A Dying Person (A Goyses) is inspired by Sh. An-sky, the ethnographer and author of The Dybbuk, who prepared a questionnaire of 2,087 detailed questions in the hopes of compiling a comprehensive record of Jewish life in Eastern Europe; however, the questions remained unanswered due to the onset of World War I. The opera engages the continuous—and legitimate—anxiety regarding the loss of Jewish civilization, even before the Holocaust, and ethnography, interviewing, testimony, and oral history as ways of addressing this fear. The libretto also contains elements of interviews done by the composer with his wife’s grandfather, a musician from a family of klezmers who was born in the Pale of Settlement in 1916 and lived there during his childhood.
The plot of the opera is simple: a middle-aged researcher interviews an older woman on her deathbed. In traditional Ashkenazic Jewish culture the person on their deathbed, between two worlds, has a distinct status (a goyses) and A Dying Person (A Goyses) wrestles with the idea that Jewish culture may itself be in a perpetual sort of goyses state, always seemingly on the verge of loss and annihilation, but never crossing over to the other side.
The ensemble for A Dying Person (A Goyses) is seven players, the instrumentation reminiscent of dance band and klezmer configurations at the beginning of the twentieth century. Together with the three singers, the group satisfies the minimum number of ten adults required for Jewish communal prayer.
Join us for a concert premiere of A Dying Person (A Goyses), a new chamber opera by Evan Rapport and Daniel London.
This program is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council, and in part with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, a state agency.
About the Artists
Evan Rapport is Associate Professor of Ethnomusicology at The New School, saxophonist, and composer. He is the author of Greeted with Smiles: Bukharian Jewish Music and Musicians in New York (Oxford University Press, 2014) and Damaged: Musicality and Race in Early American Punk(University Press of Mississippi, 2020). He is currently working on a book about soprano saxophonist and composer Steve Lacy, and collaborating with Daniel London on two more chamber operas about Jewish life and death, with A Dying Person (A Goyses) as the first of the trilogy.
Daniel London is an actor and screenwriter from Pittsburgh, now living in New Jersey. His acting credits include the films Minority Report, Old Joy, and Synecdoche, New York, and he has appeared in productions with the Atlantic Theater Company, Roundabout Theatre Company, and Vineyard Theater. He is currently developing his screenplay Missing in Your Area with the production company 2AM. This is his first libretto.