Indiana University to Present World Premiere of Act one of ‘The Mensch’

By David Salazar

Indiana University Borns Jewish Studies Program and the Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism are set to sponsor the world premiere of the first act of Lauren Bernofsky’s “The Mensch.”

The opera, which will feature Angelo Pollak, tells the story of Anton Schmid, an unsung hero of the Holocaust who worked undercover to save hundreds of Jews from the Vilna ghetto in Lithuania. The opera will be conducted by Joshua Horsch and will include the participation of Sylvia McNair in a cameo.

As an artist, I can’t help but be deeply affected by what I see happening in the world around me. It’s easy to read the daily news and become despondent and give up … after all, what can I do about it? Anton Schmid, the hero of my opera, did something, all by himself,” Bernofsky told OperaWire regarding her inspiration for the project.”During World War II, he was drafted into the Wehrmacht, where he was assigned an office job. But at the same time, he was working undercover to save hundreds of Jews from the Vilna ghetto in Lithuania. I’m at a point in my life as a composer where I want to use my abilities to send a message out to the world: one person, just one person, can have a big impact as a force for good, and, more specifically, can help prevent crimes against humanity, which still happen even today. I want to create an opera full of engaging music and memorable arias that people will want to hear a second and third time, but also an experience that deeply moves them, that ‘gets under their skin.’ If I can use Anton Schmid’s example to inspire even one person to action, my message will have been heard.”

The premiere is set to take place at Auer Hall at Indiana University Jacobs School of Music.