REVIEW: ‘The Path to Heaven’ a harrowing Holocaust tale

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REVIEW: ‘The Path to Heaven’ a harrowing Holocaust tale

"The Path to Heaven" promotional

Courtesy of the College of Fine Arts

"The Path to Heaven" promotional

Courtesy of the College of Fine Arts

Courtesy of the College of Fine Arts

"The Path to Heaven" promotional

“Chilling” is the only way to describe Wichita State’s fall opera, “The Path to Heaven.” Chilling in the content, chilling in the music, and chilling in the theater — but that’s not a point against it.

WSU’s Miller Concert Hall hosted the North American premiere of “The Path to Heaven,” an opera centered around a group of friends as they’re separated by the atrocities of the Holocaust. From that synopsis, you’re probably already aware that this opera will make you cry.

If you’re one of those people who doesn’t like operas because they’re long, boring and in Italian, then don’t worry. This opera is entirely in English, save the first scene, and it’s two hours long – 48 minutes shorter than a Marvel movie. In fact, I was surprised it was over by the time the performers were taking their final bow.

A combined effort between the WSU Wind Ensemble and Opera Theater, the opera itself was very impressive, giving the audience a live concert to accompany the performers. Half the stage was for musicians and the other half was for actors.

Normally, this would be an issue, but the opera made the most of the limited space with a projector, a table, and a few chairs. The actors’ singing alone commanded the scene and kept the audience’s attention on their half of the stage.

The depressing part about “The Path to Heaven” is that it’s very, very real.

Everything from the opening song filled with fun and laughter to the tragic final scene was like reading “The Diary of Anne Frank.” Some lyrics depicted scenes of death found in concentration camps, leaving a mental picture that’s hard to shake.

What stood out most was the star-crossed lovers, similar to Liesl and Rolf from “The Sound of Music,” but if the whole scenario played out in full-blown Romeo and Juliet tragic fashion.

Primarily, “The Path to Heaven” is a story about love and hate — the breed of hate that was prevalent during the Holocaust. It’s sad and real, and not until the end can you really understand the cultural relevance it has today.