Legendary 'Lilith' inspires edgy folk opera 

click to enlarge Heather Klein
  • courtesy photo
  • Heather Klein sings the title character in “Lilith, the Night Demon In One Lewd Act.”
“Lilith, the Night Demon In One Lewd Act” tells a funny and twisted tale about a monstrous character who is not particularly well-known.

Producers of the show, which opens next week across the Bay Area, call it an “edgy folk opera” and “bawdy alternate Jewish story of Creation.”

Composer Joshua Horowitz, a member of the musical trio Veretski Pass, says, “It explores the absurd underbelly of Judaism, and looks at the superstitions and irrational interpretations of the everyday.” He describes the story as “somehow both freakishly hilarious and deeply tragic at the same time.”

The demonic character Lilith (in Hebrew, the name translates to “night monster” or “night hag”) first appeared in the Babylonian Talmud. Jewish folklore says she was created at the same time as Adam, but refused to be subservient to him and was forced to flee Paradise.

She mated with archangel Samael, becoming an accuser, seducer and destroyer. Even worse, she was a child-killer. A succubus, she roamed at night, seeking newborn babies and strangling them in their sleep.

Soprano Heather Klein doesn’t seem daunted about playing the evil character. She calls the score a “huge work that brings together so many genres — Jewish liturgical, operatic and folk,” and adds that she is “amazed by the character-driven melodies that bring this daring Yiddish and English libretto to life.”

Michael Wex, author of “Born to Kvetch,” a best-selling book about Yiddish, is the narrator, and bass Anthony Russell plays Adam.

San Francisco Choral Artists, directed by Magen Solomon, form the Hebrew version of a Greek chorus. Phil Blank created artwork for the project. The annotated, illustrated libretto will be available at the performances.

Musical accompaniment is by Veretski Pass, a trio that plays folk music with origins in the Ottoman Empire. The collage of Carpathian, Jewish, Romanian and Ottoman styles includes dances from Moldavia and Bessarabia, Jewish melodies from Poland and Romania, Hutzul wedding music from Carpathian-Ruthenia and Rebetic airs from Smyrna.

A traditional klezmer dance party featuring music by Veretski Pass follows each “Lilith” performance.


Lilith, the Night Demon In One Lewd Act

Where: Osher Marin JCC, 200 N. San Pedro Road, San Rafael

When: 7:30 p.m. May 1

Tickets: $30 to $49

Contact: www.liliththenightdemon.com, www.brownpapertickets.com

Note: Performances are also at 8 p.m. May 3 at JCC of the East Bay, 1414 Walnut St., Berkeley, and 3 p.m. May 4 at Menlo-Atherton Performing Arts Center, 555 Middlefield Road, Atherton.

About The Author

Janos Gereben

Janos Gereben

Janos Gereben is a writer and columnist for SF Classical Voice; he has worked as writer and editor with the NY Herald-Tribune, TIME Inc., UPI, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, San Jose Mercury News, Post Newspaper Group, and wrote documentation for various technology companies.
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