Opera Colorado will present the world premiere production of STEAL A PENCIL FOR ME, the opera that I wrote with librettist Deborah Brevoort, in January 2018 in Denver. The opera is a love story, full of hope, set during the the dark times of WWII concentration camps. It is based on the book of the same title by Jaap and Ina Polak, whom I knew for more than 25 years, and who had the chance to see the opera in its first semi-staged production in 2013.
Opera Colorado’s production will feature conductor Ari Pelto (music director of the company), stage director Omer Ben Seadia, and a cast led by soprano Inna Dukach, baritone Gideon Dabi, and mezzo Adriana Zabala.
The press release about the Colorado Opera’s production can be read here.
Performances will be:
January 25, 27, 28, 30, 2018
Elaine Wolf Theater at the Robert E. Loup Jewish Community Center
350 S. Dahlia Street, Denver, CO
STEAL A PENCIL FOR ME has previously been performed in the following workshop performances:
•2013: Shaarei Tikvah, Scarsdale NY, and Jewish Theological Seminary, New York, NY: Semi staged concert version of complete opera
•2014: National Opera Center, Opera America, New York, NY: Excerpts of opera
•2016: Fort Worth Opera Frontiers Festival: Excerpts of opera
Photos, video excerpts, audio excerpts and press/testimonials of these performances are currently available. Complete audio, video and scores will be made available upon request.
STEAL A PENCIL FOR ME is a love story set in two concentration camps during World War II. It is based on the true story of Jaap and Ina Polak, whom the composer knew for more than 25 years, and had just celebrated their 100th and 90th birthdays at the time of the 2013 Semi-staged performance, and were in attendance at each performance that year.
The action of the opera takes place in Amsterdam, at Westerbork Transit camp, and at Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp between the years of 1943-1945. Thirty-year old Jaap Polak is unhappily married to Manja, a social butterfly with a sharp tongue. He falls in love with twenty-year old Ina Soep, whose boyfriend, Rudi Acohen, has been seized and deported to Poland by the Nazis. When the husband, his wife, and his new girlfriend are deported to Westerbork, they actually find themselves living in the same barracks. Jaap’s wife objects to the relationship and Jaap and Ina resort to writing secret love letters, which sustain them throughout the horrible circumstances of the war.
Although friends and relatives of theirs, including Rudi, perished in the camps, Jaap and Ina survived the Holocaust. They were married for almost 70 years; Ina died in 2014 and Jaap in 2015. STEAL A PENCIL FOR ME was first written as a book in 2000, featuring their letters and their story. A distinguishing feature of their book of letters is how they allowed the story to unfold; unedited; their shortcomings and faults are just as easy to see as their nobility, and their honesty makes the story compelling and real. The Village Voice wrote that their story “offers a corrective to the sentimental prevailing notion that the Shoah only happened to saints.”
In 2007, STEAL A PENCIL FOR ME was made into a compelling and award-winning documentary feature film by Academy Award® nominee Michèle Ohayon. The Polaks dedicated their lives to teaching about the Holocaust and fighting prejudice. Jaap was one of the founders of the Anne Frank Center USA, and later served as Chairman Emeritus. As Jaap says: “I’m a very special Holocaust survivor. I was in the camps with my wife and my girlfriend; and believe me, it wasn’t easy.”