A community opera, a true story

The off stage community choir practising for the Opera PUSH and without the score.

I and several others from Rye, as well as across East Sussex, had the courage to join a community project in Battle, though I am the only one left from Rye as the rest had to give up because of their other commitments. Having come to our last week rehearsal it certainly has taken time, effort and dedication, learning off by heart the words and music. Both are wonderful and I am so glad to be part of this project. It is a world premiere, specially commissioned for the Battle Festival 2016 and the ROOT 1066 International Festival, in partnership with Glyndebourne and De La Warr Pavilion, exploring invasion, loss and the redeeming power of human goodness.

PUSH, the name of the opera, is the true story of a 10 year old Jewish boy who in 1943 survived the Nazi horror of sending Jews on the trains to concentration camps. However, it is not like the films or documentaries we see continuously about WW2, it is a story about survival, redemption, hope and forgiveness. “This project is wonderful: marvellous for the opera- and music-lovers, and helpful for the young generations, against the barbarity and for a better world of peace, democracy, tolerance and friendship between men.” Simon Gronowski

Simon Gronowski and his mother were put on the train to Auschwitz, yet the courage of ordinary people saved him and others. The French resistance slowed down the train so people could jump off. His mother pushed him and called: “Run and don’t look back”, and so he ran. He came to a house, a man in German uniform opened the door and realised by the number on the boys wrist that he was from the train but instead of obeying orders, he took Simon to the train station and bought him a ticket back to his home country, Belgium. He survived the war and now  in his 84th year, wanted to tell his story. He will be at the opening performance which is a great honour for those of us involved. Howard Moody wrote the wonderful lyrics and score.

Howard Moody - acclaimed international composer
Howard Moody – acclaimed international composer

Howard Moody is an internationally renowned conductor and composer and plays numerous instruments. His music for this opera is emotional and powerful for the orchestra and us off-stage choir. Simon Torio, the director of the on-stage actors, both adults and children playing guards, resistance fighters and prisoners, is a genius. We are all non-professionals, apart from the soloists dotted about in the choir and main characters,  (some from Glyndebourne) yet Simon Torio brought forward amazing performances from all the community people and children from Hastings schools.

This opera is dedicated to the 10 year old boy who survived, and the end explains his feelings as an adult: “Ma vie n’est que miracles. My life is only miracles. In spite of the past I believe in the power of human goodness.”

The first two performances are on October 1 in the afternoon 3:30pm and evening 7pm at the De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill. The third is on Saturday October 8, only in the evening, which will be a semi-staged production at St Mary’s Church in Battle. The opera lasts one hour.  I would recommend it as a one off experience, not easy perhaps but hopeful and it will touch your heart. Tickets can be bought online from the website.


Photos: Heidi Foster and courtesy Howard Moody


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here