Austin Chamber Music Festival: The aria of Anne Frank

For the first time in its 11-year history, the annual Austin Chamber Music Festival will present an opera: the Texas premiere of Grigori Frid’s The Diary of Anne Frank

Ani Maldjian as Anne Frank
Ani Maldjian as Anne Frank

Most of the year it's known as the live music capital of the world, but when it comes to July, Austin might be more appropriately called the chamber music capital of the world. For that's the month when the annual Austin Chamber Music Festival happens. While the festival originated as a gathering of a kind of chamber-music extended family, it has matured over its first decade and now features some of the best chamber music from around the globe. This year such world-famous chamber-music groups as the Beaux Arts Trio, the Jupiter String Quartet, and Quartetto Gelato will join such Austin favorites as the Tosca String Quartet, the Austin City Brass, the Wild Basin Winds, and the American Repertory Ensemble. But perhaps the most interesting event this year will be, for the first time in the history of the festival, the presentation of a chamber opera: the Texas premiere of Grigori Frid's The Diary of Anne Frank.

Frid composed his piece for soprano and ninepiece ensemble in the early Seventies, choosing 21 prose selections by Frank and setting them to music. The opera has been performed around the world but not in Texas – and never might have been if Austin Chamber Music Center Artistic Director Michelle Schumann hadn't become friends with Andreas Mitisek, artistic director of Long Beach Opera. "Andreas directed Richard Strauss' Salome in 1999 at Austin Lyric Opera," says Schumann. "I was working there at the time, and I played for him, and after that we fostered a working relationship and also a friendship. We're now great friends, and about this time last year, as I was figuring out what ACMC was going to be doing for the festival this summer, we happened to be talking on the phone, which we do often, and we spoke about Long Beach's upcoming season. When he told me about the Anne Frank opera, I said, 'Wow, that's very interesting – a mono-opera for one singer and ninepiece orchestra. … That would be perfect for our festival." The Long Beach production garnered excellent reviews, many of them for soprano Ani Maldjian, who will perform the role again here in Austin.

For purists, a story about a teenager hiding from Nazis with her family in an apartment might not sound like the stuff of great opera. But anyone who has read her diary knows that Anne's story is more than effective as drama. More importantly, she speaks in an original and compelling voice. "Anne was so altruistic," says Schumann. "I think that the light that shone through her shines even more clearly when paired with music. When Andreas told me about the project, I purchased a CD of the score and listened to it. It's just really, really cool, a great score and great instrumentation. It's very similar to Shostakovich; it has that Russian style. It's quirky: In moments it can be sarcastic, and in moments it can be very, very beautiful. Sometimes it's breathtaking."

The Diary of Anne Frank will be presented Tuesday, July 17, 7:30pm, at Congregation Agudas Achim, 7300 Hart. For more information, call 454-0026 or visit And for more on the festival, see our Arts Listings.

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opera, Austin Chamber Music Festival, Grigori Frid, The Diary of Anne Frank Michelle Schumann, Andreas Mitisek, Ani Maldjian

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