Opera: The Devil and Penderecki

Man's worst moments seem to fascinate Poland's avant-garde composer Krzysztof Penderecki. In his Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima, Dies Irae (an oratorio in memory of the dead of Auschwitz) and The Passion and Death of Jesus Christ According to St. Luke, Penderecki treated mass annihilation and murder with moving intensity, stretching the limits of orchestral and vocal range so far that he had to invent new notational symbols for his score (TIME, Oct. 14, 1966). Thus it was only appropriate that for his first opera he chose as his subject a tale of mass hysteria and political murder.


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