The Thomas Mann House Launches a Music & Discussion Series ‘Opera & Democracy’

By Afton Wooten

The new music and discussion series “Opera & Democracy: Transatlantic Conversations & Concerts” kicks off in January at The Thomas Mann House in Los Angeles.

The series is curated by Dr. Kai Hinrich Müller, a 2023 Thomas Mann Fellow. Dr. Müller designed the program to explore the political mandate of art and discusses the role of musical theater on both sides of the Atlantic. Panel discussions will consider the “commitment of opera professionals to democratic societies, and deal with the central significance of artistic freedom for democracy.” They will highlight historical events such as the persecution and silencing of opera professionals, performance bans, and works created in exile. The series will also cover industry perspectives on “diversity, participation, and democratization, and discuss the institutional responsibility of opera houses to amplify the voices of those historically silenced.” Concert performances will feature lesser-known or rediscovered works, many of them related to the exile narrative encompassing the USA and Germany.

The first installment features conversations Alex Ross, Kira Thurman, Daniela Smolov Levy, Dr. Müller, and Michael Steinberg. The program includes piano operas and compositions by composers such as Kurt Weill and Lily Reiff, Edmond Dédé and other composers, performed by the Kaleidoscope Chamber Ensemble with cellist Jan Vogler.

The German debut of the series is scheduled for March 3, 2024, at the Bayerische Staatsoper in München with general music director Vladimir Jurowski. Later “Opera & Democracy” events are planned to take place at the Hamburgische Staatsoper, Dresdner Musikfestspiele, and in Berlin at the Bauhaus-Archiv and the Museum für Gestaltung, as well as in New York.