LISTSERV mailing list manager LISTSERV 15.5

Help for OPERA-L Archives

OPERA-L Archives

OPERA-L Archives


Next Message | Previous Message
Next in Topic | Previous in Topic
Next by Same Author | Previous by Same Author
Chronologically | Most Recent First
Proportional Font | Monospaced Font


Join or Leave OPERA-L
Reply | Post New Message
Search Archives

Subject: Elysium Between Two Continents Presents The Thirtieth Annual Erwin Piscator Award
From: Judy Pantano <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Judy Pantano <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Mon, 10 Apr 2017 18:56:45 -0400

text/plain (177 lines)

Elysium Between Two Continents Presents The Thirtieth Annual Erwin Piscator Award

A review by Nino Pantano

On the afternoon of Thursday, March 30th, Elysium Between Two Continents Presented 
The Thirtieth Annual Erwin Piscator Award at the intimate and elegant Lotos Club in New 
York City. This program is to benefit Elysium's International Educational Programs "Art 
and Education without Borders." The Lotos Club gathering that afternoon evoked 
memories of a musical soiree at the Kennedy White House when President Kennedy said 
it was "the most illustrious gathering of intellects since Thomas Jefferson dined alone."

Movers and shakers notwithstanding, the "big bang" theory goes back to 1985 when 
Gregorij H. von Le´tis instituted the Erwin Piscator (1893-1966) award honoring Erwin 
Piscator's artistic and humanitarian legacy and his lasting influence on theater on both 
sides of the Atlantic. Piscator was convinced that "art achieves its purpose only when it 
contributes to the improvement of man."

The interesting program booklet included greetings from Dr. Kerstin Weinbach, City 
Councilor and Head of the Cultural Department for the Magistrate City of Marburg, March 
2017. The letter announced a newly opened cultural institution bearing the name Erwin 
Piscator Haus. Piscator went to school in Marburg and returned there in 1951.The new 
building replacing an older one proudly bears his name and continues his work.

After the wine and cocktail reception, the program began with soprano Jeannie Im singing 
"An die Freude" (Ode to Joy) music by Franz Schubert from a text by Friedrich Schiller. 
Ms. Im has been with Elysium since 2000 and was in the premiere performance of Ernst 
Krenek's "What Price Confidence" at the Teatro dell' Opera di Roma co-produced by 
Elysium. Among her many performances under the auspices of Elysium, were concerts of 
works by performers who were exiled or killed in World War II. Matthew Lobaugh, who is 
the Music Director of the New York City Wide Youth Opera, was her versatile piano 
accompanist. Ms. Im strolled through the tables and sang in a clear commanding soprano 
with joyful abandon.

Michael MŘller, the Mayor of Berlin had his representative, Ms. Katja Weisbrock Donovan, 
who is the head of Cultural Affairs at the German Consulate in New York, bring greetings 
and speak of the cooperation of the two cities - Berlin and New York. She mentioned the 
Kellen family who were forced to flee Berlin during the era of the Nazis and the 
importance of Erwin Piscator and Maria Ley Piscator to the world. The New York Theatre 
Workshop founded by James C. Nicola was a pivotal influence as well. Michael Lahr was 
the key to this joint effort of the two countries under the banner of art and enlightenment. 
The dream turned into a reality of Gregorij H. von Le´tis and Michael Lahr.

The welcome was given by Gregorij H. von Le´tis who truly was monarch of all he 
surveyed. His cherubic demeanor could not disguise his tremendous commitment to 
evoke the theme of peace and justice through art. Mr. von Le´tis then proudly introduced 
the chairperson of the luncheon committee, Louise Kerz Hirschfeld, whose late beloved 
husband Al Hirschfeld, was the Da Vinci of caricaturists. Ms. Hirschfeld's energetic 
defense of the arts and its importance to all, made one think of "The Line King" a 
wonderful, whimsical documentary of her late great husband.

A fascinating musical excerpt followed, colorfully sung by soprano Jeannie Im "Lied von 
der TŘnche" (Song of Whitewash) with music by Hanns Eisler and a text by Bertolt Brecht. 
The music evoked the German cabaret offerings of Lotte Lenya and the school of cabaret 
in the style of The Threepenny Opera. Matthew Lobaugh's facile accompaniment made the 
two, one.

The salad was served and now the "salad days" prevailed. Michael Lahr, the erudite and 
industrious Chairman of the Erwin Piscator Awards Committee spoke. As a specialist of 
Erwin Piscator, the founder of the political and epic theater, Lahr brilliantly curated the 
exhibit Erwin Piscator: Political Theater in Exile and it traveled to Bernried, New York, 
Catania, Salzburg and Munich. Lahr spoke of the great joy and importance of the occasion 
and introduced the famed playwright Tony Kushner.

Mr. Kushner alluded to the dark days we have been witnessing of late  and how the arts 
will pave the way for better days ahead. He referred to an earlier era in Greenwich 
Village and elsewhere when Belafonte, Brecht and Brando championed causes and spread 
the word of enlightenment and creativity. They knew where they were going artistically 
and emotionally as did James Nicola in his early days at the studio, which has become a 
kind of mecca, a place "Where one can roll up in like a blanket" (Fanny). Tony Kushner 
spoke in staccato sentences like a prizefighter hammering away at the evils of the world 
and praising the good in his introduction for James C. Nicola.

Gregorij von Le´tis made the presentation to James Nicola,"for his enormous contributions 
to the American theater by producing and cultivating artists whose works inspire and 
challenge the public." As Artistic Director of the New York Theater Workshop since 1988, 
Nicola has forged a unique community of theater artists, a group of writers, directors, 
designers and actors who form the core of NYTW's artist development activities. Many 
plays, premiers including Tony Kushner's "Angels in America" and "Homebody/Kabul" as 
well as Tennessee William's "A Streetcar Named Desire" were performed.

James Nicola spoke intimately and passionately about his boyhood desire to excel in 
theater and his lack of concentration on other subjects. Nicola's somewhat perturbed 
parents granted him the right to pursue his goals but he had to measure up academically 
to attain them. Nicola feels theater is "a sacred light" and that it illuminates the soul. 
Artists are encouraged to play their chosen destined roles. A force of nature illuminated 
by a "splendid torch," a force of nature not to be denied. James Nicola is motivated by a 
sacred flame and that light has brightened the world.

With so much at "stake" we proceeded to enjoy our delectable choice of steak (or 
salmon), having feasted on brilliant words and deeds from the hearts and minds of the 

Vartan Gregorian is the 12th President of the Carnegie Corporation of New York, a grant 
making institution and is also a past honoree of the Erwin Piscator award. He is best 
known for his outstanding service as President of the New York Public Library. (1981-89) 
His services have earned him nearly 70 honorary degrees.The brilliant Mr. Gregorian 
spoke eloquently on behalf of honoree Marina Kellen French. With joyful abandon and as 
Robert Browning wrote "How do I love thee?" Mr. Gregorian alphabetically listed all of 
Marina Kellen French's virtues practically from "A to Z" and why she is so admired. 
Whether it be art, music, medical, literary, educational, she is there to lend support, 
advice and encouragement!

Gregorij von Le´tis presented Marina Kellen French with the Erwin Piscator award "for so 
generously giving of her time and talent to support so many artistic, cultural and 
educational organizations both here in New York and in Berlin." Ms. French spoke of the 
joys of giving and that it must be earned and of her two unforgettable years as a student 
in Berlin, the land of her parents birth. The art of philanthropy and of aiding mankind is 
her mission." What good is leaving the earth with accumulated wealth but having done 
little or nothing to help ones' fellow humans?" That is also the mission of Gregorij von 
Le´tis and Michael Lahr. That is the path chosen by Marina Kellen French. The honorary 
Erwin Piscator award of 2017 was in memory of Maria Ley Piscator. (1898-1999) In 2014, 
Ms. French was awarded the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany at the 
residence of the German Consul General Brita Wagener in New York City. 

In a proclamation printed in the program, Governor Andrew Cuomo praised James C. 
Nicola for his "creative vision to American arts and culture" and Marina Kellen French "for 
her generous work in perpetuating and preserving a legacy of great art in the world." 
Mayor Bill de Blasio also congratulated the awardees and Elysium - between Two 
Continents in the program with a special proclamation.

Jeannie Im accompanied by Matthew Lobaugh sang a lively "Good-Bye Trouble" with 
music by Mischa Spoliansky and text by Frank Eyton. "I've put on my hat, I've locked up 
my flat; the dog's at the vets, I've settled my debts" and concluding with "And if I could 
design a world, I shouldn't plan a finer world." Ev'rything in it I see as it passes Thro' 
wonderful rose colored glasses. Good-bye Trouble! I've finished with you, Trouble!" With 
that special "Thank you for coming" from Louise Kerz Hirschfeld, the afternoon drew to a 
upbeat close as we were enjoying the desserts and sweets of the luncheon - almost 
redundant when one considers the real "sweets" offered by the words and deeds of the 

Judy and I were happy to speak to many of the awardees and presenters. James Nicola 
and I share Italian heritage. His family were Piedmontese from Northern Italy, mine were 
Sicilian from the South. We laughed about the "rivalry" between Sicilians and non 
Sicilians. Marina Kellen French is also on the Board of the Metropolitan Opera Guild. I 
mentioned the great tenor Enrico Caruso singing "Vecchia Zimarra" in "La BohŔme", with 
the Met Opera on tour in Philadelphia when the bass, AndrÚs de Segurola lost his voice 
with the audience unaware. Caruso whispered to his friend, "turn your back to the 
audience and I'll sing it for you!" The mighty tenor made a recording of Colline's famous 
Coat aria at the insistence of the cast and his friends in 1916 - it is marked "Tenor-Bass."

Vartan Gregorian was affable and most gracious. He is the "Energizer battery" redux! 
Louise Kerz Hirschfeld spoke of her husband's zest for life and creative output. I told her 
that I especially admired his caricature of the matchless tenor Enrico Caruso (A former 
Lotos Club honoree in 1916) and the fact that Caruso, who caricatured as a hobby, 
published several volumes of caricatures. It was nice to chat with Jolana Blau, Vice 
Chairperson, who was also chatting with Martin Dvorak, Consul General of the Czech 
Republic in New York, Austrian Consul General Georg Heindl and his wife Neline 
Koornneef Heindl and the effervescent Midge Woolsey from both WQXR and PBS and her 
husband economist Dr. Jerry Stolt. Last year's honoree, President of the Licia Albanese-
Puccini Foundation Sachi Liebergesell, was present with General Counsel Brian O' Connor 
Esq. and his wife Maura. The lovely intimate Lotos Club is a New York treasure and the 
perfect venue for this stellar occasion.

We wish to thank Gregorij H. von Le´tis, President and Michael Lahr, Vice President for the 
pursuit of a peaceful world through art and artists and for being such gracious hosts and 
extraordinary humanitarians. As always, their friendship is treasured. If John Kennedy 
appreciated Thomas Jefferson dining alone, what about his being in a room full of people 
- men and women who match that ideal and are gregarious and fun as well.

I conclude with a quote from George Bernard Shaw that was referred to during this event, 
"You see things and you say, "Why?" But I dream things that never were and say, "Why 
Not?" Bravo to "Elysium - Between Two Continents for daring to ask "Why not?" and for 
keeping the work and spirit of Erwin Piscator and his wife Maria Ley Piscator alive, 
ongoing and thriving!

OPERA-L on Facebook:
To UNSUBSCRIBE, send a message to [log in to unmask]
containing only the words:  SIGNOFF OPERA-L
To stay subscribed but TURN OFF mail, send a message to
[log in to unmask] containing only the words:  SET OPERA-L NOMAIL
Modify your settings:

Back to: Top of Message | Previous Page | Main OPERA-L Page



CataList Email List Search Powered by the LISTSERV Email List Manager