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10 May 2020 (Sun), 13:00 World famous Mariinsky Ballet and Opera Theatre - Opera and Concert Hall - Opera Music by Hans Krasa "Brundibar" children`s opera (semi-staged performance)

Schedule for Music by Hans Krasa "Brundibar" children`s opera (semi-staged performance) 2020

Lighting Designer: Roman Peskov
Composer: Hans Krasa
Director: Mstislav Pentkovsky
Principal Chorus Master: Igor Gribkov

Orchestra: Mariinsky Theatre Symphony Orchestra
Opera company: Mariinsky (Kirov) Opera

Performed in Russian, with synchronised English supertitles

World premiere: 23 September 1943, Theresienstadt, Czech Republic

Brundibár is a children's opera by Jewish Czech composer Hans Krása with a libretto by Adolf Hoffmeister, originally performed by the children of Theresienstadt concentration camp in occupied Czechoslovakia. The name comes from a Czech colloquialism for a bumblebee.

Libretto by Adolf Hoffmeister 
Russian text by Lilia Vinogradova


Krása and Hoffmeister wrote the opera in 1938 for a government competition, but the competition was later cancelled due to political developments. Rehearsals started in 1941 at the Jewish orphanage in Prague, which served a temporary educational facility for children separated from their parents by the war. In the winter of 1942 the opera was first performed at the orphanage: by this time, composer Krása and set designer František Zelenka had already been transported to Theresienstadt. By July 1943, nearly all of the children of the original chorus and the orphanage staff had also been transported to Theresienstadt. Only the librettist Hoffmeister was able to escape Prague in time.


Reunited with the cast in Theresienstadt, Krása reconstructed the full score of the opera, based on memory and the partial piano score that remained in his hands, adapting it to suit the musical instruments available in the camp: flute, clarinet, guitar, accordion, piano, percussion, four violins, a cello and a double bass. A set was once again designed by František Zelenka, formerly a stage manager at the Czech National Theatre: several flats were painted as a background, in the foreground was a fence with drawings of the cat, dog and lark and holes for the singers to insert their heads in place of the animals' heads. On 23 September 1943, Brundibár premiered in Theresienstadt. The production was directed by Zelenka and choreographed by Camilla Rosenbaum, and was shown 55 times in the following year.


A special performance of Brundibár was staged in 1944 for representatives of the Red Cross who came to inspect living conditions in the camp; what the Red Cross did not know at the time was that much of what they saw during their visit was a show, and that one of the reasons the Theresienstadt camp seemed comfortable was that many of the residents had been deported to Auschwitz in order to reduce crowding during their visit.


Later that year this Brundibár production was filmed for a Nazi propaganda film Der Führer schenkt den Juden eine Stadt (The Führer Gives the Jews a City). All of the participants in the Theresienstadt production were herded into cattle trucks and sent to Auschwitz as soon as filming was finished. Most were gassed immediately upon arrival, including the children, the composer Krása, the director Kurt Gerron, and the musicians.


The Brundibár footage from the film is included in the Emmy Award-winning documentary Voices of the Children directed by Zuzana Justman, a Terezin survivor, who sang in the chorus. Ela Weissberger, who played the part of the cat, appears in the film. The footage appears again in As Seen Through These Eyes, a 2009 documentary directed by Hilary Helstein. There Weissberger describes the opera in some detail, noting that the only time that the children were permitted to remove their yellow stars was during a performance.


Aninka and Pepicek, two little children, have a sick mother.  The doctor has prescribed milk for her health, and they go to seek it in the town marketplace, but they have no money to purchase it.  Three traders hawk their wares: an ice-cream man, a baker and a milkman.  The children engage the milkman in song, but he tells them that they need money for milk.  Suddenly the children spot the organ-grinder, Brundibar, playing on the street corner.  Seeing his success, they decide to busk as well (and proceed to sing a song about geese), much to the annoyance of the townsfolk and Brundibar, who chase them away.  Three animals – a sparrow, cat and dog – come to their aid, and together they recruit the other children of the neighbourhood in their plan.  Night falls, the dawn comes, the children and animals begin morning exercises and the townsfolk get ready for the day.  The plan goes ahead: the animals and children drown out Brundibar; they then join in a beautiful lullaby.  The townsfolk are very moved and give Aninka and Pepicek money.  Suddenly, Brundibar sneaks in and steals their takings.  All the children and the animals give chase and recover the money.  The opera concludes with a victory march sung about defeating the evil organ-grinder.

Schedule for Music by Hans Krasa "Brundibar" children`s opera (semi-staged performance) 2020

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