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TableTopOpera Presents Gustav Mahler's Kindertotenlieder

March 22, 2016
07:00 PM - 09:00 PM
Interfaith Chapel River Campus

Based on a series of poems by Friedrich Rückert, Gustav Mahler’s song cycle Kindertotenlieder underscored a frightening fact of early 20th century life: high rates of child mortality. Due to poor sanitation and diet, and poor pediatric health care, one in ten children died before their fourth birthday. While writing the songs, Mahler tried to imagine how he would feel if one of his own children had died.  Then, in 1907, Mahler’s own daughter Maria Anna died of scarlet fever at the age of four. Mahler was devastated, and by the time of Maria Anna’s passing, he claimed that he “could not have written these songs anymore.”

Although child mortality rates have fallen dramatically since Mahler’s time, they are still extremely high, not just in Third-World countries, but also in American inner cities. For example, Monroe County’s infant mortality rate increased 9% from 2004 to 2010 and is 43% higher than the rate statewide. This disturbing statistic is echoed by the facts that child poverty rates in the city of Rochester are 7th highest in the nation and that one in four kids from Monroe County live below the poverty line.

To draw attention to the continuing problems of child mortality and child poverty in Rochester, TableTopOpera will present a new version of Mahler’s Kindertotenlieder, accompanied by a mixture of historical and contemporary photographs of children in Rochester. The images include 19th century bereavement photographs from the archives of the George Eastman Museum as well as those of Dr. George W. Gover, Public Health Officer for the City of Rochester (1896-1932) and pioneer in the fight against child mortality. The musical commentary will be performed by faculty, students, alumnae, and friends of the Eastman School of Music and will interleaf each song in Mahler’s collection with material from related works by Mahler, Richard Wagner, Arnold Schoenberg, and Thelonius Monk.

Sponsored by the Department of Religion and Classics and the Center for Jewish Studies at the University of Rochester.  For more information, call (585) 275-5378. 

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