Sparkling Festivals and Dark History


Sorry, dear reader, for being so late with my pocket review of cultural events – you think that guy is one of the lazy Germans…indeed, I have been lazy, since I spent about two weeks in Bogot√°, Colombia, with my sister who has lived there for about 40 years…so I beg your pardon!

European Jewish Choir Festival

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chorThe gala concert of the first “European Jewish Choir Festival” was a cheerful and great success at the Austria Center Vienna – a fireworks of wonderful songs.

The “Vienna Jewish Choir” hosted 400 singers from 15 European countries in mid-May. All of them want to preserve old folk songs in Hebrew, Sephardic and Yiddish from being forgotten – since the few survivors of the Shoa-the Holocaust-here in Europe are getting very old. This task is also the motivation of the Vienna Jewish Choir, whose members assemble from different religions according to their credo: “The heart understands in any case…”

The Dark and Deadly Times

The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra has now released the concentrated summary of an independent group of historians on the orchestra’s Nazi past: “Vienna Philharmonic – A Historical Overview of the NS Era.”

Preceding this presentation there had been a serious debate about the part of the orchestra in those dark and deadly times concerning its Jewish members. Please inform yourself and do have a look at the report here. (English version is available) and follow – after 75 years – the questions of the “Anschluss”.

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Vienna Philharmonic 1936

In Vienna, for the first time, the end of World War II – May 8, 1945 – was thought of as “liberation from NS dictatorship” with a joyful happening at the “Heldenplatz” (place of heroes): the Vienna Symphonic Orchestra played Beethoven’s Seventh followed by the overture of “Die Fledermaus” and the “Kaiserwalzer” (“Emperor’s Waltz”).

The Heldenplatz is exactly the same place where in 1938 Adolf Hitler spoke to thousands of enthusiastic Austrians. In contrast this year, Austrians and tourists had a lot of fun singing a song for peace – “Shir LaShalom.”

About ten days ago the “Vienna Festival 2013” opened – and one of the first productions was settled in the Parliament: “Last Days On the Eve” is a story about evil ghosts of history, especially those of anti-Semitism and glorification of the “Third Reich” – both still alive today.

One actor gave the speech which Karl Lueger, major of Vienna from 1897 till 1910, had given 120 years ago at the very same place: “I strongly object against the hatred and revenge with which the Jews persecute their enemies!”

The “Karl-Lueger-Ring,” part of the famous Ringstra√üe at Vienna, was renamed last year to “University Ring” after a long debate about Lueger’s anti-Semitism.

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Shir LaShalom – A Song for Peace.

The Face of God

An Italian production “Sul concetto di volto nel Figlio di Dio” (“On the Concept of the Face of God”) – invited by Vienna Festival 2013 and shown at the Burgtheater – is a story about a demented father and the son who cares for him. All the changes of Pampers and cleaning up the mess is played in front of a renaissance picture of Jesus Christ.

This performance produced some excitement during the presentation: some audience members yelled, “Stop it! Quit it! Filthy pig!” when – on the scene – young girls and boys threw hand grenades on the picture of Jesus Christ, accompanied by dramatic exploding sounds. This production comments on the belief that “Man is created in God’s image” even in his helpless childish days, and we the spectators are subject to the meaning of “caritas” – charity.

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Great Works

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Joshua Bell

The Vienna Festival 2013 had invited the New York Philharmonic Orchestra and Joshua Bell, the famous violin virtuoso, to perform a Bernstein serenade. Chief-conductor Alan Gilbert opened with both the national anthems of Austria and the United States, followed by Anton Bruckner’s third symphony. All three evenings, jubilation, cheers and encores accompanied the orchestra as well as Emanuel Ax, pianist from New York, with Mozart’s last piano concerto…Unforgettable!

The Vienna State Opera contributed to the Vienna Festival a wonderful and excessively applauded “Der Ring des Nibelungen” by Richard Wagner; the four parts were realized in eight days…and all the critics are full of praise, especially for the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra and Franz Welser-M√∂st, the chief-conductor.

“The Ballad of El Muerto”, a commissioned work by the Vienna Festival, written by Argentinian composer Diego Collatti and Colombian (look at my excuse above) writer Juan Tafur, describes the Mexican drug wars: over 60,000 dead since 2006. A strong theater eve, sometimes even moving, when El Muerto is talking to a blind woman, who he doesn’t know whether or not he has actually blinded.

Last but not least: Maria Lassnig, a famous painter approaching 94 years old, living for years in Vienna, received the “Golden Lion” of the 55th Biennale of Venice in appreciation of her life work.

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And now please get into your sports running shoes: the third run of St. Stephen’s Cathedral tower awaits you next year! Only 343 steps up and 343 down is this run – and if you do that in less than 1:24.77 minutes you’ll be the winner!

Good luck and bye-bye or Auf Wiedersehen.