A Survivor as A Survivor from Warsaw
A Survivor from Warsaw came late to Czechoslovakia, because the Thaw came late, and, as elsewhere in the Soviet bloc, its arrival was a bellwether of relative liberalization. Four of the five narrators who performed the title role did so in Czech translation. Two of those narrators, Josef Červinka and Karel Berman, were also Czech Jews. Berman also made the only known commercial recording of the piece in which the narration is performed in Czech. He had survived a number of labor and concentration camps, including a stint at Terezín, before resuming his career as an opera singer after the war. These performances are situated within the history of Jews in the region, including Schoenberg's family; the general invisibility of Jews and Jewishness in communist Czechoslovakia; and cultural politics, which had shifted so much by the 1960s that musicologist Jiří Vysloužil could even advocate for the American Schoenberg. The performances of A Survivor, and particularly Berman's recording, took place in a brief window of opportunity leading up to and including the Prague Spring, in which Jewishness and modernist music could both circulate relatively unimpeded in public discourse. This came to an abrupt end in August 1968 with the Soviet-led invasion.
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