Enemies, A Love Story

Enemies is an opera in two acts by composer Ben Moore and librettist Nahma Sandrow, based on the novel by Isaac Bashevis Singer. The work premiered at Palm Beach Opera in 2015 to critical acclaim and standing ovations. Fred Plotkin (WQXR) called it “an important new work that will find its place among those works that audiences will be moved by...”; the Wall Street Journal praised its "soaring Puccinian lines, folk tunes and klezmer melodies"; the Financial Times noted the “taut libretto” and “arresting combination of breeziness on the surface and darkness underneath”; and Edge Media Network called 'Tamara's Aria' "a piece that is likely to become a permanent part in the dramatic soprano/mezzo-soprano repertory alongside 'To This We've Come' from Menotti's 'The Consul' and 'La Mamma Morta' from Giordano's 'Andrea Chenier'.” In November 2018 Kentucky Opera presented a newly-revised version of the work. Both comic and tragic, Enemies tells the story of Holocaust survivor Herman Broder. He lives in post-war New York with a new wife and a secret mistress, but when the wife he thought dead returns, love and guilt create unbearable –but farcical -complications.

 

 
SETTING

New York City 1948: Coney Island, The Bronx, and Manhattan.

 

PALM BEACH OPERA PRODUCTION TEAM

Conductor

Director

Set Design

Lighting 

Costumes

David Stern

Sam Helfrich

Allen Moyer

Aaron Black

Kaye Voyce

PALM BEACH OPERA PRODUCTION CAST

Herman Broder 

Tamara

Yadwiga

Masha

Shifrah Puah

Tortshiner

Rabbi Lampert

Daniel Okulitch

Leann Sandel-Pantaleo

Caitlin Lynch

Danielle Pastin

Jennifer Roderer

Philip Horst

David Kravitz

 

KENTUCKY OPERA PRODUCTION TEAM

Conductor

Director

Set Design

Lighting

David Stern

Mary Birnbaum

Grace Laubacher

Anshuman Bhatia

KENTUCKY OPERA PRODUCTION CAST

Herman Broder

Tamara

Yadwiga

Masha

Shifrah Puah

Rabbi Lampert

Morgan Smith

Catherine Martin

Emily Albrink

Danielle Pastin

Elizabeth Batton

Levi Hernandez

ORCHESTRATION

  • 1 flute
  • 2 oboes (1st doubling English horn)
  • 1 clarinet in B-flat
  • 1 alto Saxophone
  • 1 bassoon
  • 2 horns in F
  • 1 trumpet in B-flat
  • 1 trombone Timpani
  • 2 percussion
  • 1 keyboard
  • strings

SYNOPSIS

Act I

The curtain rises on a small Brooklyn apartment in 1948. Herman Broder, a Polish Jewish writer and intellectual, is lost in an anxious daydream until his wife, Yadwiga, rouses him. Soon Herman is singing a playful folksong as he bids her an affectionate farewell. ("Little Bird") Yadwiga, a Polish farmer’s daughter, saved Herman from the Nazis by hiding him for years in her father’s hayloft. After the war Herman married her out of gratitude. Yadwiga believes Herman is leaving for a sales trip, but he is actually rushing to the Bronx, to the beautiful and passionate Masha, also a refugee, whom he adores. (“My Love Remembers”)

Next morning, at breakfast with Masha’s mother, Herman finds a Personals notice in the newspaper which leads him to an apartment on the Lower East Side. There he is astonished to find Tamara, his first wife, reported to have been killed in the war along with their two children. Tamara shares with him the harrowing odyssey of her escape (“Tamara’s aria”). She understands Herman all too well and after learning of Yadwiga and Masha, offers to divorce him. But the warmth of their shared history bonds the pair in spite of themselves. Meanwhile Yadwiga loyally defends her husband against nosy neighbors though, secretly believing she is pregnant, she yearns to keep him home (“Yadwiga’s Aria”). And Masha manages to convince Herman to marry her as well (in a Jewish ceremony complete with dancing). Now Herman is juggling three very different women, and cares for them all. The painful farce accelerates as Herman hides Tamara from Masha, both Tamara and Masha from Yadwiga – and all three wives from his employer, a jovial rabbi for whom he ghostwrites speeches.

Herman can seem lighthearted – protective with Yadwiga, humorous with Tamara, and romantic with Masha – but his head is full of philosophical ruminations, childhood memories, and nightmare flashbacks to the hayloft; and his heart is full of guilt. When Herman learns that Yadwiga is pregnant his sudden fear and resistance explodes into a revulsion against the entire corrupt human race – including himself. (“Lies”) He vows to leave the isolating “hayloft” of all his hidden lives and become a decent, pious man, a faithful husband to Yadwiga, and a father. The curtain falls on their domestic bliss. (“Baby Waltz”)

Act II

At the start of Act Two the three women, each in her separate apartment, sing about the future. (“Trio”) We see that Yadwiga is indeed pregnant. But past lies continue to surface, and the farce darkens as the wives, neighbors, and even the rabbi collide. Herman has managed to stay away from Masha but at last, desperate, she draws him to her apartment where, as her mother prays, she pleads her lost youth and innocence, destroyed by the war. (“Prayer”) He is hers again. Meanwhile Tamara defends Yadwiga, who feels Herman slipping away. But Herman cannot give Masha up. The entire ruse comes crashing down at the rabbi’s holiday party where Herman and Masha’s passions flare in counterpoint to a cheerful chorus praising God, life, and food. (“Miracles")

Ultimately the lovers cannot stay apart. They plan to run away to Florida sunshine, leaving Tamara to take care of Yadwiga and the baby. However when Masha takes her mother to the hospital, leaving Herman alone to pack, he cannot go on. Longing for the past overwhelms him; before the war and the dark hayloft; back when he was a good man; further back, when he was a beloved child in an orderly world; back to the silent darkness before creation itself. Guilt-ridden and weary, he realizes that he is incapable of making a life with anyone. (“Herman’s Final Scene”) He walks out forever. Masha returns, her mother having died; she sees that he is gone and takes her own life. In the final image, Tamara and Yadwiga are together caring for the newborn child.

Palm Beach Opera production of Enemies.

Palm Beach Opera production of Enemies.

Palm Beach Opera production of Enemies.

Palm Beach Opera production of Enemies.

Palm Beach Opera production of Enemies.

Kentucy Opera production of Enemies.

Kentucy Opera production of Enemies.

Kentucy Opera production of Enemies.

Kentucy Opera production of Enemies.

Kentucy Opera production of Enemies.