« April - 2018 »

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On February 22, we commemorate the 75th anniversary of Stefan Zweig’s death. Desperate and depressed that the “World of Yesterday”, which he had so brilliantly analyzed and portrayed in his autobiography, was forever lost, he committed suicide in Brazil. After the end of World War I, Zweig had worked for a spiritually united Europe, in which there was no room for nationalism and revenge. Molded by the spirit and the work of Erasmus of Rotterdam, Zweig was deeply convinced of the inner personal freedom of man, and inspired by the idea of Europe. Once Stefan Zweig wrote to the German composer Richard Strauss: “All real works of art have the power to overcome resistance.” Zweig was enough of a realist to see what the world around him was really like. But he does not stop at just picturing this world of reality. Many of Zweig’s experiences are highly topical today. His books move us to develop energies for doing away with the deplorable state of affairs he describes. Every line challenges us, his readers, to overcome our own sluggishness of the heart.

A century earlier, composer Frédéric Chopin also experienced the sufferings and longings of life in exile. Especially in his more than 60 Mazurkas, those pieces based on the traditional Polish dance, Chopin expressed the longing for his native Poland which he had left in 1830 at the age of 20. Shortly thereafter the November Uprising took place. When the uprising was crushed a little later, Chopin felt extreme anguish. He would never return to Poland.

Giving succinct, insightful remarks, Marjan Kiepura will interpret four famous works by Chopin, including two Mazurkas. Michael Lahr will introduce Zweig’s life and work and his continuing relevance. Gregorij von Leitis will read Stefan Zweig’s texts.

Stefan Zweig, born in 1881 in Vienna, grew up in an upper middle class family and published his first poems already at age 16. After studying philosophy and literature in Vienna and Berlin, Zweig worked for a while with the arts section of the respected paper Neue Freie Presse (New Free Press). He was also involved in the avant-garde movement Junges Wien (Young Vienna). The experiences of World War I turned him into a pacifist. After 1918, he worked for the peaceful reunion of Europe with his fatherly friend Romain Rolland. Until age 52, Zweig lived a very successful life. He published a number of books and plays, travelled a lot, and in numerous lectures he promoted his dream of restructuring the world based on humanistic virtues.
After the Nazis came into power, he emigrated to England. His books were burned by the Nazis. With the start of World War II, Zweig realized that the dream of a Europe united in the spirit of humanism was irrevocably destroyed. He went to live in Petropolis in Brazil. The continuing war, and the increasingly dark prospects in Europe finally depressed him so much that he committed suicide during the night of February 22, 1942.

Frédéric Chopin (1810 – 1849), a child prodigy, started his education as a virtuoso pianist and composer in Warsaw. At the age of 20, less than a month before the outbreak of the November 1830 Uprising. When in September 1831 he learned, while travelling from Vienna to Paris, that the uprising had been crushed, he expressed his anguish in the pages of his private journal: "Oh God!... You are there, and yet you do not take vengeance!" Chopin arrived in Paris in late September 1831; he would never return to Poland, thus becoming one of many expatriates of the Polish Great Emigration. In 1835 he received the French citizenship. The strong feeling for his lost homeland Poland is reflected in the many mazurkas and polonaise, which Chopin composed.

Marjan Kiepura, born in Paris, France, studied with Vladimir Padwa, Jeaneane Dowis and later coached with Menahem Pressler. His own Polish ancestry has made Chopin a favorite choice of repertoire. He has given concerts in the U.S. and Europe of this composer’s works. Highlights of appearances include the International May Festival in Wiesbaden, Germany, London’s Royal Festival Hall in their Foyer Concert Series, the Bibliotheque Polonaise in Paris, the Jecklin Forum in Zurich, Dartmouth College, MIT; the Kosciuszko Foundation, Weill Art Gallery at the 92nd Street Y and the Gerson Cultural Arts Series in New York. Marjan Kiepura’s debut CD – a Chopin recital entitled Images of a Homeland - has received superb reviews. Kiepura is a published author and has written about Chopin.

Michael Lahr studied philosophy at the College of Philosophy in Munich and at the Jesuit University Centre Sevres in 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 2016, he published an essay on Erwin Piscator’s work in exile in New York. 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, and Munich. 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.

Gregorij von Leitis, Artistic Director of Elysium, has been working as a theatre director in Europe and the US for over 40 years. 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, Gregorij von Leitis, with the Elysium Theater Company, created the program Theater for the HomelessSince 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