Funding provided by the Georgia Council for the Arts was allocated to general operating support, the most difficult type of support to secure. GCA funding helped The Atlanta Opera fill critical needs so we could focus more fully on our mission. “Out of Darkness: Two Remain,” based on the stories of two Holocaust survivors, was presented as part of the Opera’s 2017-2018 Discoveries series. The piece was commissioned by Music of Remembrance, an organization formed to remember the Holocaust through music. Although the subject matter was challenging, the response by audiences and critics was overwhelmingly positive and centered largely on the “powerful” and “moving” stories. By stimulating critical conversations about topics that are rarely discussed, “Out of Darkness” impacted not only its audience members, but the community at large. The production was especially meaningful to those with personal or family connections to the Holocaust, and those in the LGBT community.
Audience members included Holocaust survivors, who were particularly moved by the performance. “Because of personal experience, Out of Darkness made a profound impression on me,” explained one survivor. Others called the performance “a journey into the soul of survivors and the choiceless choices so many were forced to make” and “the most powerful, evocative opera experience I have ever had.”
Extensive background materials, including perspectives from the director and composer, interviews with Holocaust survivors and historians, and images and writings of the individuals portrayed in “Out of Darkness,” were shared on the Opera’s website and social media platforms in the weeks leading up to the performance. This provided context for potential audiences and reinforced the relevance of the production.
The Atlanta Opera gathered leading voices in the Jewish community and the LGBT community to develop and support community engagement around this production, including panel discussions and talk-backs. Doing so amplified the mission and messages of all involved. Activities included a preview performance and panel discussion at the Center for Civil and Human Rights on March 14, a panel discussion at the William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum on April 4, and a talkback following the opening night performance on April 5. Performances and related programming took place around Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom Ha Shoah), which created a meaningful framework for discussions and learning.
The performing arts – and opera in particular – offer a space in which difficult themes can be explored more deeply, troubling stories can be understood more clearly, and empathy for the suffering of others can be experienced more profoundly. “Out of Darkness,” and the community engagement efforts developed around it, succeeded mightily in this.