(photo credit: INGIMAGE / ASAP)
Marget Wolf’s Refidim Junction, performed by the Theater Company Jerusalem and the Berlin Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Ulrich Pakusch, is a painful reminder of the fact that the German Jews were the first victims of the Nazi regime.
The work is categorized as a Scenic Documentary Action, although it is sometimes also referred to, inappropriately, as a Chamber Opera, though it lacks the main ingredient of an opera – a plot. It is based on letters by two German Jewish women – the poetess Marianne Rein and Perl Margulies, the mother of Israel Prize laureate Alice Shalvi – written in Germany during the Nazi regime. Though different in style, the letters intensely convey the gradually and relentlessly increasing sense of persecution, fear and despair.
A highly original, yet unrepeatable idea is the representation of each woman by two artists – one for the sung sections (soprano Katja Beer as Marianne and mezzo-soprano Rita Kapfhammer as Perl) and one for the spoken sections (Charlotte Siegler and Britta Scheer). The sung parts are mostly in parlando style, abstaining from melodic patterns, sometimes culminating in highly emotional outbursts. The orchestra functions often in repetitive patterns that tend to create a hypnotic effect. Yet its volume too often overshadows the text which then becomes unintelligible, even for native German speakers, although the words are the work’s most important element.
The work masterfully creates a profoundly moving and depressing mood, without ever gliding into sentimentality or exaggerated theatricality. Its concluding words are the non plus ultra of hopelessness and despair: “Ich bin Jude – ich habe keine gebete mehr,” (“I am a Jew – I have no prayers anymore”).