Bio

Ellen Frankel served for 18 years as Editor in Chief and CEO of The Jewish Publication Society, the oldest nondenominational, non-profit publisher of Jewish works in English, and was named its first Editor Emerita upon her retirement in 2009. She is the author of nine books, including The Classic Tales, Encyclopedia of Jewish Symbols, The Five Books of Miriam, and The Illustrated Children’s Bible, which won the 2009 National Jewish Book Award. She received her B.A. from University of Michigan and her Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from Princeton.

Frankel has been writing libretti since 1999. In May 2000, the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony premiered Andrea Clearfield’s cantata, Women of Valor, with two pieces by Frankel, “Sarah” and “Hannah.” Frankel and Clearfield were recently commissioned by the Women’s Sacred Music Project at Daylesford Abbey in Paoli, PA, to write a new piece, “Hagar,” to be performed at the abbey in November 2011 as part of a shortened version of Women of Valor. The program will include an interfaith symposium in which Dr. Frankel will participate.

In 2005, Philadelphia’s prestigious Mendelssohn Club Choir commissioned Clearfield and Frankel to write a new oratorio. “The Golem Psalms,” inspired by the ancient Jewish legend of the Golem, premiered at the University of Pennsylvania in May 2006, performed by the Mendelssohn Club and the Philadelphia Chamber Orchestra, with Sanford Sylvan as baritone soloist. Since its premiere, the oratorio has been performed at Haverford College by the Bryn Mawr/Haverford Choir and Orchestra (April 2007); Indiana University, performed by the Contemporary Vocal Ensemble and the Conductor’s Orchestra, under conductor John Leonard, with Kenneth Pereira as baritone soloist (February 2009); and at Verizon Hall in the Kimmel Center, performed by the Temple University Symphony Orchestra and Combined Choirs, conducted by Alan Harler, with Sanford Sylvan again as baritone soloist (March 2010).

Following the success of “The Golem Psalms,” Frankel expanded her libretto into a two-act opera, The Golem, retaining several pieces from the initial oratorio. Philadelphia’s Center City Opera Theater (CCOT), under artistic director Andrew Kurtz, has signed agreements with Frankel and Clearfield to help develop the work. A staged reading was held in May 2009, under the direction of Charles Gilbert, artistic director of the Ira Brind Theater School at the University of the Arts. As work progresses, CCOT will schedule other staged readings as well as composition workshops, will spearhead fundraising efforts, and will offer expert consultation.

CCOT recently commissioned Frankel to write the libretto for another new opera, Slaying the Dragon, a two-act work inspired by actual events that took place in Lincoln, Nebraska, in the early 1990’s, involving Larry Trapp, Grand Dragon of the Nebraska Ku Klux Klan, who renounced a lifetime of hatred and violence after being befriended by a Jewish cantor and his wife. Ultimately, the cantor’s family took the terminally ill Trapp into their home; he converted to Judaism before dying there. The composer for the work is Michael Ching, former artistic director of Opera Memphis, and creator of eight previous operas. The world premiere of this work is scheduled for June 2012 in Philadelphia.

Dr. Frankel lives in Philadelphia with her husband. She has two children and two grandchildren.
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