SOMETHING TO LIVE FOR
Opera in Two Acts
Vocal parts: 3 mezzos, 2 sopranos, 2 tenors, 1 bass-baritone, mixed chorus.
Libretto: Ronnie Reshef and Jennie Contuzzi-Trigo
Premiere: JCC New-York, April 2013; Sam McCoy, conductor; Rachel Arky, mezzo-soprano (concert version)
Production history: Fort-Worth Opera Frontiers (2014); Boston Metro Opera Main Stage Award; partiallydeveloped at American Opera Projects; American Prize finalist.
It is January 27th 1945, the day of liberation of Auschwitz Birkenau, a concentration camp in Nazi Germany. Alina, a thirty-two year old prisoner, cannot celebrate with the other liberated prisoners – her eight year old son, Yashke, was taken from her upon arrival to the camp, nine months earlier. Now, she is determined to find him.
While debriefed by American officers, Alina tells her war story, starting at the transport nine months earlier, until this day of liberation. In her story, which constitutes the heart of the opera, we hear stories of Yashke and their forced separation, of Alina’s fellow prisoners, and of the cruelty of the Nazis. We enter the mind and body of a woman who was imprisoned and tortured only because of her race, and experience her distress as she must survive the daily horrors of the war in order to reunite with Yashke, who she prays for every day.
On one hand, Alina feels that she must survive solely to be there for Yashke when the war is over, and on the other hand, Yashke’s constant presence in her thoughts is the only thing that keeps her from giving up and surrendering to death, which waits around every corner. The thoughts of Yashke drive this story: a painful, moving, historic, and human document.
Although the libretto was written as fiction, each of the events it describes is based on testimonies and diaries that remained from the war, hundreds of which constitute the foundations of Something to Live For.