Historic operetta discovered in Germany returns to Oswego where it was written 75 years ago

Oswego, NY — “The Golden Cage” tells the story of the first refugees from the holocaust to arrive in America. The refugees came from 18 countries and the majority of them were Jewish.

The operetta recalls the refugees’ lives in Europe, their journey across the Atlantic, and their experiences at the Fort Ontario Emergency Refugee Centre in Oswego.

However, the operetta had to make its way back to Oswego from Germany! 

That’s because it was lost for more than 75 years until the composer’s nephew found the original draft manuscript at his home in Germany tucked away in an old trunk. 

He then sent it to Dr. Marilyn Smiley, the President of the Oswego Opera Theater.

“I got this envelope, and in it was the score for The golden cage.” said, Dr. Marilyn Smiley.

Juan LaManna, co-artistic director of the operetta, said, “The title ‘The Golden Cage’ is a metaphor for the refugees’ lives in the U.S., where all their physical needs were met but they still didn’t have freedom.”

“The refugees first of all arrived to New York City, saw the statue of liberty, they were very moved undoubtedly but then they were put into a train and for them, to be put in a train was reminiscent of the horrors of the holocaust.” LaManna continued. “And then they were taken to a fort with a fence, and that reminded, even then, of the concentration camps.”

However, after the war ended in 1945, they were required to leave. The refugees then wrote this operetta as a plea to let them stay in the U.S. 

And with the help of several local and national figures, the refugees were finally allowed to stay.

Benjamin Spierman, director for Oswego Opera Theater said, “As a jew this really hits home because we’re in a time now when immigrants, refugees, those people, who people would call aliens are, you know, under constant sort of attack.”

Even though none of the refugees is alive, their descendants were invited to watch the operetta but none were found in attendance.

However, a recording of the operetta will be available for streaming for the public in about a month.