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ANOTHER SUNRISE &

FOR A LOOK OR A TOUCH

January 31st & February 1st, 2025

BCO proudly presents a free-to-the-public double bill of two profoundly moving American operas centered on the true experiences of two Holocaust survivors.

BCO Heggie Promo.jpg

Sung in English

Approximate run time: 1 hour and 20 minutes

(includes 15 minute intermission)

By arrangement with Bent Pen Music, Inc., publisher and copyright holder

Bill Holab Music: Sole Agent

Based on the harrowing real-life stories of Krystyna ZywulskaGad Beck and Manfred Lewin.

These works were originally commissioned by Music of Remembrance.

Tickets available August 2024

SYNOPSES

Another Sunrise

 

Another Sunrise tells the story of Krystyna Zywulska ("Krysia"), born Sonia Landau, a Jewish woman who escaped the Warsaw ghetto, changed her name, joined the Polish resistance, and who was ultimately captured and sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau. In 1945, she was able to escape the camp and survive, going on to write about her experiences (the most notable memoir being I Survived Auschwitz). While imprisoned, she hid her true Jewish identity and was instead classified as a political prisoner. She became known as the "camp poet," sharing her poetry throughout the camp to boost morale and to inspire prisoners to persevere until liberation came. Starving and on the brink of death, a well-positioned older prisoner who was inspired by her poetry petitioned to have her sent to Birkenau and to be given one of the few positions in the Effektenkammer.

 

 

The opera opens with Krystyna at her home, late at night, as she is attempting to record her experiences on a tape recorder after having been asked for an interview. She painfully recalls how it was her job to receive the prisoners from their transports, sort them into groups, and then take their belongingsall while knowing what horrific fate soon awaited them. Filled with guilt, she remembers having to use force and cruelty in order to keep herself alive and safe. She tells the story of how she risked her life to steal her dying friend a cup of warm water, and shares the time she took her mother and her husband on a visit to Auschwitz after the war. She sadly recounts the words her husband told her: "Krysia, nothing is there. Only grass. What happened exists only in your head now."

As the light of morning begins to filter through the window, the sting of survivor's guilt comes over her once again.  She numbly comments that she has just seen another sunrise before turning off the recorder.

For a Look or a Touch

For A Look Or A Touch tells the true story of Gad Beck and Manfred Lewin, two Jewish teenage lovers torn apart by the Holocaust. The lyrics and text of the opera are taken directly from the journal of Manfred Lewin and from Paragraph 175,  a documentary film featuring the stories of gay holocaust survivors.

The opera begins with Gad, now an elderly man. He is attempting to sleep when he is roused by the entity of his former lover, Manfred, who will forever be nineteen years old. Gad expresses to this apparition that seeing him is too hard, and that the memory of him is too difficult after all these years. The only object that Gad had kept to remember him by was his book of poetry. 

Manfred recites some of his poetry for Gad. Gad, now cynical in his old age, rejects these poetic notions, finding them too painful. Manfred sings of falling stars and moments when hope seemed lost. He expresses that all they had was each other, and how the trains took away the stars. Gad recollects how terrifying those years were. 

Manfred then recounts the story of his homosexual friend, Joe, who was tortured to death by the Nazis. He was forced to wear a bucket on his head while being brutally torn apart by dogs. 

Gad recalls that homosexuals were still considered criminals even after the war. 

Gad remembers when he himself was later arrested and imprisoned. Homosexuals were forced to wear Paragraph 175 in large letters on their jackets; later, their identifier became the pink triangle. He tells of the hard labor he had to endure at the camp, all the while asking, “why?”​ Manfred recalls “The Singing Forest," where homosexuals were forcibly suspended from tall poles by their arms and left to hang there. 

Gad tells the story of his brave attempt to escape Germany with Manfred. He had stolen a Hitler Youth Uniform to disguise himself, and was able to reach Manfred before he was deported. He remembers the heartbreaking moment that Manfred refused to escape with him, telling him that he didn't want to leave his family.

Gad and Manfred once again sing of the love that they have for each other. Gad expresses his readiness to finally leave this world with his lover. In the end, they depart together, hand in hand. 

"Work in the Effektenkammer — storage facilities for personal effects confiscated from arriving prisoners — was considered among the best in the camp. Prisoners assigned to this type of labour squad were safeguarded against harsh physical labor outdoors and had ample opportunity to illegally obtain food, clothing and other valuables. They slept in smaller barracks, were allowed to wear civilian clothes and grow their hair and were released from both roll-calls and selections. Yet for all of their privilege, the Effektenkammer workers, located adjacent to the crematorium, could not escape the sight, screams and stench of the relentless, daily mass killings taking place just a few yards away." (From Music and the Holocaust)

"'Gad, I can’t go with you. My family needs me. If I abandon them now, I could never be free.'  No smile, no sadness. He had made his decision. We didn’t even say goodbye. He turned around and went back. In those seconds, watching him go, I grew up."

 

Gad Beck describing the moment his lover Manfred Lewin chose to return to his family, to be deported to their deaths at Auschwitz

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