Friday, April 23, 2010

Revisiting An Old Friend

I am revisiting an old friend.

Long Beach Opera will present one peformance of "The Diary of Anne Frank" on Saturday, May 15, 2010 at the Barclay Theater in Irvine, CA.  Reviews of our 2007 performances were excellent:

" emotional tour de force. [Maljian's] singing was commanding and brilliant, fresh and strong from beginning to end...this production functioned on an authentically high level. Mitisek conducted with authority and his nine piece ensemble was exceptional." - The Los Angeles Times

I picked up the music at the opera office today. I am grateful to see that most of my original markings remain, even though the rental music has traveled around the world since last I saw it. It is a bittersweet reunion.

The music is challenging and powerful. Ani Maldjian (last seen as Madame Mao in LBO's Nixon In China) is stunning as the young Anne Frank. The most moving part of the whole production, however, is Holocaust survivor Laura Hillman.

Director/Conductor Andreas Mitisek and Laura Hillman
Upon first meeting Laura, it is hard to grasp that this elegant, friendly woman survived 7 concentration camps. During the course of the opera, as she reads excerpts from her book I Will Plant You A Lilac Tree, one can only begin to grasp the depth of the sheer horror she endured as a Jew in the hands of the Nazis during World War II.

Ani and I had a chance to talk about the difficulty of this opera at the Nixon In China cast party last month. I remarked that I spent the entire first rehearsal with Laura dissolved in tears as I struggled to play my part. After that I had to completely shut out what was happening on stage and focus entirely on the job of playing the flute. Ani said she has to remove herself even as she sings or she'd never be able to perform the role.

Laura is the one who suffers. Unlike Ani and me, she is not a performer. This was her life. She often falls ill after the performances for weeks at a time under the sheer weight of the memories.

If you can, please join us as we revisit this old friend. Hearing directly from a survivor of the Holocaust, one of Oskar Schindler's Jews, will leave you forever changed.  As painful as it may be to be a part of this evening, you will not regret it.


Jack Steiner said...

That sounds like quite an experience. I'll have to look into it.

FlutePrayer said...

Jack-This is LBO's third time with this production. The previous two were done in parking garages at Sinai Temple and Long Beach City Hall. We've never done it in a theater before. Laura is in her 80's. I'm not sure how much longer she will be able to continue doing this. Hope you can be there.