Hans Krása: Brundibar – School programme
About the program
Within the Young BFO program series, the Orchestra will play Hans Krása’s children’s opera: Brundibar in its partner schools. The performances can be attended by students of the given school.
The concentration camp in Theresienstadt (Terezin) was considered a kind of show-camp. The former military headquarters was used as a transit camp. After the occupation of Czechoslovakia, the majority of Czech Jews were deported here, but prisoners from Hungary, the Netherlands, Germany and other nations were also brought here. The inhabitants were sent on to death camps, primarily to Auschwitz. The unprecedentedly cynical Nazi propaganda film entitled ”The Führer gives Jews a city” is also set here (it was directed by legendary German actor-director, Kurt Gerron, gassed to death in Auschwitz in 1944); the purpose of the film was to show the wonderful life of Jews in concentration camps.
In Theresienstadt there was a lively art life: theatrical ensembles were set up, the prisoners gave chamber and grand orchestra concerts and opera performances. Hans Krása’s children’s opera Brundibár is an outstanding example of these, and some moments are also included in the film mentioned above.
The premiere of the opera was in 1943, in a Jewish orphanage in Prague; the composer had already been in the concentration camp for a year. His opera became the most popular piece of musical life in the camp, and was performed fifty-five times. The cast of the opera and the musicians changed constantly – children were not exempt from deportation to Auschwitz, and of the five thousand children in the camp barely three hundred survived. Krása – together with all the known and anonymous performers of his opera – lost his life in the gas chambers of Auschwitz, sometime in October 1944 .
The opera is about two poor children, Aninka and Pepíček, who would like to buy milk for their mother, who is ill, but they have no money and the milkman sends them away. The children decide to sing for money, but Brundibár, the organ-grinder, sees them as his rivals and chases them away. With the help of the Dog, the Cat, the Sparrow and the animals, and with the power of friendship, the song of the children finally wins, so Aninka and Pepíček can buy milk for their mother.