The Path to Heaven

an opera in one act

Adam Gorb

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an opera in one act

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Composer Adam Gorb
Year of Composition 2017-18
Duration ca.105'


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Categories (all composers) ,
Catalogue ID ce-ag4pth1


During my compositional career research into my Jewish roots has become more important, and many of my works over the years have been inspired by Jewish themes including Kol Simcha (1995) a ballet commissioned by the Rambert dance company with an ensemble based on the set up of a klezmer band, Klezmer (1993) for solo violin, a Clarinet Concerto (1999) for Nicholas Cox and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, and two wind ensemble works Yiddish Dances (1998) and Eine Kleine Yiddishe Ragmusik (2004) that have entered the general repertoire of wind ensembles world-wide. For this new work I intended to write a theatrical work steeped in Jewish culture with an accompanying instrumental group of wind, brass and percussion instruments, a combination often found in Yiddish music, and something quite unique in the field of opera which will hopefully enable many future productions.

The holocaust and its resonances in recent history is an area I have long wanted to explore musically and dramatically as a composer. My background is Russian Jewish and I still count myself fortunate that my grandparents’ generation looking for a new life to escape from the pogroms in Russia at the start of the 20th century chose in the main to settle in the UK rather than the European mainland. The theme of survival in impossibly dangerous circumstances is one that is all too relevant today and I hope the new opera reflects that the dangers faced now have continued relevance and resonance as they did in the 1930s and 1940s, as are the perils of human relationships across a cultural divide. ‘Art under the threat of catastrophe’ is a concept that excites me greatly.

With this in mind I became very involved with exploring the lives and work of musicians that worked under the threat of the Nazis. In December 2015 I travelled to Barletta in Italy to meet the musicologist and pianist Francesco Lotoro who is acknowledged as a world authority on music written in World War two camps. I interviewed him about his work for a radio programme about music written in the camps, with particular emphasis on the transit camp Terezin in the Czech Republic and the composers that worked there. The programme was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in January 2016. I have met with many survivors, including Zdenka Fantlova, Arek Hersh and Anita Lasker-Wallfisch, whose books about their wartime experiences provided invaluable inspiration for the project.

The Path to Heaven is my fourth collaboration with the librettist Ben Kaye. Our other works are Thoughts Scribbled on a Blank Wall (2007) for narrator, bass singer, chorus, brass quintet and organ based on the experiences of the political prisoner John McCarthy, Eternal Voices (2010), a commission from the Royal Marines about war in the 21st century for narrator, mezzo soprano, chorus and Wind Ensemble and Anya 17 (2012) an opera on the subject of slavery and sex trafficking which has had productions in Germany and the USA.

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