An author and former head of a publishing company, Ellen Frankel *78 got involved in writing for music “somewhat by accident,” she says.
A Philadelphia composer, Andrea Clearfield, set some of the text from Frankel’s book The Five Books of Miriam to music for an oratorio that celebrates women from the Old Testament and asked Frankel to write a new piece on Hannah for the oratorio. (The oratorio, Women of Valor, premiered in 2000.). Frankel’s collaboration with Clearfield led to other work and eventually to Frankel’s meeting the artistic director of an opera company in Philadelphia, who mentioned that he had read a book that he thought would make a great opera if he could find someone to write the libretto.
Frankel offered to take a crack at writing it. Inspired by real events, the opera tells the story of a white supremacist who transforms his life, thanks to a rabbi and his wife. The world premiere of Slaying the Dragon runs June 7 and 9 at the Prince Music Theater and June 14, 16, and 17 at the Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia.
In the two-act opera, Jerry Krieg, a Ku Klux Klan Grand Dragon, renounces bigotry because of his developing relationship with the local rabbi and his wife, begins to speak out for tolerance, and apologizes to his victims. The opera’s themes include personal transformation, repentance, and forgiveness, says Frankel.
“One of the things that I hope the audience takes away is a more nuanced understanding of the process of forgiveness, that sometimes it takes a long time, that some people who don’t forgive right away come to forgiveness, [and] that it’s a very complicated internal process of reaching peace about evil.”
The opera will be simulcast live at 8 p.m. June 9 on operamusicbroadcast.com.