It was written by two of the 982 Holocaust survivors from 18 countries who lived at the Fort Ontario Emergency Refugee Shelter in Oswego from 1944 to 1946. The composer was Charles Abeles, an Austrian conductor, pianist, and composer, and the librettist was Miriam Sommerburg, a German artist and author. The purpose of the work was to convince authorities that the refugees could remain in the United States after World War II ended, even though they had promised on their entry applications that they would then return to their homelands. The plot is their story – life in Europe, the journey to America, and experiences at the Shelter. They referred to the Shelter as The Golden Cage – a place where all their physical needs were met, but where they lacked their freedom and the opportunity to get on with their lives.
Last performed on New Year’s Eve in 1945 at the Shelter, it was presumed to be lost until a draft of the score was recently discovered in an almost forgotten trunk in the home of the composer’s nephew in Germany. The text was found in a separate document in the United States.
Juan Francisco LaManna, artistic director of Oswego Opera Theater, has edited the score and will direct the performance along with Benjamin Spierman of the Bronx Opera Company. Singers in principal roles will come from New York City, while others, along with the chorus, will come from our local pool of talented Oswego musicians.
Because the Fort Ontario Emergency Refugee Shelter was the only such shelter in the United States during World War II and President Roosevelt’s only acknowledgment of the Holocaust, Oswegonians are justifiably proud of their role. But the importance of the Shelter and the significance of this operetta go well beyond the history of Oswego and Central New York, and
have national and even international implications. This performance will be the final event of the 75th Anniversary Celebration of the arrival of the refugees (August, 1944) held in 2019 at Fort Ontario, just before COVID delayed everything.
Tickets will be available after October 1st at the SUNY Oswego box office in the Marano Campus Center and online at tickets.oswego.edu. The phone is 315 312-3073. Prices are $30 for general admission, $25 for senior citizens, and $10 for students. Check out our Partnering Businesses
Program, starting November 1st by visiting our website at: www.oswegooperatheater.com.
If you or anyone you know attended the original production of “The Golden Cage” on New Year’s Eve, 1945 or an abbreviated version in early January, 1946, please contact Oswego Opera Theater with a note at PO Box 3039, Oswego, New York 13126 or with a phone call at 315 343-4803. Such information will be greatly appreciated.