The Diary of Anne Frank

 

Peacock Stage, Abbey Theatre

OPERA THEATRE Company’s last ever production is not only a fitting summation of the company’s achievements over its 24-year existence, but also an auspicious foretaste of what might be achieved when the curtain raises next year on its successor, the Irish National Opera.

It’s hard to imagine a company marking its own end with more dignity or flair than in this treatment of Russian composer Grigory Frid’s remarkable and seldom performed mono-opera of 1969.

Frid, a Jew who soldiered for four years on the Eastern Front and endured the era of Stalin’s anti-Semitism, is now 95. He tells his own moving life story through a personal note in the programme book and an excellent interview documentary, specially produced last month by Blackrock Films and screened after the performance.

The libretto, digested by the composer from Anne Frank’s diary, is a series of snapshots from that seminal document of the Nazi Holocaust.

The score, a linked sequence of about 20 pithy scenes for solo voice and nine instruments, epitomises a music that long ago ran out of tears to cry, combining modernist charm with shocking terseness in a richly undernourishing mix.

Conductor-pianist Andrew Synnott secures a coaxing and finely graded accompaniment for Armenian-American soprano Ani Maldjian.

Her experienced affinity with this uniquely challenging role is revealed in centred yet expressive singing and crystalline characterisation.

Artfully lit by Tina McHugh, Nicky Shaw’s set transforms grey geometry into ingenious self-reference, while the sure hand of co-directors Annilese Miskimmon and Ingrid Craigie exerts itself on every last detail.

A premiere for Ireland, a swansong for OTC, this exquisite piece of music theatre raises the bar for Irish touring opera.

On tour until October 9th