Zigman: Émigré

Zigman: Émigré

In 1938, two Jewish brothers, Otto and Josef, escape Nazi Germany on a long voyage to Shanghai. There, Josef falls in love with Lina, a Chinese woman, leading to cultural complications. Émigré is set in the period 1937 until 1941 when Jews from Europe literally found safe harbor in Shanghai, effectively an open port during the disruption caused by Japan’s invasion of China. The oratorio, a major collaboration between the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic, was conceived by leading Chinese conductor Long Yu, who recruited the Jewish American composer Aaron Zigman. Already famous for scoring the 2018 Chinese film Hidden Man, Zigman had subsequently proved his concert hall credentials by writing—at Yu’s behest—a piano concerto for Jean-Yves Thibaudet, Tango Manos, premiered in Beijing in 2019. Émigré’s style is very direct—think Broadway musical with a shade more harmonic anguish—and encompasses, appropriately for its cosmopolitan setting, a range of styles including tart yet luscious Viennese waltz and hints of Klezmer. It’s performed with polish and commitment from a very fine cast and joint ensembles.

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