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Dear Erich is inspired by 200 newly discovered letters written in Germany between 1938 and 1941 by Herta Rosenthal to her son Erich, the composer's father. Dear Erich tells a refugee story for our times. How can a family cope as the walls of their nation's hatred close in around them? For those who escape, what lies ahead? Even in the land of the free, are they ever really free? What if they never learn the fate of loved ones left behind and the communications just stopped? What does closure mean, why does remembrance matter, where does hope come from?
Erich, a Jewish academic, escaped Nazi Germany to the U.S. shortly before Kristallnacht. The opera tells the story of a family's dual fates. Erich's journey to a new life in the new world - his studies, jazz and love - while the situation deteriorates in Germany and his family ultimately meets their cruel demise at the hands of the Nazis. Frustrated and powerless to help them emigrate, Erich must live with deep survivor guilt which affects him in his relationships with his wife and children.
Dear Erich addresses these themes – walls and wars, refugees and immigrants, survivors and victims, the promise of a new world. Dear Erich asks what is found when a survivor forms a new family, and what gets lost when the next generation is untethered to the past? The opera's scenes of immigration and refugees in crisis raise moral dilemmas that resound to this day. Finally, Dear Erich stands for the power of remembrance, not just to honor the past but also to root us in the present and chart our future.