Defiant Requiem: Verdi at Terezin, created and conducted by Maestro Murry Sidlin, is a concert drama that commemorates the remarkable story of the courageous Jewish prisoners in the Theresienstadt (Terezin) concentration camp during World War II, who performed the renowned Verdi Requiem while enduring the depths of human degradation. Fellow prisoner and conductor Rafael Schächter organized a Jewish choir and performed Verdi’s Requiem sixteen times between 1943-1944.
This performance combines the magnificent of Giuseppe Verdi’s Requiem, with video testimony from survivors of the original chorus, and segments of the Nazi propaganda film made at Terezin in 1943. The performance also includes actors who speak the words of Rafael Schächter.
For Schächter and the chorus, singing the Requiem was their act of defiance, a statement of their dignity and quest for freedom; a temporary solace from their brutal confinement; an assurance of God’s presence; a desire to express a collective spiritual belief in their own humanity amidst the unspeakable violations perpetrated against them. Schächter told the members of the choir: “We can sing to the Nazis what we cannot say to them.”
The concert celebrates Schächter’s moral courage and dignity and the transcendent hopefulness that he brought to his fellow prisoners through the power of Verdi’s music. Schächter and his chorus demonstrated that it is possible to respond to the worst of mankind with the best of mankind.
The lessons of Terezin are powerful, dramatic and inspirational with a contemporary message of hope for all who are caught up in conflict and who hear this story.
In 2009, a BCF concert tour took more than 200 choristers to Terezin to perform the work on a special day honoring those imprisoned there during the Holocaust. Edgar Krasa, a Terezin singer and survivor, attended the performance. The profound experience was captured in choristers’ reflections, which can be read at Prague Chorister Reflections.
Mr. Sidlin established The Defiant Requiem Foundation in 2008. A non-profit organization, it is dedicated to preserving the memory of the prisoners in Terezín during World War II, who, despite monumental suffering, disease and the constant presence of death, found hope and inspiration in the arts and humanities. Learn more at http://www.defiantrequiem.org.
The BCF concert week of the Defiant Requiem is scheduled for July 15-22, 2012. The performance will be on Saturday, July 21, at 7:30 pm.