About the project
Musica non grata
… and yet it still resounds
The National Theatre Opera and the State Opera has in store for all music and theatre lovers, all those interested in culture and arts, the past and present of the Central European region, a new project, titled Musica non grata.
The four-year cycle of opera productions, concert performances of operas, and symphonic and chamber music concerts is financially supported by the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany Prague.
As the title indicates, our extensive series focuses on “music not appreciated”, music that was to be silenced, forgotten, locked in a safe. Music that was not to be performed ever again. Music created by those whom for a variety of reasons the authorities took a dim view of. The authorities that silenced, or crushed them altogether. The authorities that foolishly wanted to dictate the boundaries of the freedom of the human spirit and its creative potential.
The subtitle “… and yet it still resounds” may bring to many a person’s mind the legendary sentence reputedly uttered by Galileo Galilei, the great 17th–century Italian astronomer and physicist, who owing to his scientific theory was investigated by the Roman Inquisition. No matter whether it really was pronounced by Galileo himself or whether it appeared later and has become a popular myth, the phrase “Yet it moves” accurately renders the “powerlessness of the powerful”, which has been the same in every century of human history. The fact that the Earth revolves around the Sun could not be changed by Galileo’s being sentenced for his “heresy”, nor could it be affected by his forced recanting of his views, nor by his house imprisonment for the rest of his days ... The Earth keeps revolving, while music, similarly to water, seeks ways to overcome all obstacles, flowing round mighty mountains, welling over embankments and heading wherever it pleases.
The Musica non grata project primarily centres on the music of the Czech and German composers who in the 1930s and 40s were muzzled by the Nazi ideologists. Far from only encompassing the work of the today relatively well-known “Theresienstadt composers”, Pavel Haas, Hans Krása, Gideon Klein and Viktor Ullmann, it affords scope to a number of other musicians, whose lives were afflicted by the expanding Nazi totalitarian state. We aim to draw attention to the fates and artistic qualities of such figures as Franz Schreker, Erwin Schulhoff, Rudolf Karel, Emil František Burian, Karel Berman or Ludmila Peškařová, who were persecuted for their ethnicity, political opinions or for being active member of the resistance movement, as well as those whom totalitarian regimes made emigrate and who found refuge and often discovered new impulses in the free world, among them Ernst Křenek, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Alexander Zemlinsky, Jaromír Weinberger, Bohuslav Martinů, Jaroslav Ježek, Vítězslava Kaprálová, Paul Hindemith, Kurt Weill, Hanns Eisler, but also the famous operetta composers Emmerich Kálmán and Oscar Straus, and many other artists.
Furthermore, our project will include the major 20th-century composers Igor Stravinsky, Alban Berg and Arnold Schönberg, whose “degenerate music” was banned by the Nazis, who attempted to do away with it for good. We want to demonstrate the blatant absurdity of the vile ideology on the examples of two great masters – Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy and Gustav Mahler – whose work, which had an essential impact on the development of European music, was branded as “anti-German, lacking “racial purity” ...
Creative freedom of the individual, or certain types of ethnicity, social background and racial origin, have been anathema to the totalitarian ways of thinking, whose latent or entirely open manifestations have always been in society, with the present time being no exception. They are not a mere “matter of history”. Musica non grata strives to highlight that which not so long ago took place in our common Central European cultural space, and to contribute to the endeavour to prevent the descendants from repeating the errors made by their ancestors. Perhaps first and foremost, the project aspires to become a dignified tribute to music, a celebration of art, which that cannot be silenced.