information on how the Danish deportees were treated. Seeing the opportunity to spread disinformation and augment their propaganda efforts on a world-wide stage, the Nazis decided to allow a visit by the International Red Cross and the Danish Red Cross. Over 7,000 people were deported immediately to Auschwitz-Birkenau to combat the overcrowded conditions, public areas were cleaned up, gardens planted, and fake shops and cafés were created to give the impression that the Jews had a good life in Terezin.
The Red Cross inspection was held on June 23, 1944. Compelled by the Nazis to give what would be their final performance, the singers hoped that the inspectors would hear the theme of the Requiem and understand their plight. Instead, the inspectors were completely taken in by the Nazi efforts. Holocaust architect Adolph Eichmann was later quoted as having said, “Those crazy Jews-singing their own requiem.” Schächter was deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau on October 16, 1944. He did not survive the Holocaust.
The actions of the prisoners of Terezin to hold onto their humanity through the arts and sciences were in direct defiance to the Nazi plan to degrade, deprive and dehumanize them. The performances of the Verdi Requiem in Terezin later became known symbolically as “The Defiant Requiem.” Terezin Survivor Edgar Krasa explains, “We sang to the Nazis what we could not say to them. These performances allowed the performers and the audiences to immerse themselves into the world of art and happiness, forget the reality of Ghetto life and deportations, and gather strength to better cope with the loss of freedom.”
Few works offer the riches of Verdi’s Requiem live: powerful music, intense drama, and thrilling solos. The orchestra will perform three concerts April 20-22 in Tampa, St. Petersburg, and Clearwater. Tickets start at $15 and are available at FloridaOrchestra.org or 727.892.3337 and 1.800.662.7286. Kids and teens 5-18 get in free with Classical Kids tickets, available in advance.
For ticket information, please visit:
Friday, April 20, 2018 at 8:00pm – Tampa, Straz Center (STRAZ)
Saturday, April 21, 2018 at 8:00pm – St Petersburg, Mahaffey Theater (MAH)
Sunday, April 22, 2018 at 7:30pm – Clearwater, Ruth Eckerd Hall (REH)
About The Florida Holocaust Museum
2017 marked a monumental milestone for The Florida Holocaust Museum (The FHM) as the Museum celebrated its 25th Anniversary. One of the largest Holocaust museums in the country, and one of three nationally accredited Holocaust museums, The FHM honors the memory of millions of men, women and children who suffered of died in the Holocaust. The FHM is dedicated to teaching members of all races and cultures the inherent worth and dignity of human life in order to prevent future genocides. For additional information, please visit www.TheFHM.org.
About The Florida Orchestra
Celebrating its 50th anniversary in the 2017/18 season, The Florida Orchestra is recognized as Tampa Bay’s leading performing arts institution, the largest professional symphony orchestra in Florida, and one of the most vibrant and innovative orchestras in America. Under the leadership of Music Director Michael Francis, it performs more than 130 concerts a season, with series of classical, popular, and morning coffee concerts in Tampa, St. Petersburg, and Clearwater, as well as free Pops in the Park concerts. Dedicated to bringing music to all people, connecting to the community is a priority, with pre-concert talks, family and youth concerts and other educational activities. Kids and teens get in free to classical Masterworks concerts with Classical Kids tickets. For additional information, please visit www.floridaorchestra.org.