The Dybbuk
Composer: Solomon Epstein
Librettist: Solomon Epstein
Other Artistic Personnel: Rachel Michaeli, Producer-Director; Ronen Borshevsky, Conductor; Irit Rov-Levi, Pianist; Afif Edriss, Lighting Designer; Devori Topaz, Costume Designer; Hadassah Ben-Haim, Yiddish Diction Coach
Original Cast: Camilla Griehsel, soprano (Leah); Berakha Kol, mezzo-soprano (Fradeh); Yossi Aridan, tenor (Khonnon); David Zavah, baritone (Rabbi); Avi Yassinovsky, tenor (Hennokh); Murray Gross, baritone (Sender)
Premiere Date: April 28, 1999
Producing Company: Operah Nodedet
Description: In a remote, rural, 19th-century Russian-Jewish village, where it is the custom for parents to arrange marriages, a young man, Khonnon, and a young woman, Leah, fall deeply in love. Leah's father Sender, the town's rich man, prevents their marriage because he wants his daughter to marry a man from a family of wealth and station. Khonnon, a brilliant but poor student in the rabbinical academy, uses Kabbalistic mysticism to influence the Holy Powers to help him in his goal of marrying Leah. He approaches the Divine Spheres too closely and dies. As the arranged marriage to the bridegroom from a wealthy family is about to take place, Leah suddenly goes wild, rejects the new groom, and begins to sing a chant—it is the voice of Khonnon's ghost that comes out of her. The mysterious Messenger declares to the shocked guests that the bride has been possessed by a dybbuk. Leah's father takes her to a wonder-working Rabbi, who performs a solemn exorcism ritual, commanding the dybbuk to leave the body of Leah and return to the spirit world. The dybbuk—Khonnon's tenor coming from Leah—furiously defies the rabbi, but finally agrees to depart on threat of excommunication. The rabbi leaves to greet the arriving new bridegroom and family and to prepare for Leah's wedding. When the rabbi returns, he finds Leah lying dead—she has joined Khonnon, her destined bridegroom, in Paradise for eternity.
Comments: A second performance was given May 2, 1999 at the Susan Dalal Center for Dance and Theater, Tel Aviv. The opera was produced in an abridged version focusing on the story of the major characters, and with piano only. The Avraham Lerner Foundation confirmed that this is the world's first original opera in Yiddish. To facilitate an American production, the composer has made a singable English translation.
Length: 02:15
Total Acts: 3
Orchestration: Standard orchestra with pf, 7 shofars, off-stage klezmer band
Ballet/Dance: 15-20 Dancers
Musical Style: "Bartókian": authentic Russian-Jewish liturgical, Hassidic, and folk music traditions are used extensively, both melodically and motivically. The harmonic language is dictated by these traditional sources, which provide clear tonal centers. Number O
Contact: Solomon Epstein or Rachel Michaeli, Wandering Opera
Address: 55 Regency Park Drive
Agawam, MA 01001

13 Shprinzak Street
Tel Aviv, Israel 64738
Phone: 413-786-0764
011 972 3 691 8363
330 Seventh Avenue, New York, NY 10001
Tel: 212.796.8620 • Fax: 212.796.8621

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