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ELYSIUM: REVISITING THOMAS BERNHARD
THURSDAY, OCT 10 2019, 07:30 PM
"Everything is ridiculous if one thinks of death"
A literary-musical collage combining the works of Thomas Bernhard with music by Austrian baroque composers
On the occasion of the 30th anniversary of Thomas Bernhard’s death
Thomas Bernhard (1931 – 1989) is one of the most famous Austrian writers. In his novels, short stories and plays he humorously deals with the social and political state of affairs of Post-War Austria. His ironic exaggerations often scandalized his audience. Bernhard’s writing is deeply informed by traumatic experiences of his childhood and youth. His mother doesn’t love him, his father disowned him, only his grandfather cares about him, offers him a home, fosters him. At the age of 18, Thomas Bernhard almost dies of a severe lung disease.
Death and the great metaphysical questions run like a thread through Bernhard’s oeuvre. During the baroque period, death and the vanity of our earthly existence were omnipresent. Therefore, and because Bernhard’s style has often been compared with techniques and motives of baroque music, the reading of his texts is complemented by baroque piano music.
Conception and Introduction: Michael Lahr
Narrator: Gregorij von Leitis
Piano: Dan Franklin Smith
Michael Lahr studied philosophy in Munich and Paris. He is author and editor of the book "The Erwin Piscator Award", and a co-author of the volume of essays "Bilder des Menschen" ("Images of Man"). In the Karl Jaspers Yearbook 2018, he published an essay on "Why I directed ‘Nathan the Wise’ in Marburg”: Erwin Piscator’s re-emigration to Germany in 1951." As a specialist in Erwin Piscator, the founder of the political and epic theater, he curated the exhibit "Erwin Piscator: Political Theater in Exile", which so far has been seen in Bernried, New York, Catania, Salzburg, Munich, and is currently on view in Vienna. As the program director of Elysium he has unearthed numerous works by artists who had to flee their home country under the pressure of the Nazi regime, or who were murdered. Many of these compositions were performed for the first time in concerts in Europe and the U.S. He gives introductory lectures for all Elysium programs. At the same time, he lectures regularly on questions of general social and political significance. Michael Lahr is a fellow researcher at the exil.arte Centre of the University of Music and Performing Arts in Vienna / Austria.
Dan Franklin Smith (Piano), has been working with Elysium since 1996 and served as its Music Director from 2005 until 2013. Under his musical direction Lustgarten’s opera “Dante in Exile” received its world premiere at the Elysium Festival Bernried 2005. With G. v. Leïtis he presented Ullmann’s musical legacy from Theresienstadt in many cities in Europe, the US and Canada. Mr. Smith made his European recital debut in 1997 in Sweden. In 1998 he made his European orchestral debut in Stockholm at Sofia Kyrkan and was later featured on Swedish TV. In 2004, he recorded two piano concerti by the Swiss late-romantic composer Hans Huber with the Stuttgart Philharmonic Orchestra. These premier recordings received outstanding reviews and are broadcast on dozens of classical stations throughout the US.As a soloist, chamber musician and accompanist he has performed at such venues as the National Gallery in Washington, DC, the Cleveland Museum’s Distinguished Artist Series, Alice Tully Hall in New York City, the Savannah Music Festival, as well as tours in Bermuda, Taiwan, and Puerto Rico. He is a member of the Recording Society as well as the American Matthay Association, and frequently performs at their yearly conferences.
Inspired by Erwin Piscator’s idea of a socially relevant theater, Gregorij H. von Leïtis, Artistic Director of Elysium, has been working for 50 years as director and educator at various theaters in Europe and in the US. In 1985 he received the New York Theater Club Prize for this direction of Brecht's "The Jewish Wife". In 2003, he was awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Order of Merit by German President Johannes Rau. In 2016 the Austrian President Dr. Heinz Fischer bestowed the Austrian Cross of Honor for Science and Art on him. In 1985, Gregorij von Leitis founded the Erwin Piscator Award Society, which annually confers the Erwin Piscator Award. In 1989, he created the program "Theater for the Homeless" with his with the Elysium Theater Company. Since 1997, Gregorij von Leitis' work has emphasized staging the works of artists who were persecuted and silenced by the Nazis. He directed Ullmann's opera "The Emperor of Atlantis" in New York, the Italian premiere of Krenek's opera "What Price Confidence?", and the world premiere of Egon Lustgarten’s opera "Dante in Exile". One of Viktor Ullmann’s last works from the concentration camp Theresienstadt, "The Lay of Love and Death of the Cornet Christoph Rilke," von Leitis has performed internationally more than 50 times.
Image Credit: Letizia Mariotti