By Belle Crawford
Defiant Requiem: Verdi at Terezín, is a concert-drama consisting of a live performance of Verdi’s Requiem interspersed with historic film, testimony from Holocaust survivors and narration. The work describes the story of Rafael Schächter, the conductor who led Jewish prisoners at the Theresienstadt Concentration Camp in performances of Verdi’s Requiem, as an act of defiance and resistance to their Nazi captors. A performance of Defiant Requiem takes place at the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium on Saturday, June 1, at 7:30 pm.
“Defiant Requiem is almost operatic in production,” says Karen Jordan, who will sing in June’s production. “The performers at Terezín memorized Verdi’s lengthy Catholic Mass, which speaks of God’s wrath to the wicked. By doing this, they were able to use the language of their captors’ religion as a divine subversion of all the Nazis were exalting as superior.”
Led by Maestro Murry Sidlin, president of The Defiant Requiem Foundation and creator of this powerful concert-drama, Defiant Requiem is not just a performance of Verdi’s Requiem, but a tribute to the inspired leadership of Rafael Schächter, who was forced to reconstitute his choir three times as members were transported to Auschwitz. The performances came to symbolize the prisoners’ courage to confront the worst of mankind with the best of mankind.
Kym Verhovshek, a Weaverville resident, has been working with The Defiant Requiem Foundation, the Asheville Symphony and Carolina Jews for Justice to bring Defiant Requiem to Asheville. “I contacted The Defiant Requiem Foundation in 2017 after hearing about a performance of their program in Chicago,” she says. “My father, George Baum, was one of 150 to survive of the 15,000 children who were imprisoned in Terezín. I reached out to David Whitehill of The Asheville Symphony, who it turned out was the grandson of a Holocaust survivor, and we began discussing how the Asheville Symphony could be a part of this program. I was then introduced to the wonderful founders of Carolina Jews for Justice. One of their core principles is one which I have felt strongly since I was a child, tikkun olam, Hebrew for ‘world repair,’ which has an emphasis on social responsibility and our individual responsibility for fixing what is wrong in the world.”
Thomas Wolfe Auditorium is located at 87 Haywood Street. To learn more about the performance, buy tickets or become a sponsor of the production, visit DefiantRequiem.org. Proceeds will benefit Carolina Jews for Justice.