New Opera To Premiere At Opera Colorado By New York Composer Gerald Cohen

By: Dec. 21, 2017

New Opera To Premiere At Opera Colorado By New York Composer Gerald Cohen New York-based composer Gerald Cohen (, known for his moving and vibrant chamber music, opera, choral and liturgical music, announces the exciting and important upcoming world premiere performances of his opera Steal A Pencil for Me, based on the true love story of Holocaust survivors Jaap and Ina Polak.

From January 25-30, 2018, Opera Colorado ( will produce the world premiere of Steal a Pencil For Me, with music by composer Cohen and libretto by Deborah Brevoort. The opera is a love story, full of hope, set during the the dark times of WWII concentration camps. It is based on the book of the same title by Jaap and Ina Polak, whom the composer knew for more than 25 years, and who had the chance to see the opera in its workshop phase in 2013. This unusual and dramatic plot features a love "quadrangle" revolving around the story of the dissolution of Jaap's first marriage to the difficult Manja, his romance with Ina, and Ina's ill-fated relationship with her youthful sweetheart Rudi. Opera Colorado Music Director and conductor Ari Pelto and stage director Omer Ben Seadia will lead a cast featuring soprano Inna Dukach, baritone Gideon Dabi, and mezzo Adriana Zabala.
Conductor Ari Pelto says, "Gerald Cohen's music is compelling, sophisticated and approachable for the listener...There is a tight, natural connection between text and music, writing the music so as to make Deborah Brevoort's text very clear." He continues, "The story is compelling partly because there is no heroism. The three lead characters wrestle with the challenges, complications and emotions of life, love and partnership. At the same time, they are faced with surviving the horrors of the Holocaust."

The opera will be performed at the Elaine Wolf Theatre at the Mizel Arts and Culture Center at the JCC, 350 S. Dahlia Street, Denver, CO. Tickets start at $20 and are available at

Composer Gerald Cohen ( has been praised for his "linguistic fluidity and melodic gift," creating music that "reveals a very personal modernism that...offers great emotional rewards" (Gramophone Magazine). His deeply affecting compositions have been recognized with numerous awards and critical accolades. The music on his recently released CD, Sea of Reeds (Navona), "is filled with vibrant melody, rhythmic clarity, drive and compositional construction...a sheer delight to hear" (Gapplegate Music Review).

Cohen's recent work, Voyagers, a composition for clarinet and string quartet, is a tribute to the two Voyager spacecraft on the 40th anniversary of their launch, and of the music sent to accompany them on their journey out of the solar system. The piece, a linking of music, science and visual art, was commissioned by and written for the Cassatt Quartet and clarinetist Vasko Dukovski and was premiered in November 2017 at the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. SoundWordSight called Voyagers "a genuinely beautiful and evocative score, with a lovely palette of emotions and textures...the effect of this music truly stays with the listener."

His opera Steal a Pencil for Me, based on a true concentration camp love story, is slated for its world premiere production by Opera Colorado in January 2018; excerpts were featured at Forth Worth Opera's Frontiers Festival in 2016. Lucid Culture's review of a 2013 workshop version noted the effectiveness of Cohen's "...mesmerizingly hypnotic, intricately contrapuntal" music, with moments of "...Bernard Herrmann-esque, shivery terror..." Cohen's operas Sarah and Hagar, based on the story from the book of Genesis, and Seed, a one-act opera about love and choices for a post-apocalyptic couple, have been performed in concert form. Cohen is a noted synagogue cantor and baritone; his experience as a singer informs his dramatic, lyrical compositions. Cohen's best-known work, his "shimmering setting" (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) of Psalm 23, has received thousands of performances from synagogues and churches to Carnegie Hall and the Vatican.

Cohen has been awarded commissioning grants from Meet the Composer, National Endowment for the Arts, New York State Council on the Arts and Westchester Arts Council. Throughout his career, he has been selected for residencies including those at The MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and American Lyric Theater. Cohen's music has been commissioned and performed by chamber ensembles, choruses and soloists throughout the United States.

Cohen's compositions are published by Oxford University Press, G. Schirmer/AMP and Transcontinental Music Publications. Gerald Cohen received a BA in music from Yale University and a DMA in composition from Columbia University. He is cantor at Shaarei Tikvah, Scarsdale, NY, and is on the faculties of The Jewish Theological Seminary and Hebrew Union College.