Just a quick note about a few places I have been recently:
First, a program on the Italian town of Saluzzo and the recent commemorative activities there to remember the Jews of Saluzzo, and those who came to Saluzzo during the Second World War. Saluzzo is an old, and small, town in the northwest corner of Italy, within walking distance of the French border. There were between 40 and 50 Jews living in Saluzzo when the war began, and about 1000 Jews (including the mother, aunt and grandmother of Washington Theater J artistic director Ari Roth) who migrated to Saluzzo, escaping occupied France. Of this approximately 1000 Jews, 1/3 wound up liquidated at Auschwitz (including 29 of the original occupants), and the remainders escaped, either hidden by Italian Catholic families, living in the region’s many caves, or otherwise getting lost or blending in. Some years ago, the residents of Saluzzo decided that the Holocaust needed to be remembered. They created bronze placques to put in the street in front of the houses of the Jews and they sponsor a program each year to walk the mountain path between the village and the French border. It was, I thought, very impressive.
Second, following the Saluzzo program, I attending a reading of a new play based upon the experience of the Jews, and one individual in particular, in Rome during the period when the Italian racial laws were in effect and during that short period of time when Rome was occupied by the Germans. The play, “Inventing the Enemy”, follows the life of a young Jewish actor, who survived by playing different roles not only in the theater, but in the street, and who, based on that ability and no small amount of luck, was able to survive. This play is in its early stages of development and has a long way to go; I wish those involved success as they continue to work on their script.
Third, I attended a lieder concert at the Church of the Epiphany, with tenor Joshua Baumgardner and pianist George Peachey. I thought that they did a very good job, although I think that it is hard to make a German lieder concert fun (at least once you get beyond Schubert, whose lieder I could listen to all day long). This largest piece sung was Robert Schumann’s Dichterliebe (A Poet’s Love), parts of which to me is a little difficult to listen to, as well as short pieces by Richard Strauss and Hugo Wolf, which are even harder to enjoy. So, I thought the concert was quite good, but the choices of the music not all to my taste.
The final event was yesterday at the Shakespeare Theatre’s noontime “Happenings”. Entitled “My Mistress’ Eyes: A Love Story”, a combination of excerpts from many of Shakespeare’s sonnets, with Mozart’s music (played on the oboe, but largely transposed from other instrumentation) in the background. This was also announced as a work in progress – it will be interesting to see how it changes over time.