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World Premiere of Opera, 'Anne Frank'

Pictured above is Anne Frank.

Indiana University Jacobs School of Music Opera Theater will present the world premiere of the first full-scale production of an opera based on “The Diary of a Young Girl”—also known as “The Diary of Anne Frank”—when “Anne Frank,” by Shulamit Ran on a libretto by Charles Kondek, opens March 3, 2023, at Bloomington’s Musical Arts Center.

Professor Arthur Fagen, who was essential in obtaining the rights to the production for the Jacobs School, will conduct, with stage director Crystal Manich, set designer Mark F. Smith and costume designer Linda Pisano.

“Commissioning and creating this work with Shulamit, Charles and the entire artistic team is a hugely meaningful undertaking for our students and Opera Theater,” said Jeremy Allen, Eugene O’Brien Bicentennial Executive Associate Dean and acting general manager of IU Jacobs School of Music Opera and Ballet Theater. “We are capitalizing on both the extraordinary capabilities of the Musical Arts Center and our technical and academic staff, and the special relationship Arthur Fagen has with the family of Anne Frank, to offer a new work to the world and a new experience to our students. Anne’s story should never be forgotten, and we are honored to have this opportunity to create and produce an opera based on her life.”

“We have been trying to get this project off the ground since 2008,” said Fagen, chair of the Department of Orchestral Conducting. “It came into existence as a result of my meeting with Buddy Elias 11 years ago in Basel, Switzerland. Buddy was Anne Frank’s first cousin and grew up with her in Frankfurt before their families parted.

“Otto Frank [Anne’s father] moved his family to Amsterdam, whereas Buddy moved to Basel, where his side of the family survived the war. He was the head of the Anne Frank Fonds in Basel, which gave me and the Atlanta Opera permission to premiere the first mainstage opera production based on her diary, which I knew Shulamit Ran had always wanted to compose. When the management of the Atlanta Opera changed, I saw the opportunity of bringing it first to IU. There have been chamber operas of a much smaller scope, but we are doing the first large-scale production.”

Fagen’s parents, Rena and Lewis, survived the Holocaust when German industrialist Oskar Schindler added them to his now-famous list of 1,100 Jews he risked his life to save. The story went on to become the Academy Award-winning film “Schindler’s List,” based on the novel by Thomas Keneally and directed by Steven Spielberg.

“Being the son of Schindler’s-list Holocaust survivors has prompted me throughout my career to program works and concerts for the purpose of keeping the memory of the Holocaust alive,” Fagen said. “In this time of rising antisemitism, xenophobia and authoritarian tendencies, it is important to remember what can happen when a government institutes a policy not only of discrimination but of organized genocide, which resulted in the murder of 12 million people. The story of Anne Frank reminds us that we must never forget and must do everything in our power to prevent this from ever happening again.”

“‘Anne Frank’ is one of a number of works I have composed since 1969 that, in one way or another, are concerned with the Holocaust,” said Ran. “It is my personal way of saying ‘Do not forget.’ No work has been more daunting yet exhilarating for me to create than this opera.”

The Jacobs School will offer numerous educational events in conjunction with the premiere, including several public-school presentations and “Rediscovering ‘Anne Frank,’” featuring guest speakers and an artist panel on March 2, 2023.

Each year, January 27 is International Holocaust Remembrance Day. The date commemorates the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp by the Red Army in 1945.

Commissioned by the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, “Anne Frank” is created in cooperation with the Anne Frank Fonds, Actors Fund, New Dramatists and Dramatists Guild Fund.



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