Out of Darkness
Jake Heggie (Music); Gene Scheer (Libretto)
|The Cast of Out of Darkness|
Two victims who somehow withstood the tortures of Holocaust death camps and who have done all they can to silence in their minds those horrors are revisited late in life by the ghosts of those friends and lovers who did not survive. The apparitions bring the two a singular message: “Remember.” Each resists returning to those horrible days and seeing the faces of those long lost; but both discover they can no longer ignore the memory of such pleas as “Do not forget us when you are older.”
|Ava Pine, Caitlin Lynch, Michael Mayes & Catherine Cook|
With a voice that floats effortlessly in soft remembrance and then expands to reveal depths of emotion as the reality of those memories become clearer, Caitlin Lynch as Krystyna is astonishing and arresting as both singer and actor. She agonizes in a voice beautiful and in expressions so telling as she sings, “The words of a survivor are like stars in the sky ... There will always be more darkness than light.” As she sings in anguished, moving tones in harmony with her younger self (Ava Pine as Krysia), pieces of that past begin once again to emerge for both of them. “Amid the screams, the cries, and the stench, I could always find the words,” she tells the young Krysia.
|Zosha (Catherine Cook) & Krysia (Ava Pine) in Duet|
Manfred Lewin, another teen who dies at the hands of Auschwitz murderers, reminds Krstyna that “a survivor is not a hero ... a survivor is just a survivor.” With his eyes closed in painful recalling, Michael Mayes voices Krystyna’s memories of him and what he and others like him suffered. He does so in a majestic baritone that rises from tortuous depths to a volume that startles and then backs off effortlessly, leaving in the air a memory now silenced no more.
|Michael Mayes as Manfred & Robert Orth as Gad|
But like Kyrstyna, Gad at first wants nothing of such memories. Robert Orth is the stubborn Gad who will speak with his lingering German accent in response to the sung promptings of the returned Manfred. “You want me to remember, Darling ... I have done everything I can to forget,” he says with some impudence and annoyance, trying to whisk away with the flip of his hand the specter before him. But a recalling of “those golden years,” when “with a look or a touch ... a wink or a nod or a glance” two men in a club would know, just know that there was a possible match – with that memory he gives in and begins a trip with Manfred through both happy and horrific recollections of their short life together and of what happened to each after Manfred’s disappearance.
|Michael Mayes as Manfred|
Robert Orth, himself an accomplished baritone, never sings in “Gad,” but he is superb in his acting ability as he sensitively, sincerely portrays Gad Beck. When he finally succumbs to the fonder part of his memories of Manfred and puts aside for a moment the guilt, pain, and even anger associated with losing him, his Gad is heartbreaking in his pleas for Manfred not to leave until they have had one more dance.
Finally, like the principals themselves who bring such proven talent to bear in these portrayals, Joseph Mechavich conducts with mastery an orchestra of six, each of whom plays beautifully, emotionally Jake Heggie’s poignant score. Each instrument has moments to speak its own truth and passion in recalling this important past; and together, they blend in a sound that sinks deep into one’s soul.
Founded in 1998, Music of Remembrance is fulfilling a unique role in recalling the Holocaust and so many of its stories through the power of music. This shared world premiere of Out of Darkness being staged only one night in Seattle and two nights here at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music will hopefully make its way onto many more stages across the globe. The stories of Kystyna and Gad, of Manfred, Krysia and Zosha must be told again and again and never forgotten.
Rating: 5 E
Out of Darkness finishes its world premiere tonight, May 25, 2016 at the Caroline H. Hume Concert Hall of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Information about this performance and other offerings of the Conservatory is available online at https://sfcm.edu. Information about this and other programs of Music of Remembrance is available at http://www.musicofremembrance.org/.