It’s been nearly three decades since the Berlin Wall fell on Nov. 9, 1989, ushering in a new era for Germany and leading towards the end of the Cold War.
To mark the 30-year anniversary of the momentous occasion, the Polaris Centre for the Performing Arts in Balzac will host a Nov. 7 concert featuring some of Alberta’s most recognized opera singers. The performance, An die Freiheit (translation “to Freedom,” in German), will highlight the operatic singing of Kathleen Morrison, Barbara King, Oliver Munar and Adam Brousseau, as well as Carlos Foggin on piano.
“It’s really going to be a nice evening that isn’t going to be too tough,” said Morrison, a soprano. “You should leave with a really great feeling about your fellow man.”
Though born and raised in Calgary, Morrison has worked as a freelance concert soloist and opera singer in Europe since 2012, performing in countries such as Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France and Italy. While living in Europe, she said, her home base has been Berlin, which she considers her second home.
“The people there are just unbelievably open, accepting, warm and friendly,” she said. “It’s probably one of the most amazing cities in the world.”
Morrison’s experiences while living in Germany’s capital have given her a glimpse into how residents viewed the wall – a concrete barrier that divided Berlin into east and west halves for 28 years.
While the wall itself was a 43-kilometre-long barricade to prevent the defection of East Berlin residents, Morrison added it was also a metaphor.
“It started off as a symbol of oppression and division,” she said. “It grew into this juggernaut of hatred. There was a lot of strife and…horrible human emotions around this symbol.”
Morrison said she was lucky to take part in the official 25th anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall in 2014, by performing in a version of the opera Fidelio. The only opera composed by Ludwig van Beethoven, Fidelio recounts the story of a wife who goes to rescue her husband – a political prisoner during the French Revolution.
According to Morrison, the piece was a poignant choice for that occasion, considering the opera’s themes reflected the emotions surrounding the wall’s demise.
“The reaction I was seeing from the audience, my fellow colleagues and even people on the street when I talked to them – it was so moving,” she said. “It was truly such a beautiful existence of unity, peace and celebration.
“You didn’t even have to know the person beside you, who was celebrating this thing – you just had a common bond and it was so unbelievable.”
It was that experience that motivated Morrison to bring something similar to Alberta. When she learned she would be in Calgary for the 30th anniversary, she decided to organize a performance.
“When I brought together my colleagues who will be singing and performing in this concert, we had a good conversation about what happened [in Berlin], what the wall was, and what the people there experienced,” she said.
“We had a conversation about the whole gamut of what the wall stood for when it went up…and what it stands for now that it’s gone.”
Like with Fidelio back in 2014, Morrison said the pieces featured in An die Freiheit will reflect similar themes and moods that surrounded the Berlin Wall being torn down. The selected compositions are intended to induce a range of emotions from the despair of never seeing someone again, to the pure joy of being reunited with a loved one.
Morrison added each piece will come with a video explanation from the artists, outlining why it was chosen.
“Some of [the songs] might surprise the audience a little bit, but they all tie in with the emotions of what happened,” she said.
Even for audiences who have not experienced a classical performance, and those not familiar with Berlin’s political history, Morrison encourages people to attend.
“The concert itself is in classical format, but it’s not going to be boring and stuffy. We have translations for all of the words that are going to be displayed, so you can see what we’re saying, in English,” she said.
“We’re really guiding you through the entire night – it’s not something where you have to come being already educated.”
Tickets to An die Freiheit cost $25 and can be purchased online at polariscentre.ca