Steal a Pencil For Me

Artist
Opera Coloradom Ari Pelto (Conductor)
Released
2024 Anticipated
Genre
Opera
AboutCredits

Release date set for August 23, 2024. Learn more and pre-order at Sono Luminus.

Steal a Pencil for Me, by composer Gerald Cohen and librettist Deborah Brevoort, is an opera in two acts about one of the Holocaust’s most unusual love stories—between Jaap Polak, a Dutch accountant, and Ina Soep, the daughter of a wealthy diamond manufacturer—who fell in love while imprisoned in the Westerbork and Bergen-Belsen concentration camps. Based on their love letters, which were published in a book of the same title, Steal a Pencil for Me is about the indestructibility of the life spirit and the power of humankind to survive adversity. The opera dramatizes intimate concerns and private dramas alongside the epic horrors of the Holocaust.

The action of Steal a Pencil for Me takes place in Amsterdam, at Westerbork transit camp, and at Bergen-Belsen concentration camp between the years of 1943-1945. Thirty-year old Jaap Polak is unhappily married to Manja, a capricious woman with a sharp tongue. He falls in love with 20-year old Ina Soep, whose boyfriend, Rudi Acohen, has been seized and deported to Poland by the Nazis. When Jaap, Manja, and Ina are deported to Westerbork, they actually find themselves living in the same barracks. Jaap’s wife objects to the relationship, and Jaap and Ina resort to writing secret love letters, which sustain them throughout the horrible circumstances of the war. Rudi appears onstage in the opera in Ina’s mind, as she gradually reconciles herself to her grief over losing him.

Gerald Cohen knew Jaap and Ina for over 25 years, and was inspired to write the opera after hearing their story and reading their letters. He and Deborah Brevoort met with them many times in the process of writing the libretto, and Jaap and Ina were present at the first workshop of the opera in celebration of Jaap’s 100th and Ina’s 90th birthdays.

Steal a Pencil for Me was given its premiere production in 2018 by Opera Colorado. The album, recorded in Denver in 2022, features most of the central performers of the Opera Colorado production, with Ari Pelto as conductor, and (in the principal vocal roles) Gideon Dabi as Jaap, Inna Dukach as Ina, and Adriana Zabala as Manja.

Learn more about the opera here.

Ari Pelto, Conductor
Sahar Nouri, Chorusmaster

CAST

Gideon Dabi                      Jaap Polak
Inna Dukach                      Ina Soep
Adriana Zabala                 Majna Soep
Kira Dills-Desurra           Lisette
Daniel McGrew                Rudi Acohen
Andrew Garland              Abraham Soep
Ricardo Rivera                  Commandant
Thomas Lynch                  Nazi Guard I
Phillip Lopez                      Nazi Guard II

CHORUS

Allen Adair
Deborah Anderson
Daniela Guzmán Éqüez
Jennifer Harpel
Justin Kerr
Bella Mallow
Zeky Nadji
Madison Williams
Joshua Zabatta 

ORCHESTRA

Byron Hitchcock                          Violin/Concertmaster
Takanori Sugishita                       Violin
Matthew Dane                               Viola
Michael Brook                               Viola
Andrew Klob                                  Cello
David Crowe                                   Bass
Susan Townsend                          Flute/Piccolo
Sarah Bierhaus                             Oboe/English Horn
Michelle Orman                            Clarinet
Heidi Mendenhall                        Bass Clarinet
Charles Hanson                            Bassoon
Michael Yopp                                 French Horn
Peter Cooper                                 Timpani/Percussion
Sahar Nouri                                     Piano

Recorded in the Concert Hall at the Kenneth King Academic and Performing Arts Center, Denver, Colorado, June 2-4, 2022.

Marlan Barry, Producer and Recording Engineer
Scott Burgess, Co-Engineer