Libretto by Craig R. Eisendrath
MASADA, an opera for our time
The story of Masada is one of the most dramatic events in all of history. Masada, an opera in three acts by composer Fredrick Kaufman and librettist Craig Eisendrath, is a compelling recreation of this event. Masada has long been a powerful symbol of bravery for Jews, a story of the strength and fortitude of a people who have weathered cataclysmic events finally to see a dream come true - a home of their own. The opera, Masada, pays tribute to them on the celebration of Israel's fiftieth birthday. The opera will receive its premiere on March 7th and 8th, 1998 at New York's City Center in a production by the Center for Contemporary Opera.
Masada: Past and Present
Josephus, the ancient historian of Masada, asks in the opera, "Is it wrong when worlds collide to want to live? Is it wrong? If we had a God, did he not leave us?" These are questions asked by all peoples throughout the centuries. They are hard questions. They define our age as it defined the time of Masada 1900 years ago.
For over six years, nearly a thousand Jews - men, women and children - defied the might of the Roman Empire. When finally the Romans breached Masada's walls, its defenders had to decide whether to fight and face certain death, surrender, or commit suicide. Only opera can bring together music, dance, drama and all the forces of human imagination to create Masada, not only as history but as a living drama for our time.
The moving music of Fredrick Kaufman, the poetry of the Bible and the Dead Sea Scrolls with echoes of poets like Samuel Hanagid and Chaim Bialik, the power of modern dance, and the dramatic insights of playwright Craig Eisendrath combine to bring the story to its agonizing conclusion.
Masada requires 8 principals:
Survivors, 2 altos
A Chorus of 16 voices, 10 dancers and an Orchestra of 32 players:
2 flutes (Piccolo), 2 oboes (English horn), 2 clarinets (bass clarinet), 2 bassoons, 2 French horns, 2 trumpets, strings: 4,4,3,2,2, piano harp, and 3 percussionists.
Fredrick Kaufman, composer
Fredrick Kaufman is the composer of over ninety published compositions that have been performed worldwide. His Holocaust compositions, such as the recently completed viola concerto, Lachrymose, and his award winning Concerto for Cello and String Orchestra, Kaddish, have been performed in the major concert halls of Europe, Israel, South America, the Orient and the United States. His ballets have been danced by the Royal Swedish Ballet, the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, the Batsheva Dance company, the Bat-Dor Dance Company and the Pennsylvania Dance Theater.
Critics from The New York Times, The Newark Star Ledger, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The London Times, The Perpignon Independent, and other newspapers around the world have described Kaufman's music as "...striking...individual...of overwhelming pathos and infectious joy...the realm of musical genius." Israeli television has paid tribute to him in the thirty minute documentary film Fredrick Kaufman - Life of an Artist.
Mr. Kaufman is a former Fulbright Scholar and the recipient of the Darius Milhaud Award in Composition and honors and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Rockefeller and Guggenheim Foundations, the California, Montana and Pennsylvania Arts Councils and the Norwegian Government.