An Opera in Yiddish by Henekh Kon
Ashkenaz 2022 will feature the North American premiere of Henekh Kon’s “Bas-Sheve,” the only known pre-Holocaust Yiddish opera. Never performed after its 1924 premiere in Warsaw, and then only with piano accompaniment, the work was forgotten for decades before the only known existing manuscript of the piece was unearthed by German musicologist Dr. Diana Matut in 2017. The rediscovered work was also missing a number of pages from the climactic portion of the story. Matut enlisted renowned Toronto-based Yiddishist, Michael Wex, to complete the libretto with additional Yiddish texts. American klezmer musician and composer Joshua Horowitz was simultaneously engaged to orchestrate the entire piece and fill in the missing musical portions. Six new movements were eventually inserted into the score, along with additional transitions and choral parts, in order to complete it as a seamless opera. The newly re-constructed work was premiered to great acclaim in August 2019 as part of Germany’s Yiddish Summer Weimar festival.
Now, Ashkenaz will present a brand new concert production of Bas Sheve, directed by Neal Stulberg and featuring the UCLA Philharmonia, with soloists Jaclyn Grossman, Jonah Spungin, Marcel d’Entremont and Geoffrey Schellenberg. Produced through a tri-national partnership between Ashkenaz, Yiddish Summer Weimar and the UCLA Lowell Milken Center for Music of American Jewish Experience, with the support of the Canada Council for the Arts, Azrieli Foundation, Toronto Workmen’s Circle Foundation, Glenn Gould School at RCM, and the UJA Committee for Yiddish.