Grant Supports Performances of New Theatrical Song Cycle From Jake Heggie
SEATTLE, WA—November 17, 2011—Rocco Landesman, Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, today announced that Seattle-based Music of Remembrance has been awarded a grant of $10,000 to support performances around Washington State of a new commission from acclaimed American composer Jake Heggie and librettist Gene Scheer.
The creative duo’s theatrical song cycle, Another Sunrise, will tell the story of Polish resistance member and Auschwitz survivor Krystyna Zywulska—it will have its world premiere at Seattle’s Benaroya Hall, followed by public and in-school outreach performances. Music of Remembrance is one of 863 organizations and individual writers across the country awarded NEA funding support. In total, the Arts Endowment will distribute more than $22.5 million in grants, encompassing 15 artistic disciplines and fields and supporting projects in 47 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.
“Art Works is the guiding principle at the NEA,” said agency Chairman Rocco Landesman. “And I’m pleased to see that principle represented through the 863 Art Works-funded projects included in this announcement. These projects demonstrate the imaginative and innovative capacities of artists and arts organizations to enhance the quality of life in their communities.”
“MOR’s mission is to preserve the artistic legacy of the Holocaust—the music, and the poetry and songs,” said Artistic Director Mina Miller, “and also to dispel the false notion of passive victimhood. Our commissions—such as Thomas Pasatieri’s Letter to Warsaw, Paul Schoenfield’s Camp Songs and Ghetto Songs, and Lori Laitman’s Vedem—often use first-person testimony to show that people did resist Nazi oppression, even in the face of personal risk and great odds. Krystyna Zywulska took enough risks for several lifetimes!”
Praised for its performances of Holocaust-era chamber music by composers banned or murdered by Nazis, Seattle’s Music of Remembrance is equally well-known for its critically acclaimed commissions of new works by American composers. MOR also received an NEA grant for its 2011-12 season, directing $20,000 in support of MOR’s free public concerts-with-commentary series, Sparks of Glory.
This latest grant helps fund performances of MOR’s second commission from acclaimed opera and art song composer Jake Heggie, both on the mainstage at Benaroya Hall, and around Washington State, through Sparks of Glory. MOR previously commissioned Jake Heggie and librettist Gene Scheer to create For a Look or a Touch, a 2007 theatrical chamber work that illuminated Nazi treatment of homosexuals during the Holocaust. It is available on Naxos, the world’s leading classical music label, and has had multiple performances around the country.
Now, Heggie and Scheer are taking on the story of Krystyna Zywulska, the Polish author known for Przezylam Oswiecim (I Survived Auschwitz), her memoir of life and death in Auschwitz-Birkenau. Heggie intends to draw from her songs and poetry, which are a less well-known part of her life than the events in her astonishing memoirs: Zywulska escaped the Warsaw ghetto in 1942 by simply walking out with her mother. On the outside, she joined the Polish resistance, donned a false identity, and went to work counterfeiting identity cards and documents. With Nazis hunting for “Blond Zosia,” she was arrested and interrogated by the Gestapo—at which time she became Krystyna Zywulska. Sent to Auschwitz as a Polish political prisoner, she began writing poetry for the first time, and creating camp “anthems” of resistance.
Said Heggie, “I’m a composer who is deeply concerned with stories about social justice, the inequities of life, and how we are all connected as human beings despite those inequities. Stories of personal redemption, transformation, and transcendence speak loudly to me in musical terms.” Heggie’s opera Dead Man Walking, about Sister Helen Prejean, is probably the best-known example of his artistic inspiration by the lives of extraordinary people. (Dead Man Walking, and Heggie’s other successes The End of The Affair and Moby Dick, are performed at major opera houses around the world.)
MOR will premiere Heggie’s new commission at Seattle’s Benaroya Hall on May 14, 2012. Scored for an ensemble of five instruments and solo soprano voice, Another Sunrise will be performed as a theatrical, semi-staged work, with soprano Caitlin Lynch—most recently Micäela in Seattle Opera’s Carmen—creating the role of Krystyna. MOR plans to record the work immediately afterward for a CD release, and it will also be heard in 2012-13 and beyond as part of MOR’s free concerts-with-commentary.
A concert to commemorate Holocaust Remembrance Day
Illsley Ball Nordstrom Recital Hall at Benaroya Hall, Seattle
6:30 p.m., Monday, May 14, 2012
6:00 p.m. Meet the Composer & Librettist: A conversation with Jake Heggie & Gene Scheer
String Quartet No. 3 (1945)
Mikhail Shmidt, violin; Leonid Keylin, violin; Susan Gulkis Assadi, viola; Mara Finkelstein, cello
Suite for Oboe and Piano, Op. 17 (1939)
Benjamin Hausmann, oboe; Mina Miller, piano
Choral Arrangements of Yiddish and Hebrew Songs (Terezín,1942)
The Northwest Boychoir, Joseph Crnko, conductor
WORLD PREMIERE: Another Sunrise (2012)
Libretto by Gene Scheer
A dramatic song cycle commissioned by Music of Remembrance
Caitlin Lynch, soprano
Laura DeLuca, clarinet; Mikhail Shmidt, violin; Walter Gray, cello; Jonathan Green, double bass; Craig Sheppard, piano
For more information on this commission, see Another Sunrise in the New Works section of MOR’s website:
About Music of Remembrance
Music of Remembrance (MOR) fills a unique spiritual and cultural role in Seattle and throughout the United States by remembering Holocaust musicians and their art through musical performances, educational programs, musical recordings and commissions of new works. Since its 1998-99 inaugural year, MOR has presented two major concerts annually at Seattle’s Benaroya Hall, marking the anniversary of Kristallnacht (The Night of Broken Glass) each fall and Holocaust Remembrance Day each spring. Since 2005-06, MOR’s outreach series Sparks of Glory has combined free public concerts with commentary by Artistic Director Mina Miller, reaching beyond the concert hall through performance residencies around Seattle. MOR has also produced six CDs—five on Naxos, the world’s leading classical music label—and two documentaries, both from award-winning filmmaker John Sharify. More information available at www.musicofremembrance.org.
About the National Endowment for the Arts
The National Endowment for the Arts was established by Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government. To date, the NEA has awarded more than $4 billion to support artistic excellence, creativity, and innovation for the benefit of individuals and communities. The NEA extends its work through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector. To join the discussion on how art works, visit the NEA at arts.gov.