Thursday, November 03, 2005

In tribute...

This article of mine is in the Independent today. I don't usually write about theatre (much as I'd love to), but this involves Arthur Miller's "Playing for Time", originally a television play and now being staged professionally in Britain for the first time. It's about the women's orchestra in Auschwitz and has been deeply controversial in the past. Still, it's vintage Miller, in quality only just behind Death of a Salesman and The Crucible. The trouble with basing a theatrical work (or a novel) on fact is that people connected with the events or characters in one way or another are bound to feel something is wrong, which was very much the case here.

The second leading role is that of Alma Rose, Mahler's niece and the daughter of Arnold Rose, the quartet leader. Richard Newman and Karen Kirtley's biography of her, "Alma Rose: Vienna to Auschwitz", paints her as a far more multi-dimensional person than Miller, perhaps, credits her with being. She was not only a tough, non-compromising musician, but a vulnerable woman whose men (especially her husband Vasa Prihoda, violin virtuoso) treated her less than well, and a woman of tremendous inner resources and immense moral fibre. As both a human being, a musician and someone whose surreal, appalling fate was simply unimaginable, she holds a vast fascination for me. I'm glad to have been able to write about this play, which presents deep emotional truths even if some of its facts are not accurate, and to pay tribute in some small way to this terrible story.

The German song I posted yesterday was one that Alma and her Auschwitz musicians performed frequently. I found it in Newman & Kirtley's book (published by Amadeus Press), which is amazing.