Brundibár is an opera for children by Hans Krása (composer) and Adolf Hoffmeister (librettist). It was written in 1938 and performed many times in Terezín concentration camp, during the Second World War. The camp housed artists, musicians and writers, as well as many children – the whole Jewish orphanage in Prague was moved to Terezín. The adults in the camp were committed to continuing the education of the children and young people.
Brundibár, a cheerful, hopeful story about how children overcome a bully, played an important part in bringing light into a world of terrible darkness.
Our production involved performers, aged 8 – 16, including members of the choir of Mayfield Primary School. We performed at the Mumford Theatre on July 13 and 14 2015.
About our production
In creating our production of Brundibár, we wanted to find a way of rooting the story in its past. At the same time we felt it important to keep the message strong and relevant for the children of all ages taking part and attending the opera. This is, after all, a living work of art, not a museum piece.
So, at one level, we decided to play it straight. As such, this is a tale of overcoming a bully – a story about how you can do things when you band together that you could never do on your own.
However, we did not want to lose the connection with the backstory. We saw the opera as a dream or fantasy of the children in the camp. The action played out in the 1930s below a distant silhouette of Prague – a memory of home, of the famous Charles Bridge, the castle and the ancient synagogue.
In contrast, the props, the market stalls and even Brundibár’s barrel organ were deliberately ramshackle. They appeared dreamed up and built by the children themselves, recreating their remembered lives. Meanwhile, the children’s rescuers, the three animals, are represented by film stars the children would have admired and looked up to. The bird becomes a feathered follies dancer, the cat channels the glamour of Marlene Dietrich, while the dog takes on the identity of Charlie Chaplin, always a champion of the weak and poor.
Photography by Anne Taylor
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