Singing Only Softly
A new Canadian opera by composer Cecilia Livingston, Librettist Monica Pearce and Director/Dramaturge Alaina Viau
What version of Anne Frank are you familiar with? Did you know that passages of The Diary of Anne Frank were removed from their original publication?
Inspired by the original, unedited texts of the diary, Loose Tea Music Theater created Singing Only Softly. This Chamber opera voices Anne Frank as a fully formed young woman describing her experiences while discovering herself. Freshly interpreted in a current female context, it explores Anne’s complex self awareness and self representation.
Anne Frank is portrayed by Sara Schabas and Beth Hagerman with Music Director Cheryl Duvall.
The expressive possibilities of this scale of work, with a couple of singers & a piano are enormous… Viau / Pearce / Livingston gave their creation the precision focus of a laser.
— Barczablog 2019
About ‘Singing Only Softly’
“Use of language: speak softly at all times… Physical exercise: daily. Singing: only softly…”
– The Diary of Anne Frank: The Critical Edition (p. 333 B; cf. 333 C)
We have no recording of Anne Frank’s voice; instead, it comes to us from the pages of her diary.
But passages in Anne’s diary about her sexuality and her frustrations with her family were redacted by her editors. The story that Alaina Viau wanted to tell was not of that of Anne the martyr, as she has at times been represented, but of Anne the young woman, as she represents herself. Inspired by Anne’s own words and by the rediscovered pages of the diary, librettist Monica Pearce has created original texts which show Anne maturing during her time in the ‘secret annex’. Anne’s self-awareness and self-representation are complex: neither an innocent, nor a martyr, neither ingenue, nor symbol, she reveals herself in her writing to be a young woman of courage and substance confronting her circumstances with as much humour and grace as those circumstances could allow.
Imagining Anne’s emotional world in the ‘secret annex’ was a daunting responsibility for all of us. Her perspective is our focus; the nightmare of her situation surrounds this song-opera but the opera itself – like Anne – resists it. This was not so much our decision as it was Anne’s: to focus on the humour and hope of her situation even in the face of horror, and to recognize that there were things she didn’t know.
We chose not to reference the music of Anne’s time but instead to find a musical language that can – we hope – take on these shifting facets of Anne’s character, while driven by the intense, lyrical understanding of humanity that comes through all we know about her.