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Censored: Art & Power is the newly-announced name of The Cleveland Orchestra’s citywide festival in spring 2020 centering on performances in May of Alban Berg’s opera Lulu and exploring the role of the arts in society

Details announced of partnership presentations and programs by:

  • Facing History and Ourselves

  • Cleveland Museum of Art

  • Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage

  • Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque

Release:  September 12, 2019

CLEVELAND – The Cleveland Orchestra announced the name of its groundbreaking citywide festival, Censored: Art & Power, scheduled for spring 2020.  The festival is centered around the Orchestra’s performances of Alban Berg’s opera Lulu in May 2020, and seeks to spur discussion about the role of art in society, government censorship, and prejudice, taking as a starting point the Degenerate Art & Music movement in Nazi Germany.  As a major focal point of the Orchestra’s 2019-20 season, the festival will feature a variety of collaborative presentations surrounding and leading up to the opera performances (May 16, 19, and 22).

Additions to the festival include:

  • Education programming in collaboration with Facing History and Ourselves, which will provide Cleveland area teachers and students with resources to help them engage in meaningful conversations about racism, prejudice, and anti-Semitism;
  • Update (9/25/2019) - Cleveland Museum of Art programming: a one-time in-gallery program in the German Expressionist Gallery discussing works by Max Beckmann, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Gabriele Münter, Lyonel Feininger, and Otto Dix; a display of books on Degenerate Art in one of the Ingalls Library’s display cases; a screening of Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s historical drama Never Look Away (2018);
  • A Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque screening of G.W. Pabst’s 1929 German film Pandora’s Box, which was inspired by the same plays in Frank Wedekind’s “Lulu” cycle that Berg adapted for the libretto of his opera;
  • And a series of collaborative lectures hosted by Beachwood’s Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage. Additional details of these and other partner events will be announced throughout the 2019-20 season.

During the festival in May 2020, The Cleveland Orchestra and Music Director Franz Welser-Möst will focus on the opera Lulu, which German composer Alban Berg wrote during the Nazi rise to power in the early 1930s. Looking at both the abusive and oppressive subject matter of the opera itself and how government censorship halted the work’s premiere, Censored: Art & Power is designed to explore the ways in which music and composers during this era were damaged by prejudice, propaganda, political control, and hate that surrounded what became known as the Degenerate Art & Music movement instigated across Germany in the decade before the Second World War. In addition to banning artworks, musical performances, and literature that didn’t conform to the Third Reich’s idea of classical beauty, the Nazi Party held a series of widely-attended public exhibitions providing examples of art and music it believed was harmful or decadent — due to Jewish, Communist, African American, Modernist, and other minority influences.

“One of the highlights of this season is the opera Lulu,” says Cleveland Orchestra Music Director Franz Welser-Möst. “It is an intense and challenging work both musically and in its subject matter. Yet this kind of programming is successful in Cleveland because we have such an extraordinary, adventurous, and open audience. With the festival we are creating around Lulu, we will look at the relationship of art and politics in Berg’s lifetime — of how certain music in the 1920s and ‘30s was politically abandoned and prohibited. We are featuring works by [Erwin] Schulhoff, [Ernst] Krenek, and others — works that the Nazis labeled ‘Entartete Musik’ or Degenerate Music. It was a period of autocratic, authoritarian regimes who condemned any artistic expression outside of their narrow view with a heavy hand. Artists and their work were prohibited through censorship. Just as the character of Lulu is abused and abusive in her own way, we will look into how music and art can be abused by a system — and how a system can turn people on one another. These are important topics, not only from the past but in today’s world.”

Festival Features Various Composers and Collaborations with Local Arts Organizations
A week-long series of concerts at Severance Hall will showcase Berg’s Lulu alongside other pieces, primarily from the 1920s and ‘30s, including compositions by Mary Lou Williams, Bohuslav Martinů, George Antheil, Krenek, and Schulhoff. The festival also features a piece commissioned by The Cleveland Orchestra in 1944 from American composer William Grant Still. Although Censored: Art & Power will expose audience members to banned works from an earlier time, the performances are intended to inspire introspection and discussion about the role music and art can play in contemporary society.

For this festival, The Cleveland Orchestra is collaborating with distinguished arts organizations across Northeast Ohio, including the Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland School of the Arts (Cleveland Metropolitan School District), Cleveland Public Library, Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque, Facing History & Ourselves and the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage to co-present associated events, film screenings, and education programs. These partnerships will form a citywide festival to inspire reflection and dialogue around Degenerate Art & Music and the effects of weaponizing art today. The events will illustrate how artists and their work were affected by stringent political control, prejudice, and propaganda during the years around the Second World War and to what extent these conditions continue to exist in present-day society. Further details about these projects, events, programs, and exhibitions will be announced in the coming months


Jazz and Dadaist Art Film
Friday, May 15, 2020 at 8:00 p.m.

The Cleveland Orchestra
Franz Welser-Möst, conductor
Aaron Diehl, piano – Severance Hall debut
Conrad Tao, piano – Severance Hall debut

Program to include:
MARY LOU WILLIAMS  Selections from Zodiac Suite
LIGETI  Selected Études
MARTINŮ  Jazz Suite – Cleveland Orchestra premiere
ANTHEIL  Ballet mécanique (with film) – Cleveland Orchestra premiere

In Germany during the 1930s and ‘40s, jazz music and musicians who championed the art form were subject to prejudice and intolerance. Theprogram focuses on works by jazz composers or works influenced by jazz, including selections from Mary Lou Williams’s Zodiac Suite (1945), additional solo jazz and classical works with pianist Aaron Diehl,Martinů’s Jazz Suite (1928), and a performance of the music and film Ballet mécanique, composed by American George Antheil (1923-24). The corresponding Dadaist and semi-abstract art film was created by Fernand Léger in collaboration with moviemaker Dudley Murphy with cinematographic input from Man Ray.

Saturday, May 16, 2020 at 8:00 p.m.
Tuesday, May 19, 2020 at 7:30 p.m.
Friday, May 22, 2020 at 8:00 p.m.

The Cleveland Orchestra
Franz Welser-Möst, conductor
Barbara Hannigan, soprano (Lulu)
Rainer Trost, tenor (Painter) — Cleveland Orchestra debut
Bo Skovhus, baritone (Dr. Schön)
Norbert Ernst, tenor (Alwa)
John Tomlinson, bass (Schigolch) — Cleveland Orchestra debut
Jennifer Johnson Cano, mezzo-soprano (Geschwitz)

BERG  Lulu (two-act version, opera in concert) — Cleveland Orchestra premiere

Opera presentation sung in German with projected supertitles.

Berg’s ground-breaking opera Lulu is based on two German Realist plays. Its controversial storyline about victimization and oppression centers on the title character of Lulu: a Viennese woman whose life runs a dramatic course through marriage, adultery, incest, violence, destitution, prostitution, fame, and murder. (The plays’ author, Frank Wedekind, also wrote Spring Awakening, which was turned into a successful, but controversial, Broadway musical about teenage angst in 2006.) Following Hitler’s rise to power, Berg was scrutinized by the Nazi Party for studying with Jewish composer Arnold Schoenberg and for his use of twelve-tone serialism technique. After working on Lulu for six years, he learned that a production of the opera’s first two acts could not be presented in Germany due to the country’s cultural and political climate. Instead, it premiered in Switzerland in June 1937.

This will be The Cleveland Orchestra’s first time presenting Lulu, with a cast featuring acclaimed international vocalists: soprano Barbara Hannigan (Lulu), tenor Rainer Trost (Painter) in his Cleveland Orchestra debut, baritone Bo Skovhus (Dr. Schön), tenor Norbert Ernst (Alwa), bass John Tomlinson (Schigolch) in his Cleveland Orchestra debut, and mezzo-soprano Jennifer Johnson Cano (Countess Geschwitz). Between 1929 and 1935, Berg completed the first two acts of Lulu, one of the most influential operas of the 20th century. Based on the plays Earth Spirit and Pandora’s Box by Frank Wedekind, the story vividly illustrates Lulu’s tumultuous and entangled relationships with her admirers, including her physician husband, a painter, her lover Dr. Schön, an old man named Schigolch, Countess Geschwitz, and Dr. Schön’s son Alwa.

This opera presentation is supported by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

African American and Czech Composers
Saturday, May 23, 2020 at 8:00 p.m.

The Cleveland Orchestra
Franz Welser-Möst, conductor
Audrey Luna, soprano

STILL  Poem for Orchestra
KRENEK  Die Nachtigall [The Nightingale] — Cleveland Orchestra premiere
SCHULHOFF  Symphony No. 5 — Cleveland Orchestra premiere

The arrangement of works draw connections to “Degenerate Music” through the lens of racial, ethnic, and religious persecution. William Grant Still, considered the dean of African-American composers, wrote his Poem for Orchestra in 1944 on a commission by The Cleveland Orchestra from the Kulas American Composers fund. Still’s wife, Verna Arvey, said it was “inspired by the concept of a world being reborn spiritually after a period of darkness and desolation.’’ Czech composer Ernst Krenek’s Die Nachtigall (1931), which includes text of Karl Kraus’s poem by the same name, will be performed by The Cleveland Orchestra for the first time with soprano Audrey Luna.  Also to be performed by The Cleveland Orchestra for the first time is Erwin Schulhoff’s Symphony No. 5 (1938-39). Of Czech and Jewish heritage, Schulhoff’s Symphony No. 5 has been called “. . . a full palette of musical passages suggesting tension and forebodings, and, in keeping with the aesthetic of socialist realism, an overriding sense of hope for the future.”

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