Meet the singer who performs Yiddish opera from Holocaust survivors—and also Richard Wagner

Jaclyn Grossman is an opera singer based out of Toronto who specializes in singing Yiddish opera, as well as the works of Richard Wagner. (Photo by Tam Lam)

When Jaclyn Grossman was an 18-year-old opera student, her teacher heard her soprano voice and informed her she’d sing the music of Richard Wagner. Grossman didn’t know much about the German composer, but quickly fell in love with his music. She was not particularly phased by the fact that Wagner was infamously antisemitic, included offensive Jewish stereotypes in his works, and is even de facto banned in Israel.

Years later, she began researching operas written by Holocaust victims and survivors. She co-founded the Likht Ensemble to perform their works and toured the continent singing these nearly forgotten Yiddish pieces. And only then did she realize that her two passions existed within an extremely controversial space.

This week, opera fans can hear Grossman in the Edmonton Opera’s production of Das Rheingold; then, in July, she heads to Ontario’s Festival of the Sound to sing in Yiddish in Postcards. In advance of these contrasting shows, Grossman sits down with our arts podcast, Culturally Jewish, to explain how she reconciles these two worlds—and why Jewish fans shouldn’t cancel Wagner.

Relevant links

Credits

Culturally Jewish is hosted by Ilana Zackon and David Sklar. Our producer is Michael Fraiman, and our theme music is by Sarah Segal-Lazar. We’re a member of The CJN Podcast Network. To support The CJN and receive a charitable tax receipt, please consider a monthly donation by clicking here.