Opera in Two Acts based on the stories of two Holocaust survivors: Krystyna Zywulska and Gad Beck. (Duration: each act is approx. 45 minutes in length) Heggie & Scheer explored these stories in three previous one-act stage works (Another Sunrise; Farewell, Auschwitz; and For A Look or a Touch) and combined them into a full-evening work. Source material for the libretto includes documents and journals in the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, Zywulska’s I Survived Auschwitz (1946), as we all as various interviews, including several from the documentary film Paragraph 175 (directed by Rob Epstein & Jeffrey Friedman).
The opera features roles for 7 performers (3 sopranos, 2 mezzo-sopranos, 1 baritone and 1 actor) with an ensemble of six instruments (flute, clarinet, violin, cello, bass and piano).
The opera was commissioned by Music of Remembrance (Mina Miller, founder and artistic director) through a generous award by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Music of Remembrance Commissioning Circle. Premiere: May 22, 2016 at Illsley Ball Nordstrom Recital Hall in Benaroya Hall, Seattle WA, directed by Erich Parce and conducted by Joseph Mechavich. Premiere of revised opera and official professional opera company world premiere: Atlanta Opera, April 5, 2018, directed by Tomer Zvulun and conducted by Joseph Mechavich.
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 store. 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 – Zosia, Edka, Mariola 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.