Opera Scotland

Letter The Letter

Music

Vitaly Khodosh

Text

Bernard MacLaverty

Source

Life and Fate (Chapter 18) by Vitaly Grossman.

 

Premières

First Performance: Aberdeen (Elphinstone Hall, University), 15 May 2010.

Scottish Opera première: As above.

 

Background

This short opera was, justifiably, staged last of the five new works in the final set of Five:15s. The scale of the piece would have justified this, since it was the only work that provided roles for all the participants in the series - even doubling parts. In addition, a huge amount seemed to be crammed into the fifteen minutes - in other words, the piece seemed much  longer, but was gripping from start to finish, making a serious and thought-provoking endpiece to a superbly worthwhile three-year project.

 

Characters

Anna Semyonovna (mezzo-soprano)

Shchukin, a Russian (bass)

Mrs Sperling (soprano)

Dr Sperling (bass-baritone)

Epstein (baritone)

Neighbour (soprano)

Younf Peasant Girl (mezzo-soprano)

Young Man (tenor)

Young Girl (soprano)

 

Programme Note

In June 1941, German tanks cross the Soviet border into Ukraine. Anna Semyonovna is an eye-doctor in a small town, her son Vitya a scientist in Moscow.This letter is the mother's final chance to share her last days, her fears and her love with her son. Feeling an alien in her own land as she hears the cries of 'Juden kaput!', she tells of neighbours turning against neighbours, of the generosity of strangers, of collaborators, and of youngsters with no future.

The Jews of the town, herded behind the barbed wire, fight to survive and hope for the best, but the rumours grow: the trenches they have been made to dig in the nearby forest are to be their own graves.

An ancient chant of 'Sch'ma...' ('Hear ye...') begins and ends the opera.

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