Out of Darkness: Two Remain (2016) is an opera in two acts with libretto by Gene Scheer, based in part on the true stories of two Holocaust survivors: the Polish dissident Krystyna Zywulska (1914-1993) and the gay German Jew, Gad Beck (1923-2012). Source material for the libretto includes documents and journals in the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, Zywulska’s I Survived Auschwitz (1946), as well as various interviews, including several from the documentary film Paragraph 175 (directed by Rob Epstein & Jeffrey Friedman).
The opera features five roles for two sopranos, mezzo-soprano, lyric baritone and an actor/baritone. It is scored for six instruments: flute, clarinet, violin, cello, bass and piano. Commissioned by Music of Remembrance (Mina Miller, founder and artistic director), the opera is based on three one-acts by Heggie and Scheer: Another Sunrise, Farewell Auschwitz, and For a Look or a Touch, also commissioned by Music of Remembrance. The commission of Out of Darkness was made possible by a generous award from The National Endowment for the Arts and the Music of Remembrance Commissioning Circle.
World Premiere: May 22, 2016 at Illsley Ball Nordstrom Recital Hall at Seattle’s Benaroya Hall.
ACT ONE: “KRYSTYNA”
Her Jewish identity hidden, Krystyna Zywulska was a political prisoner at Auschwitz-Birkenau. In secret, she composed lyrics to inspire fellow prisoners, even as she carried out her harrowing job in the Effektenkammer: cataloguing the personal effects of thousands of women and children before they were murdered in the gas chambers next door. Many years after the war, she is asked by a journalist to share her stories and record them on a tape player. Haunted and helped by the ghosts of her past – Zosha, Manfred, and her younger self, Krysia – she struggles to find the words.
ACT TWO: “GAD”
Gad Beck’s first true love was the poet Manfred Lewin, who was 19 when he and his entire family were murdered in Auschwitz. In the many years since the war, Gad has tried his best to forget what happened, but he keeps the book of Manfred’s original poems close by. As an old man, he is visited by Manfred’s ghost one night. As Manfred implores Gad to remember and celebrate their love, the painful truth of their stories and fates emerges. It is estimated that more than 100,000 men and women were imprisoned for homosexuality during the Holocaust; it is not known how many thousands were murdered. Even after the war was over, Paragraph 175, the German law prohibiting homosexuality, remained in effect until 1969.
|Krystyna Zywulska||Caitlin Lynch, soprano|
|Krysia||Ava Pine, soprano|
|Zosha||Catherine Cook, mezzo-soprano|
|Manfred||Michael Mayes, baritone|
|Gad Beck||Robert Orth, baritone|
ORIGINAL PRODUCTION TEAM
|Lighting and Scenic Design||Matthew Antaky|
|Media Design||David Murakami|
|Production and Stage Manager||Laura Anderson|
One or more recordings have been made. (Here is a Search for them.) Rental Sheet Music, Scores, Parts and Performance Materials are available from billholabmusic.com.