Breathing new life into the works of composers who have experienced oppression

An upcoming opera concert featuring a collection of works by composers who were suppressed by 20th-century fascist regimes will be presented at the Broad Stage in Santa Monica. The concert, “Journey Out of Darkness”, is part of the Numi Opera season.

There will be performances of songs by Erich Korngold, Franz Schrecker, Erwin Schulhoff, Viktor Ullmann, Kurt Weill and Alexander Zemlinsky – all of whom had first-hand experience with the terror of the Nazis. The show’s slogan is “to breathe new life into the works of composers who have suffered oppression”. Most of the works performed were composed during tumultuous times.

Numi Opera Theater founder Gail Gordon curated the show as a way to showcase the artistry and emotion of these performers along with the memory of her mother.

“There are a lot of composers [who] represent what I feel,” Gordon told the Journal. “My story goes through my mother.”

Gordon’s mother was a refugee who came to the United States from eastern Poland in 1938, just before the invasion. Her mother told her stories of her upbringing and her family’s struggle to survive the Nazi invasion. His mother was the daughter of a cantor and a singer; Gordon was a cantor for six years at Temple Judea in Tarzana.

The show has an even more special meaning for Gordon, since it is performed on the heels of the invasion of Ukraine. His mother was born 50 kilometers from Lviv, a hub of Jewish life.

“With everything going on in the making of the show, Ukraine is always on my mind, because that’s where my family is from,” she said.

“Journey Out of Darkness” will be Numi Opera’s first performance since its inception in 2019. Even as the world slowly opened up in 2020 and 2021, opera performances came to a standstill due to local regulations.

“Opera wasn’t allowed in the first year because of the air compression that comes out when you’re a singer,” Gordon said.

There was more concern that opera audiences are vulnerable because the performers are the instruments – and they are very powerful in unleashing the talent within them. For indoor opera performances, singers are rarely put on the microphone.

Gordon began producing opera over 20 years ago. She spent many years teaching vocal performance before starting Santa Monica College’s opera program in 2008. When the program moved to the Broad, Gordon began to focus on creating music that honored history. from his mother.

“It was a kind of marriage between the story of my mother and these composers [who] either were killed in Auschwitz or had to stop writing because the Nazis arrived. –Gail Gordon

“I became familiar with these composers who were suppressed by the Nazi regime,” she said. “So it was kind of a marriage between my mother’s story and these composers [who] either were killed in Auschwitz or had to stop writing because the Nazis arrived.

The recital program will include opera, string quartets and piano. Although the program notes contain harrowing stories about each piece performed, Gordon encourages audiences to read the program notes only after watching the show.

“I think it’s more important to hear the music, to hear what the composer is doing with the music and [see] what kind of emotional relationship you have with him,” Gordon said.

One of the “Journey Out of Darkness” sopranos, Shana Blake Hill, likened the rehearsal and performance of the music to an archaeological dig at Holocaust history through music. Hill told the Journal that she hopes there will be greater appreciation for the resurrection of musical pieces that could easily have been lost forever.

“I hope you’ll give it just a little space in your awareness that it doesn’t just exist with Strauss and Wagner and
Puccini and Mozart,” Hill said. “There are many other voices that complete the picture of this human experience and tone.”

“Journey Out of Darkness” plays for one night only on Sunday, May 29 at 7:00 p.m. The Broad Stage in Santa Monica. Tickets are now on sale at

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