Music by Charles Abeles • Libretto by Miriam Sommerburg
Directed by Benjamin Spierman • Conducted by Juan F. La Manna
982 refugees from the Holocaust were brought from Europe to the Fort Ontario Emergency Refugee Shelter in Oswego, New York and stayed from August 1944 to February 1946. It was President Roosevelt’s only acknowledgment of the Holocaust. All refugees had agreed to return to their homelands after WW II ended, but by that time in1945, there was nothing to go home to or it was dangerous to do so, and they wished to remain in the United States, They used various means to petition authorities to stay, and one was to write an opera that told their story – life in Europe, the journey across the Atlantic, and their experiences at the Shelter in Oswego, referred to as The Golden Cage. All their physical needs were met, but they lacked freedom. Charles Abeles, an Austrian musician, composed the music, and Miriam Sommerburg, a German artist and author, wrote the text.
“The Golden Cage” was first performed on New Year’s Eve, 1945 and an abbreviated version in January 1946. By this time, President Truman had signed a doctrine allowing them to stay. This will be the first performance of “The Golden Cage” since its debut on New Year’s Eve in 1945 at the Fort Ontario Emergency Refugee Shelter, and the issues of immigration and anti-Semitism are unfortunately still relevant. The production will be part of the 75th anniversary celebration of the arrival of the refugees to Oswego in August 1944, which was held in August, 2019. Due to COVID, some events, including the opera, have been postponed until 2022.