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Eternal optimism

KELLY FERJUTZ reviews the Anne Frank
double bill at Cleveland Opera


One of the definitions of the word 'celebrate' is: to observe a notable occasion with festivities. Certainly this week's double-bill from Cleveland Opera is exactly that, honoring as it does, the seventy fifth anniversary of the birth of Anne Frank. A German-Jewish teenager, she spent the last few years of her life crowded with six others into an attic in Amsterdam, before a betrayal to the Nazis sent them off to concentration camps. Three months before her sixteenth birthday in 1945, Anne died of typhus at Bergen-Belsen.

What is important about this young woman, and why we remember her, is her eternal optimism and belief in humanity. She was given a diary for her twelfth birthday, and kept it faithfully as long as she could. First published in 1947, it has since been translated into sixty seven languages, becoming one of the most widely read books in the world.

David Bamberger, Founding Director of Cleveland Opera, wanted to honor Anne's life on this milestone occasion. He knew of the mono-drama, The Diary of Anne Frank, by the Russian composer Grigori Frid, but it was hardly long enough at just over one hour in length to occupy an entire evening. Not finding a suitable companion piece, he created one -- Come to Me in Dreams -- which had its world première on Wednesday 9 June 2004 in Cleveland's Ohio Theatre.

Utilizing various art songs by composer Lori Laitman, Mr Bamberger devised a work for three singers and one silent actress, while keeping the three instrumental collaborations originally specified by the composer. There is no spoken narrative, but none is needed. The concept works brilliantly. Ms Laitman had put music (for soprano and saxophone) to several poems by children who had been interred at the Terezin deportation camp, I Never Saw Another Butterfly. Another song cycle Holocaust, 1944 was for baritone and double bass. There were also other songs that she had written, some with a connection to the holocaust. As Mr Bamberger listened to these songs, he realized that by pulling the cycles apart and rearranging them, a slight narrative emerged. It's enough.

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Copyright © 12 June 2004 Kelly Ferjutz, Cleveland USA


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