Ballad of Mauthausen: Choral performance of love across cultures

October 7, 2022 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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A magnificent song cycle about love between two cultures against the background of a Nazi concentration camp will be performed in Sydney.

The Ballad of Mauthausen – with lyrics by Greek poet Iakovos Kambanellis and music by world-acclaimed Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis – conveys the love of a Greek prisoner-of-war for a doomed Jewish prisoner in the Nazi slave labour camp of Mauthausen in Austria.

To be held at UNSW’s Clancy Auditorium on Sunday, October 30, the unique performance will feature the Australian Hellenic Choir (AHC) and the Sydney Jewish Choral Society (SJCS). Theodorakis is best known for composing the music of Zorba the Greek and the acclaimed film Z. Both choirs will also perform other significant Greek and Jewish songs.

The event’s MC is Vic Alhadeff, whose background blends the Jewish and Greek cultures. His family was one of the largest Jewish families on the Greek Island of Rhodes, and 151 Alhadeffs, including his paternal grandparents, were murdered in the Auschwitz death camp. “I’m honoured to be involved in this exceptionally moving collaboration of the two communities,” Alhadeff said. “The music is magnificent and it promises to be a very moving performance.”  Alhadeff is a non-executive Director of SBS. His previous roles include Chair of Multicultural NSW, CEO of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies and Chief Sub-Editor of the anti-apartheid Cape Times in South Africa.

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Formed in 1986, the SJCS is Sydney’s premier Jewish community choir.  Under the musical direction of Rose Grausman for the past 32 years, the choir is an established part of Sydney’s cultural scene, performing a broad repertoire spanning Jewish and secular music of varied styles.

The AHC, formed in 2018, performs Greek Art songs and popular folk songs. Under the musical direction of Leon Vitogiannis, the Choir features at many Greek cultural events.  AHC President James Tsolakis said: ‘Vitogiannis has created a choral arrangement of the song cycle, previously performed as a solo. What better way to explore this music than with a choir whose members are personally connected with the history?”’

Chairperson of the SJCS, Anne Spira said: “It’s been a privilege for our choir to learn about the Greek language and the poetry of Greece. This has enabled us to connect with the deep emotional impact of Kambanellis’ songs. How powerful and chilling it will be as 60 singers’ voices resound with the words:

‘Have you seen the one I love?

We saw her in the frozen square

with a number on her white arm

and a yellow star over her heart.’”

Date: Sunday 30 October 2022  Time:  4pm

Venue: Sir John Clancy Auditorium, University of New South Wales

Tickets: $60, concession $50, via Humanatix


One Response to “Ballad of Mauthausen: Choral performance of love across cultures”
  1. Liat Kirby says:

    Those four lines quoted so spare, compelling … powerful indeed.
    And extraordinary that Theodorakis wrote this work, taking into account his sustained antisemitism over a long period of time.

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