Hannibal Lecter lives upstairs

Posted on Dec 1st, 2011 by Jeanne Golan

Actors, musicians, photographers, writers, my apartment building is full of artists of all kinds.  So I was particularly delighted when my upstairs neighbor shot me an email last week inviting me to see him in his new role – Hannibal Lecter!  A musical parody of the movie Silence of the Lambs was heading into an extended run in the East Village.   Raunchy, ridiculous fun so fancifully done on a shoestring budget.  Watching his performance, Lecter as a song and dance man, I was struck by how menacing and yet endearing he made this character.  In that moment, to think we share the same hot water pipes – a little creepy…

On the flip side, this is the same person I caught humming Ullmann tunes in the hallway while waiting for the elevator, having heard my practicing through the walls for months.  There’s a special energy in the air when artists live in close proximity to each other – sometimes even more so when we’re from different disciplines.   While I know many a composer who relies on artist colonies to find the inspiration that comes from the mix of privacy and co-mingling, I’ve often been glad that it’s part of the fabric of my daily creative life.

That Viktor Ullmann sought out similar circumstances makes intuitive sense to me.  Alice Sommers told me that while they both lived in Prague, he never missed an opportunity to join in the weekly Sunday musicales at her home.   Once interned at Terezin, he determined to create as much of an arts colony experience as possible for himself and others.  Forced to live in close quarters and bad conditions beyond imagining, it seemed to fuel his resolve that a life worth living requires artistic expression.  He embraced his own composing, and also oversaw the assigning of rehearsal rooms for various performing ensembles and theatrical productions, wrote concert reviews for a modest weekly publication, even began a new music series so the younger composers could have their pieces performed.  A truly good citizen in the arts community – to keep the tones of such a man resonating in the walls of my pre-war building also makes intuitive sense to me.

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