Local music teachers presenting Biblical opera


A Valley Stream couple that runs a music school out of its home is approaching the Dec. 9 premier of an opera they produced that is based on the Biblical story of the Maccabean Revolt against the Greek Empire.

“HANNAH” is the story of the title character, a sister of the Judaic rebel group the Maccabees, who staged a naked protest in opposition to a law that forced brides to give their virginity to the local ruler. Turmoil resulted, as the survival of the Jewish race was threatened by the undeterminable paternity of children born to married women. In a show of defiance, Hannah shed her clothes at her wedding.

“We chose a version with a dichotomy between the forces of violence and non-violence,” said Lehrman, who said the story is where the Judaic doctrine originated that a person is allowed to break the law in order to save a life. “Hannah calls for action.”

Lehrman and his wife, Helene Williams-Spierman, held rehearsals for several months for the production, which has been in planning since January 2013. They enlisted the participation of cantors from New Jersey synagogues as well as a number from temples on Long Island, including David Katz of Long Beach and cantor Raphael Frieder of Temple Israel in Great Neck. Meredith Greenberg of Temple Ner Tamid in Bloomfield, N.J. is cast as Hannah.

Lehrman said that Chanukkah is often thought of as a children’s holiday, but he learned about a theme of respecting women’s rights at a conference at Cornell University that focused on women in Judaism. That theme is central to HANNAH. “They are part of the miracle,” Lehrman said of women. “Every one of [the singers] is involved because of the meaning of this opera.”

The show, which features nine principal characters and 12 choral members, will premier Tuesday at Community Presbyterian Church of Malverne at 12 Nottingham Road at 8 p.m. The final production will be held at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Manhattan on Dec. 23 at 7 p.m.

“It’s not just for Jews,” Lehrman said. “The conflict with Greek culture was part of the foundation of Christianity. It’s where we get the words, ‘He who lives by the sword shall die by it.’”

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story stated that the opera will be performed on Dec. 15. There will only be two shows, on Dec. 9 and 23.