Holocaust victim, artist Charlotte Salomon's life premieres as opera

Mon Jul 28, 2014 7:05pm EDT
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By Michael Roddy

SALZBURG Austria (Reuters) - The Berlin-born Jewish artist Charlotte Salomon left behind a body of watercolors and text she called "Life? or Theatre?" before she was killed at Auschwitz in 1943 at age 26, carrying her unborn child.

Salomon's life, which has inspired films, plays and a musical, was turned into an opera that plumbed the depths of human emotion in its premiere on Monday at the Salzburg Festival in Austria.

With music by French composer Marc-Andre Dalbavie, staging by Swiss director Luc Bondy and libretto by German-Jewish author Barbara Honigmann, who used 85 percent of Salomon's own text, the work was the season's most anticipated opera at the prestigious festival in the city of Mozart's birth.

It did not disappoint.

Although a gang of uniformed Nazi toughs appeared at strategic moments as a reminder of the inevitable ending, the opera focused more on the difficult emotional and intellectual problems Salomon faced as a young woman.

She only belatedly learned that her mother had committed suicide by leaping from a third-floor window, and there was a family history of suicide that haunted her.

Her first lover, who treated her badly, was a vocal coach she and her stepmother shared as a partner. "You throw me crumbs...and I am your dog," Salomon says of him.

Twice - at the beginning and at the end - she says she has nightmares in microcosm that, in the real world, are "played out in macrocosm".   Continued...

Singers Frederic Antoun as Amadeus Daberlohn and Marianne Crebassa as Charlotte Kann perform on stage during a dress rehearsal of Marc-Andre Dalbavie's opera 'Charlotte Salomon' in Salzburg July 24, 2014.  REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger