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Concert workshop of excerpts from Prologue and Act I
The Minimum Security Composers Collective is a group of four composers dedicated to blazing new paths through the contemporary music arena. Since 1998, they have worked together in projects that feed on novel approaches to bringing cutting-edge music to the stage. In March 2005, they collaborated with the Austrian Cultural Forum of New York to present two concerts of music by leading composers in Austria and America, including the Prologue, Overture, and Scene 1 from Act I of Korczak's Orphans in piano/vocal score, featuring tenor Tracy Wise as Janusz Korczak, reprising his role from the 2003 workshop in New Hampshire.
The Prologue of Korczak's Orphans is a flashback to Warsaw in 1919. The young doctor and orphanage director, Janusz Korczak holds a “class” for new teachers in which he demonstrates the destructive effects of the harsh treatment of vulnerable children -- the kind of brutality, including humiliation and corporal punishment, that has been taken for granted, up until then, in children’s education and upbringing.
As Act One begins, it is early 1942. The Warsaw Ghetto has closed in around Korczak and his orphanage, which he continues to run now, though of course only for Jewish children since the Nazis have walled them off from the rest of the community. But Korczak himself risks death regularly by leaving the Ghetto, secretly, in order to obtain the food and medical supplies his children need to survive. He enters with a sack of such “contraband” potatoes and ruminates about whether he’s truly in danger. When Madam Stefa, the orphanage’s co-director, enters she chides him for refusing to wear the Star of David armband, taking that kind of risk with his life. Her dream had been to re-settle in Palestine and work with Jewish children who have emigrated there – clearly an issue of contention between them. Korczak argues that he will not allow himself to be defined simply as a Jew; he is a patriotic Pole who served as a medical officer in the Army, and chooses to wear his Army uniform rather than a Jewish armband.
This performance was produced and sponsored by the Austrian Cultural Forum of New York.