Grand Soliloquy of an Extraordinary Child
Irvine Barclay Theater
Grigori Frid: The Diary of Anne Frank
Ani Maldjian (Anne Frank), Laura Hillman (Holocaust Survivor)
Andreas Mitisek (Concept, Stage Director and Conductor), Alan E. Muraoka (Set Designer), Andreas Mitisek (Lighting Designer), Kharen Zeunert (Costume Designer)
(© Keith Ian Polakoff)
Who could have imagined the cerebral complexities fluttering in the mind of a thirteen year old Jewish girl in Amsterdam? The burdens were great in a tragedy so appalling. When Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party came to power in 1933, anti-semitism intensified immediately, forcing the Otto Frank family to seek asylum in neighboring Holland. As a birthday gift, Otto Frank’s precocious daughter, Anne, was given a small autograph book that she turned into a diary, a collection of thoughts and emotions leading up to and during the Frank family’s living in hiding above the Opekta Works company.
On that fateful day, August 4, 1944, the Frank family was discovered by the Gruene Polizei and deported by trains to varying concentration camps. A girl by the name of Miep Gies, an assistant to those in hiding, retrieved Anne Frank’s diary and other documents left behind. They were eventually returned to sole survivor, Otto Frank. In 1947 her writings were published and transformed into an opera by Russian composer Grigori Frid twenty-two years later.
Frid’s musical interpretation uses the literal text by Anne Frank that becomes even more personal and heart rending. This opera-monodrama, comprised of a series of twenty-one chapters or so called “entries” from her journal, takes us through a two year span of life that demonstrates how many children fraught with adversity can grow up so quickly to become mature human beings. Because of the depth and gravity of Anne’s words on paper, Grigori Frid finds great purpose in a single character, citing, “I look into this heroic figure’s inner world. I therefore have no use for additional characters.” Ani Maldjian is a powerful singer and actor who delves into this young girl’s inner sanctum on so many levels. Never have we seen such a culmination of feelings take stage all at once with such brevity and intensity.
Long Beach Opera’s Artistic and General Director Andreas Mitisek adds another dimension in this The Diary of Anne Frank by adding the story of Laura Hillman, a holocaust survivor, woven into the original text. Effectively interspersed between segments of Maldjian’s monologue, we can hear the soft spoken Laura Hillman reading from her life history that loosely mirrors that of Anne Frank. One can’t help but be drawn into this real life drama without shedding a tear or feeling any sort of sympathy or empathy. Just like Anne Frank’s, Laura Hillman’s words are powerful, filled with simple beauties, words of kindness, words of sadness and words of encouragement.
The story of Anne Frank has universal implications and is everlasting. It leaves an indelible imprint in the minds of each audience member. One feels as though he or she is singularly connected to the young Jewish girl in distinctly personal ways that create a very private path. That is the way Mr. Frid intended it to be.