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Thomas Morse

Frau Schindler (2016)
Commissioned by Staatstheater am Gärtnerplatz, Munich, Germany
Work Notes
Opera in Three Acts
Text Writer
(English, German) by Kenneth Cazan with Thomas Morse. Russian transaltion by Vladimir Alenikov
Music Sales Corporation
Opera and Music Theatre
Year Composed
English, German
S, Mz, Bar, additional voices (26 roles total)
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Programme Note
Thomas Morse Frau Schindler (2016)
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   EMILIE SCHINDLER: Mezzo-soprano
   OSKAR SCHINDLER: Lyric baritone
   MARTHE MARKER: Lyric soprano
   NAZI OFFICER 1: Tenor
   NAZI OFFICER'S WIFE 1 (also HILDE): Soprano
   NAZI OFFICER'S WIFE 3 (also SALI HIRSCHBIRG): Mezzo-soprano
   YOUNG WOMAN: Lyric soprano
   GUARD 1 (also COMMANDER KLEIN): Baritone
   GUARD 2 (also TRAIN CONDUCTOR): Baritone
   GUARD 3 (also PETER GORLINSKY): Baritone
   FRAU VON DAUBEK: Dramatic soprano
   RICHARD RECHEN: Baritone (Chorus)
   SZYMON HIRSCHBIRG: Baritone (Chorus)
   CANTOR: Speaker

Interview with Thomas Morse, March 2017
Composer note:
About a decade ago, I relocated from Los Angeles to Berlin, with the primary goal of researching and composing an opera that would portray Oskar Schindler’s heroic actions during the holocaust. It was a beginning of a journey that would involve reading countless books and interviews, visiting sites in multiple countries, learning German, and speaking with people who experienced the second world war first-hand.

In deciding on a narrative approach to the Schindler story, it became increasingly apparent that an opera that would essentially retell the same story as Steven Spielberg’s iconic cinematic masterpiece, "Schindler’s List," was not the best idea. However, in the course of research I had run across the story of Oskar’s wife, Emilie Schindler. The story from her perspective provides a window into the psychology of the times — how step by step, an advanced society was slowly seduced into the unthinkable. How people were conditioned to compartmentalize absolutes, in order to rationalize and live with what was happening around them. It was a society that felt that it had been victimized, and in turn used this to justify rage toward an entire people.

Through Emilie’s eyes, we also see a complex and paradoxical portrait of Oskar. He was a man who was initially able to severely set aside his moral conscience, in favor of his personal ambition. But he changed his mind about the exploitation of his workers, and actively fought and maneuvered to save them. What level of redemption did he achieve? Based upon scholarly writings and personal accounts, Frau Schindler portrays Oskar as historically accurate as possible.

It should be noted that some of the scenes in the opera are a bit surprising, and they may even seem unbelievable. But we have grounded Frau Schindler in actual events, with very little dramatic license. It goes without saying that this is not a story suitable to any form of sensationalism. I have viewed its telling as a privilege, with a moral and artistic duty to seek impeccable standards of honesty. In creating the music, I have relied solely on my own intense emotional connection to the story, and have had no interest in contrived intellectualism.

We hope that as you get to know Emilie, you will hear her voice, and remember her as we have.

— Thomas Morse

Librettist note:
The libretto is fashioned as a script that can be read as a play. It is about two living, breathing human beings and their functional/dysfunctional relationship. Tom Morse was amazingly supportive and after tweaks, additions, and more tweaks and additions, and finally, all tied together with his insightful, beautiful music, the rest is about-to-be history. It has been a personally momentous journey and I am humbled to be telling the story of this woman's survival during the darkest period in the history of humanity. It always boils down to women holding the world together, doesn't it?

— Kenneth Cazan

As an ordinary couple who became increasingly immersed in extraordinary circumstances, Emilie and Oskar Schindler found themselves faced with the ultimate moral decision. Told from Emilie Schindler’s perspective, Frau Schindler examines how two living, breathing human beings who essentially endure the same daily wartime experiences can see them from two very different points of view. It is the story of a woman’s survival and heroism in the heart of one of the darkest periods in human history. The story from her perspective provides a window into the psychology of the times — how step by step, an advanced society was slowly seduced into the unthinkable.


piano vocal score

Die sehr eingängige, tonale Musik des (Film-)Komponisten Thomas Morse könnte in ihrem manchmal etwas gleichförmigen Konversationston, vor allem in den Singstimmen, und der manchmal sparsamen, manchmal verführerisch streichersatten Begleitung des Orchesters irgendwann langweilen, aber das Gegenteil ist der Fall. Hat man sich einmal darauf eingelassen, dass hier ein Filmmusik-Komponist sein Metier nicht verleugnet, entwickelt diese Musik einen eigentümlichen Sog, gerade weil sie so neutral bleibt und für verschiedene Szenen und für unterschiedlichste Charaktere selten Eigenständiges entwickelt.

Umso raffinierter komponiert ist der Beginn der vierten Szene des ersten Akts: Da unterlegt Morse die flammende Rede Schindlers, in der er vor ­Nazi-Schergen dafür wirbt, dass er jüdische ­Zwangsarbeiter für seine Fabrik braucht, mit den ersten 54 Takten des originalen Tristan-Vorspiels.
Klaus Kalchschmid, Applaus Kultur-Magazin,01/04/2017
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