Life? Or Theater?
Musical Performance Marking Charlotte Salomon’s 100th Birthday
Born in Berlin in 1917 and murdered in Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1943, Charlotte Salomon sits as a young woman looking out over the sea on the south coast of France over seventy years ago, watching her life pass in her inner eye – the life that she had to leave behind in a Berlin where Jews were no longer safe from hostilities, persecution, and soon death.
Here, in her seemingly secure new home, the crises blaze their way through her young soul – the external from the growing threat of war, the internal from the confrontation with her own tragic family history.
The young Charlotte follows the advice of a doctor and a good friend: "Paint!" So she sits at the sea and paints, singing softly to herself. She notices that the melody fits exactly what she wants to put on paper. A text begins to form in her head, and now she begins to sing the melody in a loud voice until she feels the sheet is finished. This is how Life? Or Theater? - A "Singespiel" with over 800 colored sheets on which Charlotte Salomon paints her life as a huge picture theater evolves over a two-year period.
The Sing-Akademie girls' choir and pupils from the Bertolt Brecht Secondary School have devoted themselves to this extensive work. Berlin artists and a group of 12 to 20-year-olds have developed a multimedial stage performance for a young audience. They animate Charlotte Solomon's expressionist images and combine them with documentary material to make video projections. They compress pictures and texts into theatrical scenes and sing and play music, as the "Singespiel" work lives from musical connections to 300 years of musical history– from Bach and Schubert through operetta arias to film music from the 1920s and 1930s. In this way, contemporary history becomes tangible and the art of the painter Charlotte Solomon, who is too little known and who died too early, can be experienced in a striking way.
The project is funded and supported by the Berlin Project Fund for Cultural Education, the Jewish Museum, the Berlin Sing-Akademie, the Konrad Wolf Film University, and the Bertolt Brecht Secondary School, Spandau.