Opening event and Introduction

by Clara Silber Harris

"Carol Mendelsohn and I are very happy to welcome you here on behalf of all the others of the team. We also welcome you on behalf of the Roy Hart Centre. It is thanks to the Centre, and notably thanks to Jay Livernois’ direction that this event can take place.

We have an exciting journey ahead of this weekend: unfolding the story of Alfred Wolfsohn and Charlotte Salomon and showing how Alfred Wolfsohn’s philosophy and teachings have moved the lives of so many.

How did this idea for a Seminar originate? There were two different impulses: one Carol’s; one Paul’s and mine - and they came together over a cup of tea!
I’ll give first Paul’s and my story. Last May 2006, we went to the Charlotte Salomon "Life? or Theatre?" exhibition in the Jewish Museum of Paris. It was the second full exhibition I’d seen of CS’s work and I found it even stronger and more moving than the one at London’s Royal Academy. The sombre rooms and the lack of people that day enabled us to fully get into her work. But the small rooms had their disadvantage too. Charlotte had given Alfred Wolfsohn the pseudonym of Amadeus Daberlohn and the one panel explaining this and giving something of Wolfsohn’s life was in a very obscure corner. At the bookshop afterwards when we asked if they had material on Alfred Wolfsohn… “Who? Wolfsohn oh!…Amadeus Daberlohn …oh, no! No we didn’t know he was Alfred Wolfsohn and that his work continues today.” Fair enough, maybe the people in bookshop didn’t know who Amadeus Daberlohn really was. But that evening we visited a friend and student of RHT work and his wife is a painter. “Yes, she’d adored the Charlotte exhibition and had even gone a second time with her daughter”. But “no” - she had no idea that Amadeus Daberlohn was Alfred Wolfsohn and that Wolfsohn had been Roy Hart’s teacher and that the singing lesson her husband had received was directly related to Wolfsohn’s teachings.

This lack of recognition was inadmissible for us. We felt that the public at large was very touched by Charlotte's story, her talent, her insights and her integrity – but we felt they were being given only part of her story.

Using a modern gauge of international public recognition - If you go to Google and search Charlotte Salomon you’ll get over a million hits, if you try Alfred Wolfsohn about 16,000!

Therefore we said something must be done to put Alfred Wolfsohn, the man and his ideas more into the world and to acknowledge his wisdom.

Then came the cup of tea....! (Carol tells her story about her students and she proposed to Barbara Simonsen, a dramaturge from Denmark that they work on some "scenes" together from "Life? or Theatre?")

And so the project was launched.

Charlotte included direct quotes from Alfred Wolfsohn in "Life? or Theatre?". Interestingly as far as we know she never had a singing lesson with Alfred Wolfsohn at a piano. Yet much of her work is devoted to exposing the principles of the singing process – as I/we came to understand them. And it is these elements that we want to draw out while tracing the evolution of the singing process.
I distinguish between singing and the singing “process”. Most of you have already worked with Roy Hart Theatre, a few not. So for you I say - singing for us is not "just" singing a song – singing involves a personal challenge and an internal journey. This we will be speaking more about in the course of the weekend.

Roy Hart, a young dynamic acting student was inspired by Alfred Wolfsohn to change course on his journey. He never painted nor did he write very much but he did speak at length and expounded the understanding and motivations for his vocal researches with much eloquence.We are going to pick up on his thoughts and actions which will bring us current to this very moment, in the Centre, which still bears his name.

At this point I want to include Marita Gunther. As a young woman her journey was very clearly defined by her meeting and exchanges with Alfred Wolfsohn. She remained devoted to him all her life and her own teaching was very influenced by him and his early work. We’ll be hearing more about that later from Susanne’s own experience as a pupil of Marita’s. And through Paul's mastery of the archival documents, we will hear Marita's lectures, illustrated by appropriate photos.

Marita’s life long wish was to see Alfred Wolfsohn’s manuscripts published. She tried many, many times with tirelss devotion but with no results. We believe now in 2007 that we are close to publishing his first manuscript, “Orpheus or the way to a mask”. Let us hope so."

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