"Brundibar," a children's opera by Czech composer Hans Krasa performed in the Theresienstadt concentration camp, will be presented at the Church of Beethoven on Sunday, Oct. 24, at 10:30 a.m. and at UNM on Saturday, Nov. 6, 2 p.m.
The opera is performed by the UNM Children's Chorus, Santa Fe Opera Young Voices Program and Chatter, a chamber ensemble. Kathleen Clawson, lecturer, UNM Department of Theatre and Dance, directs and David Felberg, faculty UNM Department of Music, conducts. "Brundibar" is presented in conjunction with an exhibit planned at the UNM Art Museum in spring of art made by children interned in the Theresienstadt camp.
"It is an honor and privilege to work with these fine musicians to present this amazing work," Clawson said. "We must always remember to listen to the voices of the children." The highly-acclaimed mezzo-soprano has also been a stage director with the Santa Fe Opera Apprentice Program.
In 1942, the Nazis deported Jewish composer Krasa to Theresienstadt – often referred to as Terezin – where he rescored the children's opera he had written in 1938 for a competition. It was performed 55 times at the ghetto camp. Krasa was deported to Auschwitz in 1944 and immediately executed.
In the opera, children overcome the bully Brundibar to provide needed milk for their mother. The opera became a hit in the camp, and its theme of good against evil was reassuring to the prisoners. To them, the evil organ grinder was Hitler, and his defeat symbolized hope.
A performer and survivor of Theresienstadt and Auschwitz who played the role of the cat, Ela Weissberger, said, "When we were performing ‘Brundibar,' we forgot where we were, we forgot all our troubles. Music was part of our resistance against the Nazis. Music, art, good teachers and friends mean survival."
Admission to the performance at the Church of Beethoven at the Factory on 5th, 1715 Fifth St. NW, along with music and poetry performances, is $15 for adults, $10 for full-time students with ID and $5 for children under 12. Visit the Church of Beethoven.
Admission to the performance at UNM in the Popejoy Hall lobby is free. "Brundibar" is the first event of the Chatter season. Visit Chatter.