April 5, 2016
Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer, the composer-librettist collaborators who scored worldwide with the opera Moby-Dick, are introducing their fourth work on Holocaust themes commissioned by Music of Remembrance (MOR). Out of Darkness will have its world premiere in the Nordstrom Recital Hall of Benaroya Hall in Seattle on May 22, and then move to the San Francisco Conservatory Concert Hall, May 25 and 26.
Out of Darkness is a two-act opera about Nazi persecution of Jews and gays. The first act, Krystyna, tells the true story of Krystyna Zywulska, whose daring poems became anthems of defiance among her fellow prisoners in Auschwitz. Act Two, Gad, explores the fate of homosexuals during the Holocaust through the experience of Gad Beck and Manfred Lewin, two idealistic young lovers in 1930s Berlin whose love and lives were torn apart under Nazi rule.
The purpose of the project, says the MOR announcement, is "to tell these stories with uncompromising emotional honesty, and with deep compassion that never descends to pathos or sentimentality. Their richly textured music conveys an understanding of those touched by the Holocaust, in all their complicated humanity."
Heggie explains what moves him to create these works about the Holocaust's legacy: "I'm particularly inspired by stories of social justice and the inequities of life, and how we are all connected as human beings despite those inequities."
Soprano Caitlin Lynch appears as the mature Krystyna, soprano Ava Pine sings Krystyna in flashbacks to her youth. Catherine Cook, who has performed more than 50 roles with San Francisco Opera, sings the role of Zosha, Krystyna's friend and fellow prisoner in Auschwitz.
Baritone Robert Orth, for whom Heggie created roles in Dead Man Walking and Moby-Dick, portrays Gad. Baritone Michael Mayes sings the role of Manfred. The production is directed by Erich Parce and conducted by Joseph Mechavich.
Music of Remembrance is a nonprofit organization founded in 1998 by Mina Miller to remember the Holocaust through music. In addition to rediscovering and performing music from that time, MOR has commissioned and premiered more than 20 new Holocaust-inspired works by some of today's leading composers.