December 6, 2001
Arnold, ‘Moses und Aron’
Los Angeles largely ignored Arnold Schoenberg, arguably the most influential and controversial composer of the 20th century, when he labored at USC and UCLA during the last 17 years of his life.
As if to make up for the slight, the city's musical and cultural institutions will commemorate the 50th anniversary of Schoenberg's death with an array of concerts, lectures and symposia through next March.
A highlight will be a rare performance of his opera "Moses und Aron" at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion on Sunday, Dec. 9 (regrettably scheduled on the first night of Chanukah).
Conductor Kent Nagano will lead Berlin's Deutsche Symphonie-Orchester in the one-night-only performance.
The opera, whose central theme is the chosen status of the Jewish people, was composed and written while Schoenberg was still nominally a convert to Christianity. Born into an Orthodox Jewish family, he became a Lutheran at age 24, but formally reclaimed his heritage when Hitler came to power in 1933.
Once reconverted, he went all the way, writing to friends that he had decided "to exclusively dedicate the remainder of my life" to the survival of the Jewish people, and "to sacrifice my art for the sake of Jewry."
"Moses und Aron" is based, to a large extent, on Schoenberg's play "The Biblical Way," which he wrote in the mid-1920s.
USC scholar Moshe Lazar, who has translated "The Biblical Way" from the original German, notes that in the play, Schoenberg projected himself as a fusion of Moses and Aaron, the visionary and the political activist, plus a dash of Theodor Herzl as the man destined to redeem his persecuted people.
For tickets, which range from $34 to $165, call (213) 365-3500.