An opera's survival of the Holocaust inspired A Journey of the Human Spirit

There are more components than just the original opera involved. How did the klezmer music and ballet come to be?

It's a short, one-act opera, so we decided to create a piece on the second half of the opera. That is From Darkness to Light and it is a combination of a new piece of music written by a Colorado composer [Ofer Ben-Amots] who is Israeli-born and a dance piece created by Garrett Ammon, who is also from Colorado.

The two pieces kind of work together. Prior to that, there will be some early twentieth century klezmer music. The concept of this whole evening is for the viewer to see a beautiful, rich, cultural Jewish life, pre-Holocaust. Then it takes them musically and emotionally through this bad period of time, which is the opera. Out of it comes a hope for a brighter, better, more beautiful future, which is the second piece of music and the dance.

(Prior to tonight's showing) none of us have seen it -- it's brand-new.

When all of these groups were collaborating, did you feel like adding the additional sort of positive result piece because you couldn't just present the opera alone?

Well, there was a practical side of it. The practical side is that there is a fifty-minute opera. So if you're going to ask an audience to come to a program, that's not enough. So when you're going to present this thing, what are you going to put next to it? It's really an emotional, incredible piece of work. You can't just put anything with it.

It took us a year of conversation, and we had all kinds of thoughts and ideas. In the end, we decided that we should do something we create and commission ourselves. We wanted the program to connect; we wanted to continue the story but leave the audience as they leave the performance feeling that there is hope in the world. That when these things happen, there is another side to it -- there is balance.

In the end, this whole thing was about creativity under pressure: How do artists, composers, musicians and writers respond when they are under this amazing amount of pressure? What does creativity look like? That has been a really interesting part of the whole piece.

It's incredible that these composers were able to do something in the realm of humor under the circumstances.

I think so, too. To go to a place and use humor -- I guess it teaches us something. (Ullmann and Kien) both lost their lives and we knew it. I don't remember the exact story, but Ullmann gave this piece of music to someone [Dr. Emil Utiz, a fellow prisoner in the camp, who gave it to Dr. Hans G. Adler, a friend of Ullmann's] because he knew he was going to die. So he hid it away and then gave it to someone in the camp to get it out after the war. They knew what was happening. It wasn't a surprise.

To remain resilient as an artist in the face of death and do it with humor is pretty incredible. And to make sure your work survives -- that's amazing.

In the end, Hitler took away people's religions, and their families and their objects. Everything that made them comfortable, and their lives meaningful. Their whole worlds. But he couldn't take away their creativity. So that is what was left. You can't take away what is inside of a person.

The Journey of the Human Spirit runs tonight, January 16 and tomorrow, January 17, at the Newman Center for the Performing Arts. For more information or to purchase tickets, call 303-871-7715 or visit the venue's website.

Location Info


Newman Center for the Performing Arts

2344 E. Iliff Ave., Denver, CO

Category: Music

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