Q & A: Numi Opera’s Gail Gordon on Returning to Live Performances With ‘Journey Out of Darkness’

By David Salazar

In 2019, Gail Gordon started Numi Opera with the aim of sharing works by composers and artists who were suppressed and banned by Nazi regime due to their Jewish origins.

The opening productions that the company presented were Alexander von Zemlinky’s “Der Zwerg” and Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s “Der Ring des Polykrates.”

It was supposed to be the start of a major adventure for the company.

And then COVID-19 happened.

And like the rest of the opera world, Numi Opera was forced to shut down.

And now, after two years,  the company is back and ready to return to live performance. This all kicks off on May 29, 2022 when the company presents “Journey Out of Darkness” at The Broad Stage.

OperaWire recently spoke with Gordon regarding this big return, what it means for her, and what she sees in the future for Numi Opera.

OperaWire:  This is the first public performance that the company undertakes since it performed back in December 2019. What was your journey through the challenging years of 2020 and 2021 and how did it strengthen your mission for Numi Opera? 

Gail Gordon:  This is our first performance since 2019.  It’s been quite challenging for everyone. The last two years have been about family, health, and equality. Our country has been challenged with elements that I believe should have been resolved.

I have been thinking about how I wanted to proceed. Which music would be the most impactful as we come through the last two years of injustice, financial insecurity, and pandemic fears. These years have reinforced our resolve of giving voice to the voiceless, which correlates with our mission statement “to guard and protect the many forgotten voices of these composers.” I knew I wished to represent several different voices of these remarkable composers with not only opera but instrumental offerings. This will be the first time we combine these two textures to create a program.

OWWhat inspired the concert “Journey out of Darkness?” 

GG:  As with all artists we feel the need to create, especially with the dearth of music caused by the pandemic. The need to create is the most correct explanation of “why” this concert. The recital format gave us the opportunity to present many different composers of this genre.

OW: What music will be featured in this concert and why were these pieces / composers ideal for this theme?

GG: There is no real answer as to why certain composers were chosen. I tend to choose based on a visceral reaction to what I hear. You will be again hearing Korngold and Zemlinsky along with Schulhoff, Schreker, Ullmann and Weil. Each piece is a good representation of the composer’s voice, and coordinate seamlessly with the other.  We move from vocal to string quartet to piano effortlessly.

OW: How did you go about picking the performers featured on this program? What is your relationship with them?

GG: I am blessed with having special relationships with my singers. Each of whom I’ve known for many years. They are beautiful artists with elegant voices and wonderful musicians. My concertmaster for “Der Ring des Polykrates” has created her own String quartet which made it possible for me to include a magnificent diversion from our regular programming. In conjunction with an upcoming violinist who I was introduced to through the Orel Foundation who is also committed to keeping the works of the suppressed composers alive. He has a vibrant new string quartet that will also be playing on this program.

OW: What will audiences experience during “Journey out of Darkness?”  What do you hope that they take away from it?

GG:  I always hope that the audience will fall in love with the music I’ve chosen for them. Not only will they be moved emotionally but be moved to seek out more programs comprised of these composers.  Keeping the music alive!

OW:  What are some of the upcoming projects that audiences can expect from Numi Opera? What are some of your future goals with the company moving forward? Last time we spoke, you noted that engaging younger audiences was your greatest challenge. How will your upcoming goals be geared toward engaging them?

GG:  We have yet to create future projects. As you may or may not know California has made it difficult for regional companies to survive by passing a law called AB5. Numi Opera hasn’t yet chosen what we wish to present in the future. The rest of this year will be instrumental in that decision. Our mission is to always produce works by composers who were suppressed by the Nazis and to have future generations vocabulary include this brilliant music.


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