Heggie's Holocaust operas see Canadian premiere Photo: Jim Roe.

Heggie's Holocaust operas see Canadian premiere

Jenna Simeonov

On February 10 and 11, the new Toronto-based Electric Bond Opera Ensemble presents the Canadian premiere of two one-act operas by Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer, Farewell, Auschwitz and Another Sunrise.

Another Sunrise is based on the life of Krystyna Żywulska, the Polish dissident, writer, and survivor of Auschwitz. Żywulska wrote poetry about her daily life in Auschwitz, and her work was disseminated by fellow prisoners; Farewell, Auschwitz is an “imagined setting” of her verses, translated by Scheer from the original Polish.

“Gene Scheer and I found her fascinating, and the perfect subject to explore in a one-act,” says Heggie of Żywulska. “She survived Auschwitz by writing lyrics that went viral through the camp…Everyday stories of hope and defiance that went secretly through the camp, to tunes that people might have known.”

“What we wanted to explore in these pieces is, what it is to survive when you’re not necessarily doing heroic things, you’re just surviving,” he says of his Holocaust-themed one-acts. “What Krystyna had to do in order to survive was not heroic, it was horrifying.”

Krystyna Żywulska and composer Jake Heggie.

Electric Bond Opera Ensemble’s production of Farewell, Auschwitz and Another Sunrise is staged by Aaron Willis (Soulpepper, Theatre Passe Muraille), and music director Michael Shannon (Tapestry Opera, Canadian Opera Company) leads singers Sara Schabas, Georgia Burashko, and Sean Watson. For Heggie, this Canadian premiere is “a tremendous honour, and a huge surprise.”

“I choose stories that make me feel changed,” he adds. “If I feel changed in the studio somehow, maybe there’s a chance when it gets out in front of people, they will feel changed and touched somehow too.”

(l-r) Aaron Willis, Michael Shannon, and Sara Schabas in rehearsal. Photo: Jim Roe.

Electric Bond Opera Ensemble presents Farewell, Auschwitz and Another Sunrise at 8pm on February 10, and 2pm on February 11, at Toronto’s Beth Tzedec Congregation. For details and ticket information, visit anothersunrise.ca or call 416-781-3511.

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