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The Diary of Anne Frank was brought in its entirety from the New York City based New Encompass Opera Theatre, although local musicians formed the nine-member orchestra. It was directed by founding Artistic Director Nancy Rhodes and conducted by Sybille Werner, with a clever and versatile set design by Charles Townsend Wittreich Jr.

Grigori Frid, of Moscow, first read Anne's diary in 1969, and almost immediately began to write his opera, using selected excerpts to tell the story. There was one full production in 1977, before he smuggled the score to America, and since then, it has achieved international performances and acclaim.

In a tour de force portrayal, Dunja Pechstein virtually became the teenage Anne, beginning with the birthday when she receives the diary. With her dark hair worn in a school-girl type bob and dressed in a white blouse, navy pleated skirt, white anklets and brown oxfords, she appeared to be the twelve to fourteen-year old Anne, in an amazing performance. She was perfect in the mannerisms and seating habits of a young girl. Her soprano voice was agile, yet strong enough to be heard over the sometimes somewhat clangorous orchestra.

Dunja Pechstein (Anne Frank) in Encompass New Opera Theatre's production of 'The Diary of Anne Frank' by Grigori Frid, presented by Cleveland Opera. Opening night, 9 June 2004, Ohio Theater, Playhouse Square. Photo © Roger Mastroianni
Dunja Pechstein (Anne Frank) in Encompass New Opera Theatre's production of 'The Diary of Anne Frank' by Grigori Frid, presented by Cleveland Opera. Opening night, 9 June 2004, Ohio Theater, Playhouse Square. Photo © Roger Mastroianni

After Anne is sent off to the concentration camp (the same two Nazi soldiers reappeared to roust the attic's occupants out of their safe space) she writes less, but loses none of her optimism. Amazingly, she echoed the same words sung by the Lost Child in the earlier work -- 'the world is still beautiful ...' At the end, as a huge Star of David is projected onto the rear wall of the set, Anne finds a candle at its base, and lighting it, she moves slowly around the stage, until finally she walks off, head up and alone, into the golden light.

Copyright © 12 June 2004 Kelly Ferjutz, Cleveland USA

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Two further performances of these two one-act operas - The Diary of Anne Frank and Come to Me in Dreams - take place this weekend - Saturday 12 June 2004 at 8pm and Sunday 13 June at 2pm. For information or tickets, visit www.clevelandopera.org or call +1 (216) 575 0903.

Read Kelly Ferjutz' preview article for further information and artist photos.

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