Performing Arts: Diary in Song

by patrickmccoy

Soprano Arianna Zukerman chats about her latest project based on “The Diary of Anne Frank.”

By Patrick D. McCoy

Zukerman stars in “Annelies” – the first major choral work based on “The Diary of Anne Frank.”(Photo by Tim Coburn)

It is no secret that Washington is home to many celebrated artists. But more often than not, the accolades of a noted performer come to the attention of the local audience when a major triumph is celebrated elsewhere. WL Performing Arts caught up with Washington-based soprano Arianna Zukerman to chat about her international travels, a recent recording project celebrating the legacy of shero Anne Frank and her life at home.

Washington Life: Tell us about your recent travels to Tel Aviv.
Arianna Zukerman: My father asked me to come as soloist for the Mahler Symphony No. 4 and also for the Mozart concert aria “L’amerò, sarò costante” with a violin obbligato, which we have performed now fifteen times. We were supposed to open with these performances in conjunction with the renovation of the concert hall there. Since the renovation ran late, we had the opportunity to work a little more.

WL: You certainly are an established artist in your own right, but what was it like growing up with two famous classical performers, your father, violinist Pinchas Zukerman and mother, flautist Eugenia Zukerman, who most may remember as a classical music correspondent on CBS Sunday Morning?
AZ:  Music was pretty omnipresent, but my parents were very good in keeping the separation between home and work life. It’s a little hard when you are a freelancer to turn off the computer after business hours, but I am learning in my own life how important that is, to make sure that there is time when it is not about career or music. I am working on that with my own family, especially with my daughter who is 18-months-old, to make sure that I have that seperation also.

WL: You participated in the recording of  a large work based on” The Diary of Anne Frank,” which was recently released.  Can you share with us how that resonated with you  and your Jewish faith?
AZ: I became involved with the project in 2009 through my dear friend Daniel Hope. He asked me to come to The Hague to sing the work on what would have been Anne Frank’s 80th birthday. So, because of that performance, I already have a feeling of how important it is to continue to tell that story. My grandparents were Holocaust survivors, so I feel, as every Jew does, personally connected to the stories and looking back on it as an event, [I think] how extraordinary her insight was as a young girl. As a Jewish woman myself, I look back on it  and think that it could have been me, it could have been anyone. Because I have a child, I think I feel even more so strongly connected to the legacy of the survivors and the surviving message, which should always be about goodness, kindness and generosity of spirit. Those are all things connected to Holy Week and Passover which is also coming up.  Every time I look at those words I am reminded of how lucky I am and how strong that generation was and I can aspire to it on my very best day, if I have even an inkling of the strength to persevere under such difficult circumstances. The beauty of the actual words of the diary being set to music is that it is able to be expressed in a language that makes it even more universal.

WL: Though this work is specific to Anne Frank, do you see the possibility of it being performed to broader concert audiences?
AZ:  In fact, the trip overseas started with a trip to the Ravinia Festival in Chicago where they were launching a winter season. The instrumentalists from the recording and I performed it there with the Chicago Children’s Choir, which added another element to it because there were children’s voices singing the words of Anne Frank. I don’t know how any of us kept it together. We were all weeping openly in rehearsal. That let me see that there are opportunities to perform the piece widely and have every experience become totally unique. I think that the music stands alone and is quite exceptional. Especially now that we  are [approaching] major anniversaries for World War II and the Frank family specifically, I would hope that it will get performed a lot over the next couple of years. 2014 will be the anniversary of Anne Frank’s 85th birthday, and when I think about it, my grandmother is about to to turn 99. Anne Frank would have been 15 years younger than my grandmother. That is extraordinary!  In thinking about it like that, it was not a long time ago. It is a living history, as we move forward in this country and abroad. We must all remember where we came from and how we got here.

“Annelies” is the first major choral work based on “The Diary of Anne Frank.”  The recording available on Naxos features soprano Arianna Zukerman, The Westminster Voices, The Lincoln Voices and clarinetist Bharat Chandra conducted by James Jordan.  Listen to excerpts or purchase the recording by clicking here.

Recently named among the Forty Under 40 for his contributions to arts and humanities, Patrick D. McCoy received a B.M. in vocal performance from Virginia State University and a M.M. in church music from the Shenandoah Conservatory in Winchester, Va.  He has contributed arts and culture pieces to CBS Washington, The Afro-American Newspaper and the newly published book, “In Spite of the Drawbacks” (Association of Black Women Historians), which includes his chapter on legendary soprano Leontyne Price.  McCoy  has interviewed some of the most acclaimed artists of our  time, including Renée FlemingDenyce Graves, Norman Scribner, Julian Wachner, Christine Brewer and Lawrence  Brownlee.   Listen to these interviews and others  at Blog Talk Radio. McCoy may be reached via email at and on Twitter @PatrickDMcCoy.

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