'Charlotte Salomon' composer feels her spirit guided him

Tue Jul 29, 2014 12:34pm EDT
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By Michael Roddy

SALZBURG Austria (Reuters) - French-American composer Marc-Andre Dalbavie would place the relevant watercolor by Auschwitz victim Charlotte Salomon in front of him while writing his opera based on her short life, so it is no surprise he felt her spirit working through him.

"Charlotte Salomon", which got a huge ovation for its world premiere at the Salzburg Festival on Monday, was the culmination of four years of often frustrating work, Dalbavie told Reuters.

Dalbavie, 52, scrapped one libretto and librettist for another, changed directors and was making revisions just two hours before the performance, but he remained confident.

"I feel really like a medium. When I was in rehearsal, for a lot of moments I was thinking to myself what Charlotte would think about that," Dalbavie said in an interview on Tuesday.

"It's like she was present, you know, it's a sort of very bizarre sensation, it's like we were not alone doing that ... It's very deep, I never felt that in my life," he added.

Salomon, the troubled child of a mother who committed suicide, grew up in a bourgeois, music-loving Jewish family in 1930s Berlin, coming to womanhood as the Nazis seized power.

She is increasingly known in art circles for a body of work she called "Life? or Theater?" which consisted of almost 800 watercolors linked by text and musical selections she worked on intensely while living in wartime exile in the south of France.

Seemingly she was out of range of the Nazi extermination net - but not far enough to avoid being transported to Auschwitz and gassed there, while she was pregnant, in 1943 at the age of 26.   Continued...