For a Look or a Touch (2013)
Words by Gene Scheer & Music by Jake Heggie
For baritone, men’s chorus and actor, “For A Look Or A Touch” is a story about the persecution of gay men during the Holocaust. The text is based on the true stories told in the documentary film Paragraph 175 and the journal of Manfred Lewin, from the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC.
Read more about this work at MusicOfRemembrance.org
For a Look or a Touch is unabashedly theatrical. Its sentimentality is shot through with lyrical depictions of brutality and terror. A dance-hall swing recalls the happy energy of Berlin before the persecutions began. The Story of Joe tells of a quiet boy savaged by guard dogs. The Singing Forest recalls a horrific torture, with the gentleness of Heggie’s melody contrasting the brutality of the scene.
For a Look or a Touch is based on the diary by 19-year old Manfred Lewin, written for his lover Gad Beck. Lewin, like many gays, died in the Holocaust, but Beck is still alive today. Their story inspired Heggie and his lyricist, Gene Scheer, and the result is a sharply poignant, deeply affecting work for baritone and actor. Morgan Smith and Julian Patrick take the breath away as Lewin and Beck in deeply moving music and lyrics that pull no punches. They’re supported by a first-rate ensemble…
Heggie’s song cycle with actors, For a Look or a Touch, is a masterpiece. The music is tonal and evocative… This is an impressive piece of work. It tells the tale musically and vocally without waver or waffle, and deserves many hearings.