Nava Semel comes from a musical family. Her brother, Shlomo Artzi, is one of Israel’s most famous singers. She, however, is a novelist whose 2001 book “And the Rat Laughed” (“Tzchok shel achbarosh”) has yet to find an American publisher but has indeed found a North American venue for it — Toronto’s Opera York.
The Hebrew opera, written by Ella Milch-Sheriff in conjunction with Semel starts off in the future with flashes back to the present, in which a grandmother Holocaust survivor recounts her traumatic story to her granddaughter. Semel tells part of her own grandparents’ story here this week at the Forward.