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Dress Rehearsal
Thomas Morse and Kenneth Cazan at Reithalle
Backstage
Rehearsals FRAU SCHINDLER, Kenneth Cazan, Kevin Knight and Katerina Hebelková
Rehearsals FRAU SCHINDLER
Rehearsals FRAU SCHINDLER
Rehearsals FRAU SCHINDLER
Rehearsals FRAU SCHINDLER
Director Kenneth Cazan
Rehearsals at Reithalle
Kevin Knight at a first technical rehearsal
Mock-up by Kevin Knight
Morse: »In the score I deliberately avoided notating a melody for the Cantor«
Rehearsals with the full orchestra
Rehearsals FRAU SCHINDLER
Rehearsals FRAU SCHINDLER
The FRAU SCHINDLER set in the Reithalle
The Schindler Factory in Brünnlitz, Czech Republic ©Thomas Morse
Thomas Morse, Andreas Kowalewitz, Kenneth Cazan
Score, Page 1
Rehearsals: Katerina Hebelková (Emilie Schindler) and director Kenneth Cazan
Thomas Morse
#FrauSchindler

#FrauSchindler


»I’m sure we still have many adventures ahead«
2017/03/09

Today is the world premiere of FRAU SCHINDLER. It’s a moment that I have thought about every day for many, many years. And here we are, at the end of one journey, and the beginning of another. Until today I didn’t know that it was possible to simultaneously feel every emotion on the spectrum. FRAU SCHINDLER has had the utmost of loving support from the enormously talented team at the Gärtnerplatztheater. For that I’m so deeply grateful. Now, like a child leaving home, the opera will have a life of it’s own. 

FRAU SCHINDLER trailer:

This morning I realized perhaps for the first time the exact reason why I find Emilie Schindler so inspiring. It was her ability, as a very ordinary person, to do something extraordinary. Everywhere around us are heroes like Emilie who are not always given the appreciation that they deserve. They are teachers, volunteers, medical professionals, police, social workers, firefighters, charity workers ... just to name a few. They are people who work beyond the call of duty every day. Not because they have to, but because they want to do the right thing for humanity. How humbling it is when one meets a »real« hero. It is to them that I dedicate this work.

With six performances in the next ten days, I’m sure we still have many adventures ahead. I hope you will join us in the Reithalle. And also on March 14 when we have a special event at the NS Documentation Center in Munich, where I hope to get into a closer discussion about Emilie Schindler with our audience. I’ll be there and please do say Hello. Your thoughts about the opera are very meaningful, and I hope you’ll share them with me. Bis bald!

 

 

Premiere week
2017/03/06

It’s Monday, and this marks the first day of our premiere week.  Yesterday, we had an Introduction Matinee for FRAU SCHINDLER in the Akademietheater. It was a panel discussion organized and moderated by our Dramaturg Daniel Schindler. I was on the panel along with Kenneth Cazan, Kevin Knight, and Andreas Kowalewitz. Also, we were treated to live performances of excerpts of the opera from our principal singers, accompanied by Maestro Kowalewitz on the piano. It was an exciting event, very well attended, and we all enjoyed the opportunity to spend time with a very gracious audience.

I’m always a bit self-conscious about speaking at these types of events, especially in Munich where the Schindler story takes on extra layers of significance. As an American, I had to learn about World War 2 in an academic way. For us, it is not as deeply woven into our mind. However, I haven’t created FRAU SCHINDLER to try to teach anyone a lesson, or to make a statement. It simply tells a story about some extraordinary people who were just like each one of us. They were caught in the middle of something that escalated. It did not happen in one day (as you know). They were reacting as things developed around them. And despite the fact that the Schindlers made some morally questionable decisions, in the end they were two ordinary people who were able to save 1,200 lives.

I’ve lived in Germany for a number of years now. I am raising my two boys near Berlin, in a small town in Brandenburg where my wife is a teacher. And I see the burden that this country still carries. Every family in the world has secrets. And we all identify with living with the sins of our ancestors. No country is guiltless, but some have succeeded in trivializing the past. At least Germany has tried to be as honest as possible about facing the truth.

 

 

»The most perfect place in the world«
2017/03/03

I’m truly enjoying being in Munich and getting to know the city. I have a room near the Gärtnerplatztheater, so it’s not a long walk to the Viktualienmarkt. What a wonderful market! But unfortunately we are all completely busy rehearsing. But as they say, that’s a »good problem«.

Our daily rehearsals at the Reithalle are quite the opposite of monotonous. Each day the characters blossom a little more, and the immense talent of the performers and stage crew shines brighter. This morning was another »first«. It was the first real time run-through of the entire opera, with the full orchestra present. At this point it is important to not to start and stop the rehearsals a lot, so that the orchestra and cast can feel the timing of the entire work. With exactly one week left until our premiere, we are all feeling very positive about what we are creating together.

While watching the performers rehearse today, I was thinking about the recent increase in the popularity of opera worldwide. I believe this has to a lot to do with the fact that it has become increasing difficult to know for sure what is real in our world. But the thing that makes opera different is that there is really no way to »fake it«. There is no technology to fix errors, there are no second takes, there are no performance-enhancing drugs possible. I believe that this authenticity – the fact that we can completely trust what we are experiencing in an opera performance – is very reassuring. I can say for certain that for me, as we work every day in the Reithalle, it feels like the most perfect place in the world.

 

 

»Seduced by the trance of the drama«
2017/03/01

I’ve really been enjoying seeing my friend and collaborator from Los Angeles, Kenneth Cazan, work with our talented cast and crew. He wrote the libretto for FRAU SCHINDLER with me, and I must say that Kenneth’s recitative (or dialogue) for Emilie is especially beautiful. When it came time to compose the music, the emotional honesty was very inspiring. And now as director of the production, Ken is leading the rehearsals as he stages the drama. With 24 principal roles, a large choir (all acting in costume), plus additional non-singing actors ... this is a particularly complicated opera to direct.

Ken works with the performers to help them convey what their character is experiencing. He also choreographs when and where the performers will move. In the larger scenes, as the main story takes place at the front of the stage, Ken creates countless relationships and interactions between the many characters in the background. This adds depth and texture to the main story on stage and enhances the realism. Even after years of work to create this opera, and many weeks of rehearsing it, I’m still seduced by the trance of the drama every time we run through a scene.

In preproduction, Ken worked with Production Designer Kevin Knight to help guide the creation of the set and costumes. The stage is constructed as a circle with a rotating ring inside. That ring is remote-controlled by our stage crew and is used for scene changes. Additionally there are large walls of windows that are moved by actors on stage. It’s like the inner-workings of a watch, and it all happens right on time.

 

 

»A story worth telling«

Interview with Thomas Morse (in German):

 

 

»Sensitive and correct«
2017/02/28

Today we rehearsed the sections of the opera that include a Cantor who sings two prayers in Hebrew. The Cantor is a character in the story, he is among the »Schindlerjuden«, and his prayers take place within the factory during moments of gratitude or strife. These prayers were chosen very carefully with the assistance of a Rabbi. And our Musical Director Andreas Kowalewitz worked with a Cantor to arrange the way in which the prayers would be sung.

In the score I deliberately avoided notating a melody for the Cantor, in order to give him the most flexibility to sing it his own way. I only specified the text and entrance point, then created an orchestra and choir foundation over which he could sing. It was very important for obvious reasons to present these story moments sensitively, and correctly, and I decided that giving the Cantor the most freedom possible was the best solution. My heartfelt thanks to Maestro Kowalewitz for his fantastic work on these sections.

The Reithalle was a very busy place this morning. Normally we rehearse with just a pianist, who plays a »reduction« of the orchestra music. But today, the full orchestra was present for our rehearsal and we were able to really fine-tune the performance. Rehearsal time with the full orchestra is precious, so we all try to make the most of it.

Our premiere is now only 9 days away …

 

 

»What cannot be expressed with words«
2017/02/27

Last Friday we had our first evening rehearsal in the Reithalle. The performers were in costume, the sets and props were present, and the beautiful lighting was fully up and running.

The creation of the lighting design has been a very interesting process to see. The lights are of course controlled by a computer, but they are »choreographed« by highly-trained artists. Dozens of lights twirl and dance on the ceiling like ballerinas. The infinite combinations of colors and intensities help us augment the emotional depth of the story telling.

In FRAU SCHINDLER, lighting designer Michael Heidinger paints the stage to help us tell our story. The light helps create a sense that the Schindler Factory was a sort of isolated island of safety. The light helps us understand that two scenes on the stage at same time are occurring in two locations far away from one another. The light can tell us that a character is thinking something different than what she is saying. It works hand in hand with my music to communicate what cannot be expressed with words.

Speaking of music, you probably know that FRAU SCHINDLER is a brand new opera that has never been performed before. I composed the last section (an Interlude between Acts 1 & 2) just a few weeks ago. As all of the elements (principal singers, choir, orchestra, sets, props, costumes, and lighting) come together, we are seeing something completely new being born around us. This will be especially true this week as the principal singers begin rehearsing with the full orchestra and choir present. The intimate atmosphere of the Reithalle creates a very powerful sound. The singers now have their recitative and arias memorized, and no longer need the printed sheet music. With the music internalized, they are free to truly become their characters. 

 

 

IMAX opera
2017/02/23

Today the full orchestra joined the singers in the Reithalle for the first time. We played through the entire opera in what’s known as a »Sitzprobe«. The singers sang their parts, but they were seated and not acting their role. It’s a way for everyone to get a feel for the entire piece in real time.

The set is now completely installed, and it’s really something special to see. Production Designer Kevin Knight was inspired by research photos that I took of the actual Schindler factory in Brünnlitz (Czech Republic). Kevin was particularly drawn to the images of the factory windows. As a transparent barrier to freedom, they serve as a very fitting metaphor.

You can see what I mean in the comparison between the FRAU SCHINDLER set and some of my photos of the original Schindler factory in Brünnlitz.

Sitting in the eighth row of seats today during the Sitzprobe, I realized for the first time how unique of an opera experience the Reithalle offers. There is no barrier, either physical or existential, between the performers and the audience. It’s an immersive experience unlike any I’ve seen before. So to speak: »IMAX opera«!

 

 

»That is what it is all about«
2017/02/22

Yesterday morning was anything but ordinary. I arrived at the orchestra rehearsal room of the Gärtnerplatz Theater, and for the first time met our fantastic orchestra, which is conducted by Maestro Andreas Kowalewitz.

The orchestra began to tune (that incredible sound when the oboe gives an »A« and the rest of the orchestra matches it). After three years of composing, I was about to hear the »Frau Schindler« score live from a full symphonic orchestra.

Composing has been called, »the loneliest profession«. This is actually very true. There are weeks spent alone, many late nights in the dark. One writes, and re-writes to achieve the highest level of perfection. There are many moments of sublime artistic euphoria. But most of the work is tedious. The thing that always keeps me going is the knowledge that in the end I’ll get to work with the musicians, and share the music with an audience. That is what it is all about.

And so it began. The orchestra began to play, and familiar themes representing Oskar and Emilie filled the room. What had only been paper with black dots on it was now alive and breathing.

I hear that there is good news from the Reithalle. The rehearsals are going well with the singers. It is not an easy opera; and they are working extremely long days. The story is emotionally complex, and there is a lot of »dialogue«, or in opera terms »recitative«. Our director Ken Cazan, who also wrote the libretto with me, has now worked out the staging of the entire opera with the cast. They can now begin to repeat sections, and focus on the heart rather than the mind.

I wonder what tomorrow will bring?

 

 

»Life is strange that way«
2017/02/20

It’s an honest privilege to have this opportunity to introduce myself. My name is Thomas Morse, and I am the composer of a new opera commissioned by the Gärtnerplatztheater, entitled FRAU SCHINDLER. As we lead up to the world premiere performance on March 9th (just 17 days from now!), I will be writing about my experiences as we all work together to bring the opera to life.

I remember that when I first became interested in the story of Emilie Schindler, I found an interview with her online. Reading that interview seemed like a small thing at that time, but it was the first of thousands and thousands of tiny steps that would lead to our world premiere. Life is strange that way.

Most of my career has taken place in Los Angeles focused on composing film music. So seeing my opera realized by a world-class theater with top professional performers is a very special, and new, experience.

I would like to invite you to walk with me through the final days of this journey.  The time ahead is sure to yield the unexpected. I’ll be posting new updates regularly. Bis gleich!

 

 

Thomas Morse on youtube and facebook
Join the conversation: #FrauSchindler

Dress Rehearsal
© Christian POGO Zach
Thomas Morse and Kenneth Cazan at Reithalle
© Christian POGO Zach
Backstage
© Christian POGO Zach
Rehearsals FRAU SCHINDLER, Kenneth Cazan, Kevin Knight and Katerina Hebelková
© Christian POGO Zach
Rehearsals FRAU SCHINDLER
© Christian POGO Zach
Rehearsals FRAU SCHINDLER
© Christian POGO Zach
Rehearsals FRAU SCHINDLER
© Christian POGO Zach
Rehearsals FRAU SCHINDLER
Director Kenneth Cazan
© Christian POGO Zach
Rehearsals at Reithalle
© Christian POGO Zach
Kevin Knight at a first technical rehearsal
Mock-up by Kevin Knight
Morse: »In the score I deliberately avoided notating a melody for the Cantor«
Rehearsals with the full orchestra
Rehearsals FRAU SCHINDLER
© Christian POGO Zach
Rehearsals FRAU SCHINDLER
© Christian POGO Zach
The FRAU SCHINDLER set in the Reithalle
© Meike Ebert
The Schindler Factory in Brünnlitz, Czech Republic ©Thomas Morse
Thomas Morse, Andreas Kowalewitz, Kenneth Cazan
© Christian POGO Zach
Score, Page 1
Rehearsals: Katerina Hebelková (Emilie Schindler) and director Kenneth Cazan
© Christian POGO Zach
Thomas Morse
© Christian POGO Zach
#FrauSchindler