Deceitful Jews, deceiful race,
They should not be allowed,
They must not be allowed
To infect New Amsterdam!


In 2010, Corina van Eijk asked me to write a libretto for an opera about Peter Stuyvesant. I knew of Stuyvesant not only as the most famous governor of New Amsterdam, my hometown, but also as a man who tried to keep New Amsterdam purely Dutch, free from the influence of Quakers, Jews, Indians or anyone who wasn’t a member of the Dutch Reformed Church.


Dutchmen were very much on my mind. On the ninth anniversary of September 11, the Dutch politician, Geert Wilders, came to New York to protest the building of the “Ground Zero Mosque”, an Islamic Community Center which had been planned to rise about 1 km. away from Ground Zero. Joining Wilders was another Dutch politician Somalian-born Ayaan Hirsi Ali, whose autobiography recounting her personal battle against Islamic tradition makes for harrowing reading.


I suggested to Corina that there might be an interesting parallel to be made between Stuyvesant’s persecution of the Jews in 1655 and Wilders’ outcry against Muslims. But life and politics are, of course, too complex and entertaining to boil into a simple equation.


With the wonderfully sly Dutch composer Caroline Ansink, I have written an opera in two short scenes—one set with Peter Stuyvesant and the first Jewish merchant in New Amsterdam in 1655, and the other in New York on September 11, 2011, at the inauguration of the Peter Stuyvesant Islamic Center. Instead of Wilders, it is a tenth-generation Stuyvesant who shows up from Holland to protest the celebration.


I wanted to make sure, above all, that we wouldn’t preach in our opera, but simply raise questions. What do freedom of religion and freedom of speech mean? What price are we willing to pay to welcome all into our new worlds? Americans and Dutch are linked by history, by Stuyvesant. Just how loose are our chains?

World premiere: August 22, 2012 Opera Spanga, Netherlands

Corina van Eijk   Director
Jonathan Levi   Libretto
Caroline Ansink   Composer
Ezequiel Menalled   Music Director
Jolanda Lanslots   Sets
Pieter van Rooij   Costumes
Saskia Ellemeet   Make-Up

Marcel van Dieren   Pieter/Peter
Sinan Vural   Asher/Ali
Klara Uleman  Judith/Yehudit
Pearlmira Vincent   Esther/Samira

With the Spanga Festival Ensemble





World premiere: August 22, 2012

Opera Spanga, Netherlands



Corina van Eijk, Director
Jonathan Levi, Libretto
Caroline Ansink, Composer
Ezequiel Menalled, Music Director
Jolanda Lanslots, Sets
Pieter van Rooij, Costumes
Saskia Ellemeet, Make-Up


Marcel van Dieren, Pieter/Peter
Sinan Vural, Asher/Ali
Klara Uleman, Judith/Yehudit
Pearlmira Vincent, Esther/Samira

With the Spanga Festival Ensemble