Opera Theatre Company’s The Diary of Anne Frank

ON THURSDAY October 7 at 8pm, the Town Hall Theatre will present Opera Theatre Company’s production of The Diary of Anne Frank.

Moving and dramatic, this Irish premiere of Grigory Frid’s opera features acclaimed Armenian-American soprano Ani Maldjian making her Irish debut in the title role.

Vivid and insightful, this heartrending opera recreates the world of 13-year-old Anne Frank in hiding, living in hope and fear, longing for normality for herself and her family. Diary entries reveal the enormous emotional pressure Anne was under, yet her powerful optimism and unbending will to live continue to inspire.

Sung in English, the focus is on Anne’s original words - her profound thoughts and naïve joy over a gift or a patch of blue sky, her fear and determination to remain courageous, her budding love for Peter, her sense of humour, and hopes for freedom - all find moving and eloquent expression in the poignant score. The Diary of Anne Frank is also an excellent introduction for young audience members who may be experiencing opera for the first time.

When Russian composer Grigory Frid read Anne Frank’s diary in 1960, he felt personally drawn to it. Having survived Stalinism and lived through the rise and fall of Communism, Frid found the diary to be a deeply philosophical and ethical work, raising issues that still resonate today.

Opera Theatre Company’s production is jointly directed by Annalise Miskimmon and esteemed actor Ingrid Craigie, here making her directorial debut.

During a break in rehearsals, Craigie talked about the show and how she got involved with the production.

“It came about because I was working with Annalise earlier in the year,” she says. “We did a show together about Clara and Robert Schumann with OTC which I narrated. Annalise had also seen me in Faith Healer, which is monologues, and because she was about to direct The Diary of Anne Frank, which is really a monologue for one singer, she wondered if I would be interested in co-directing it with her. She thought I could bring something to it because of my experience of working on my own on-stage. It’s a different dynamic because you don’t have anyone to talk to or sing to and that’s how it came about.”

Craigie explains how Gregory Frid translated the diary from page to stage.

“There are 21 pieces taken from the diary,” she says. “Everything Ani sings, that’s in the libretto, is taken from the diary; they are all episodes in Anne Frank’s life and it’s almost as if she is conjuring up these moments so it’s like all these scenes from the diary, and they form a narrative. It starts outside the hiding place and then she very quickly goes into the hiding place and we are with her all the way through until her last entry.”

Craigie describes Frid’s score: “It’s wonderful; it’s incredibly dramatic and beautiful and lyrical. It’s also quite eclectic - there’s a jazz feel to it sometimes. Frid’s influences were Shoskatovich and the great Russian modern composers. I think it’s very accessible which is terrific.”

Soprano Ani Maldjian has already sung the role of Anne Frank in the US, where her performance of the piece garnered rave reviews. “She’s a wonderful singer,” Craigie observes. “Ani has a real innocence and a youthful quality. Even though she is 10 years older than Anne was, she convinces you in the role because of that clarity and innocence.”

One poignant aspect of the show is that, after 24 years of touring opera throughout Ireland, this will be the final production from Opera Theatre Company.

With The Diary of Anne Frank it seems the company are leaving on a high; as Ingrid Craigie notes; “It’s a wonderful piece of composing and writing, it’s dramatic, it’s beautiful and moving and I’m really thrilled to have been involved in it.”

Tickets are available from the Town Hall on 091 - 569777.

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