“Farewell, Auschwitz” is a work commissioned by Music of Remembrance (MOR) and created by composer Jake Heggie and lyricist Gene Scheer. The lyrics are derived from Krystyna Zywulska’s poetry written in the Auschwitz concentration camp in 1944. The video above is the finale of “Farewell, Auschwitz,” performed at its world premiere in Seattle on May 14, 2013.
Heggie has composed three pieces for MOR: “For a Look or a Touch” (2007); “Another Sunrise” (2012); and “Farewell, Auschwitz” (2013). He believes that by putting on musical concerts using Holocaust themes and music, MOR offers an invaluable opportunity for people to learn about the Holocaust in a novel way. “Music reveals levels of our hearts and souls that sometimes we aren’t in touch with,” Heggie says, adding that he tries to convey what is unspoken or what cannot be spoken.
Heggie attempts to mine the emotional truth of the Holocaust through his work with MOR. ”Wwe’re not out to make documentaries,” he says. In his three MOR-commissioned works, Heggie has collaborated with Mina Miller, MOR’s artistic director, to find subject matter that is deeply meaningful to him. His works have explored such topics as the persecution of gays by the Nazis and the moral dilemmas constantly facing those who tried to survive the brutality of Nazi concentration camps.
The language of Heggie and Scheer’s work is often directly inspired by the words written by Holocaust victims, as in their reliance on Zywulska’s poetry for “Farewell, Auschwitz.” And the music Heggie composes for his pieces relyless on modern music and tries instead to mimic the music typical of the historical setting. For instance, in “For a Look or a Touch,” Heggie created a musical score that could very well have been heard in a Berlin night club during the early 20th century. He has also used German folk music and waltzes in his MOR commissions to reflect the diverse cultural backgrounds each inmate brought into the camps.
Heggie hopes his audience will enjoy the performance, but he hopes they’re entertained in a way that is profoundly deep and transformative. “I always hope the audience will be open to feeling something new that maybe takes them by surprise or [gives them an] insight into a human experience that they hadn’t considered,” Heggie says. “[Miller] really wants to explore all different aspects of Holocaust remembrance and how they impact us today. Through remembrance we realize we’re still the same people we were all those years ago.”
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