Adapted by Meira Warshauer from the story “Elijah’s Violin,” oral tradition, Egypt, re-told by Howard Schwarz in his collection, Elijah’s Violin and other Jewish Fairy Tales (Harper and Row, 1983). Libretto by Susan Levi Wallach and Meira Warshauer. The image above right is by theatre artist Kimi Maeda. Recorded for FBN Productions, March 31, 2017.
Prince Rafi’s sister, Princess Shulamit, is imprisoned in stone after a mirror demon steals her soul, leaving only her frozen mirror image. Rafi, roaming the countryside looking for help, encounters a mycologist who directs him to Malka, an old woman known for healing. When Rafi finds Malka, she is teaching her niece, Zohara, the art of healing with herbs. Upon hearing Rafi’s story, Zohara wants to help heal his sister but is not sure how. Auntie Malka instructs Zohara and Rafi to go into the forest and find Elijah’s violin, which can melt even stone, when played by someone of pure heart. Zohara is afraid to leave home, and Auntie Malka teaches her to calm herself and find her courage within. Zohara wonders what it means to have a pure heart. (see video above with aria “Close Your Eyes”)
Rafi and Zohara set out on their journey. When night falls, scary demons roam the forest frightening Zohara who tries to remember the her aunt’s teaching. The next morning, with help from the birds and a map revealed in the leaf of an Elder tree, they find an Old Man deep in the woods. He shows them a small violin which can release the imprisoned melodies of the world, but only when played by someone with a pure heart. Otherwise it can bring harm. Zohara is afraid to try. With the help of the audience, who is invited to hum and tone to support Zohara, beautiful melodies soar from the violin. The Old Man reveals himself as Elijah, and blesses Rafi and Zohara on their journey.
The leaf map shows a path to the castle, and Zohara and Rafi soon find his sister, imprisoned inside the mirror as if in stone, half dead, half alive, with only the power of speech. Per Elijah’s instructions, Rafi burns 3 strands from the violin bow. Zohara then plays the violin, and its music flows into Shula’s heart, awakening her soul which becomes empowered to escape the demon’s hold and return to Shulamit. Now able to move, Shula must force the mirror demon to return to the world of reflection. She hurls a stone through the mirror to trap the demon behind it, and to shield her from the mirror’s seductive power.
All, including the audience, join in song to celebrate Shulamit’s return to life and wholeness, Zohara’s courage, Rafi’s devotion, the wisdom of Auntie Malka and Elijah, and the violin and its music, which releases the imprisoned melodies of the heart.
Prince Raphael or Rafi (which means “healer”), tenor
Princess Shulamit or Shula (which means “whole”), mezzo soprano
Mycologist, bass/baritone (doubles Elijah)
Zohara (which means “splendor”), soprano
Auntie Malka (which means “earth” and “queen”), mezzo soprano (may double Shulamit)
*Elijah, bass/baritone (doubles Mycologist)
Children’s Chorus—(commenting on narrative; forest creatures who accompany Rafi and Zohara on their journeys; demons running through forest at night; birds who tell Zohara about the map in the leaf)
Shadow puppets may be used to propel the narrative.
*Elijah, the biblical prophet, heralds the coming of the Messiah who heals broken hearts and spirits, bringing peace to the world.
The violin and piano composition, Bracha (Blessing), that I expect to be source material for violin themes is below. Performed by Opus Two–William Terwilliger, violin, and Andrew Cooperstock, piano. Recorded by Jeff Francis at the University of South Carolina.