LOS ANGELES - Hannah Gordon lived a long life. She died at the age of 96. It’s from her that her daughter Gail Gordon inherited a love of music.
“She sang professionally on the Jewish radio," Gordon said. "My grandfather was a cantor. So music was a part of our life.”
And so is the history of the Holocaust. As the Nazis rose to power, Hannah was sent to America. The rest of the family spent five years in hiding.
“My great grandfather was killed by the Nazis. They imprisoned him and he died of exposure," Gail explained. "And then my aunt Ethel, I think she was 17 when she passed, because of the conditions that they were living in when they were in hiding. They were in barns, under the floor.”
To honor them and her mother’s experience as a Polish refuge and Jewish immigrant, Gail founded the Numi Opera. Its mission is to uncover voices that had been suppressed by the Nazi regime.
The company’s inaugural performance is of the opera Der Zwerg. It’s by Zemlinsky who also fled Europe and came to America. The work debuted in 1922 but was all but forgotten after the war.
“It’s like putting a book to the back of the bookshelf," Gordon said. "I think it takes a while before somebody reaches back there and pulls it out.” In this case, it took until the 1990s when some of the works suppressed during that time slowly began resurfacing.
Mounting the production wasn’t easy. The music is demanding and sung in German, but Gordon says she’s had help and not just from the talented people she’s working with. Working on the material, she says she feels her mother’s presence and she knows she’s proud.
“See that smile that she has?" she asked, holding a photo of her mother. "That would be her smile. There’s no doubt in my mind.”
She hopes her newly minted company will continue to elevate lost voices – and her mother’s memory – for years to come.
Der Zwerg is being performed on May 30th and June 2nd at the Theatre at Ace Hotel. For information, visit https://www.numiopera.org/purchase-tickets.