The Palm Beach Opera has been around for more than 50 years, but 2015 just might be its biggest year yet. In addition to presenting its second Opera at the Waterfront concert (December 13) and mounting two well-known operas with La Bohème (January 16-18) and The Daughter of the Regiment (March 20-22), the company will also produce the world premiere of Ben Moore‘s Enemies, A Love Story (February 20-22).
The title may be familiar to some PBO patrons; it is based on the Isaac Bashevis Singer book of the same name and, in 2013, PBO staged the still-in-progress work as part of its One Opera in One Hour series. “The audience loved it,” says PBO General Director Daniel Biaggi, who decided the time was right for the company to stage the full show.
Enemies represents a feat for both PBO and composer Moore. This is PBO’s first world premiere, and it is the first opera Moore has ever written.
“Music itself is drama,” says Moore, a professional composer and lifetime opera lover. “Whether I’m writing a song or even if it’s an instrumental piece, there’s always got to be this dramatic arc to what I do. Opera is just a lot more developed and complicated in many ways.”
The drama in Enemies, which Moore describes as a dark comedy, revolves around Herman Broder and takes place in 1948 Brooklyn. Broder is a Holocaust survivor who immigrates to America with his wife, Yadwiga, and then begins an affair with another woman. Widening this love triangle into a square, Herman is confronted by his first wife, whom he believed to have died in the war.
Moore was drawn to Enemies for a number of reasons. His aunt is a Holocaust survivor, and immigration and the lives of refugees have frequently influenced his work. He also felt like the story allowed him to create the passionate, lyrical music he loves. “It has a lot of what I really wanted—not only the theme of the story but also the characters are very complex and rich, and it afforded a lot of opportunity for different kinds of music,” he says.
With the help of lyricist Nahma Sandrow, Moore created a sweeping English-language opera full of hummable melodies. “It’s very melodic, so it’s the opposite of what people associate with modern pieces,” Biaggi comments. Biaggi and his team are responsible for bringing the opera to life, which includes building costumes and an Allen Moyer-designed set. Moore will work with the singers throughout and plans to be in Palm Beach in the weeks leading up to the premiere.
When all’s sung and done, Moore hopes audience members leave with a sense of optimism. “At the end, they are going to feel uplifted,” he says. “They’ll walk away with the feeling that life is worth living and that there’s real hope for the future.”