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World Premiere • Charlotte Salomon‘s Leben? oder Theater? Transformed into an Opera

12 DEC 2013

published in: Drama

Marianne Crebassa (Photo: Artists Management)
Charlotte Salomon was born in Berlin in 1917, emigrated to the South of France in 1939 and was murdered in Auschwitz in 1943. At the time, she was only 26 years old, recently married and four months pregnant. The increasing persecution of Jews and the constant fear of the Nazis, who kept getting closer to her exile, massively preyed on her and her family. To this was added a kind of family curse: both her mother and her mother’s sister as well as several other relatives committed suicide. When her grandmother also took her own life in Villefranche in 1940, Charlotte decided to do “something absolutely crazy and special” in order not to be thrown off course. Within two years, she created Leben? oder Theater?. It included hundreds of gouaches depicting and fictionalising the story of her as-yet young life and that of her family, a task she accomplished in a special way, which she described as follows: “A person sits by the sea. He is painting. Suddenly a melody springs to his mind. As he begins to hum it, he notices that the melody is a perfect match for what he is trying to put on paper. A text forms within him, and now he begins to sing the melody with the text he has formed aloud, innumerable times, until the page seems done.” Shortly before she was arrested and deported, Charlotte Salomon handed Leben? oder Theater? to a doctor; he later passed it on to her parents, who had been able to hide during the war in Amsterdam.

In the Salzburg world premiere of Marc-André Dalbavie’s opera, there will be two levels of action with two complementary main figures: on the one hand, there is the speaking role of Charlotte Salomon, who recites original texts from Leben? oder Theater? in German. On the other hand, there is the role of the alter ego created by Charlotte Salomon, called Charlotte Kann, which will be taken on by mezzo-soprano Marianne Crebassa. Like all others, this part will be sung in French. In his production during the 2014 Festival summer, director Luc Bondy wishes to illustrate not just the individual fate of Charlotte Salomon, but also her exceptional rank as a young female artist. Thus, her world of images will be projected on stage.

The opera Charlotte Salomon about the life and work of this extraordinary young artist will have its world premiere on July 28, 2014 at 7:00 pm at the Felsenreitschule. Four further performances are scheduled in August. For further information on the piece and on ordering tickets, click here.