There are no words

Krystyna Zywulska was a Polish resistance fighter who was captured and sent to Auschwitz.  She took to writing lyrics and setting them to an eclectic mix of tunes as a way of coping with the horror of the camp.  Somehow this was pleasing to the powers that be and she found herself with a relatively soft job processing the possessions of arriving prisoners.  She survived to write a number of memoirs about her experience.  The story is oddly similar to that of Zofia Posmysz, who inspired Weinberg’s The Passenger.  This time the opera is Another Sunrise; a collaboration of Gene Scheer and Jake Heggie commissioned by Music of Remembrance and premiered in 2012.  There’s a companion piece by the same team; Farewell Auschwitz, which sets some of the Zywulska texts, in translation and reworking by Scheer, to a wide range of the kinds of music that Zywulska used.  Last night both pieces got their Canadian premiers in a production by Electric Bond Ensemble at Beth Tzedec directed by Aaron Willis.

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Moby Dick

Jake Heggie’s Moby Dick has been successful in a way few contemporary operas are.  Since its Dallas premiere in 2010 it has been given in Adelaide, Calgary, San Diego and, most recently, San Francisco where it was recorded in 2012.  It’s not hard to see why it has been a success.  The subject is dramatic and has been skilfully compressed into a little over two hours by librettist Gene Scheer and the score steers the fine line between accessibility and triviality.  Add to that a visually appealing production and it’s a winning package.

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