Asked Friday how he felt about the wrongs done to him, Zavel said: "I know neither revenge nor hate."
The opera itself was more of an oratory. Backlit in gloomy purple and red, and accompanied by strings, flute, percussion and a harpsichord, a trio slipped into each other's roles in an allegorical depiction of how all are victims and perpetrators.
Thus a white-coated doctor embodying "The Law" switched from vocalizing about Sparta's doctrine of letting weak newborns die to singing a child's ditty before moving to the role of "Memory" — singing broken phrases that harken back to the horrific experiences of the victimized children. The two other singers shifted roles accordingly as a narrator dryly recited facts reflecting the atrocities committed.
"On some days, so many children were killed that the orderlies had to pile the little bodies on a wheelbarrow," narrator Karl Sibelius intones in one sequence before reading a letter from a mother addressed to an institute doctor and pleading for the return of her son.
Bass Robert Holzer was "The Law," and sopranos Katerina Beranov and Alexandra Diesterhoeft sang "Memory" and "Children's Song" respectively. All were very solid.
Parliament President Barbara Prammer said the nation could no longer focus only on glorifying its past.
"We can't choose our history," she told The Associated Press.
AP video journalist Philipp Jenne contributed.