‘A Place of Refuge in Your Arms’: Reizenstein’s Anna Kraus as Holocaust Opera

Miller, Malcolm (2023). ‘A Place of Refuge in Your Arms’: Reizenstein’s Anna Kraus as Holocaust Opera. In: Miller, Malcolm and Hansen, Jutta Raab eds. Music and Exile. Yearbook of the Research Centre for German and Austrian Exile Studies, 22. Leiden, The Netherlands: Koninklijke Brill NV, pp. 168–191.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1163/9789004544109_011


One major work stands out from the large compositional output of émigré composer and pianist Franz Reizenstein (1911–1968), in respect of its close relationship to his personal experience as a refugee, the one-act radio opera Anna Kraus (1952). It was the BBC’s first ‘radio opera’ and the British entry for the 1952 Italia Prize. Remarkably, however, since its first broadcasts, it has never been revived. It is my contention that Anna Kraus represents a stimulating commentary on the experience and trauma of the Holocaust. I trace the opera’s genesis and reception within the context of the composer’s life and contemporary social-political events of the time, and propose that its artistic achievement resides in three main aspects: its contemporary musical language; its innovative form belonging to the emerging genre of ‘radio opera’; and how it is one of the earliest operas to grapple with the theme of the Holocaust and its psychological impact. Its continued relevance in our own time suggests that the opera deserves a long-overdue revival.

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