There live outstanding artists who not only contribute the precious gift of their talent to the world but personify the most remarkable signs of the epoch by their life itself.
Vincent Van Gogh (1853–1890) is like this. Paying his last tribute to Van Gogh, Doctor Gachet said that his friend »was an honest man and a great artist; he pursued only two objects – humaneness and art.«
Much would have remained unknown if it were not for Van Gogh's letters. His 652 letters to his brother Theo can rightfully be considered a unique literary document. They depict the life of the genius, and neither any of the letters nor any of the pictures is marked with the seal of madness. They are »the documents of the outlook, essence and thinking of the highest ethics, the expression of boundless truth, endless love, sincere humaneness… These letters belong to the most tremendous phenomena of the recent past.« (K. Jaspers).
The interest of many writers in Van Gogh's life and especially in his letters is not surprising; they »can be ranked with the Russian writers' confessionary literature.« (M. Shapiro). Gregory Frid's idea of creating a theatre and musical work based on only Van Gogh's letters without adding anything to the text seems very persuading by itself.
Gregory Frid was born in Petrograd in 1915. In 1939 he graduated from Moscow Academy of Music in the class of composition under G. I. Litinsky and V. J. Shebalin.
The charm of lively thought and serious confidential tone are characteristic of his music. The problems of moral formation of the individuality, spiritual struggle when sense of duty, will, determination clash with powerlessness and hesitation. In complicated harmony of modern tonal music G. Frid realizes the thoughts and conflicts of the present day. Two composer's mono operas raise the issues that are important for him.
One of them is »Anna Frank's Diary« (1969) based on the tragic notes of the 13-year old girl from Holland that was occupied by Nazis during the WW II. They became one of the most significant documents of that war, a kind of warning for the world. The basis of the second opera is Van Gogh's letters (1975).
Working on making up the libretto the composer subordinated the compilation of Van Gogh's letters rather to the art conception than to the chronology. There is only one personage on the stage.