Youth Opera Of El Paso Takes On Historic Brundibár Performance
Art imitates life in the upcoming moving and historical production of Brundibár, a children's opera that dates back to the Holocaust.
The Youth Opera of El Paso and its talented group of kids (ages 7-17) are taking on the historical children's opera Brundibár and bringing it to life on stage at the Philanthropy Theatre inside the Plaza Theatre in downtown El Paso.
Brundibár tells the story of two poor kids who venture out in search of milk. With no money in hand, they take to performing in the streets after seeing Brundibár, who goes around playing his organ (Herty-Gerty). Helping out the kids are a cat, bird, and dog who eventually help chase out Brundibár and his annoying and boisterous music.
Interestingly enough, the fairytale opera contains symbolism intentionally added, such as the children in the opera representing the Jewish people at the camps and the animals being the allied forces. At the same time, the Nazis are the adults, and Brundibár is Hitler, and his organ represents his loud propaganda during the war.
The children’s opera Brundibár, which loosely translates to ‘bumblebee,’ captures the innocence of youth and the resiliency of the human spirit while memorializing those who experienced the heart-rending anguish during the Holocaust.
Brundibár is a moving children's opera written in 1938 by composer Hans Krása and writer/librettist Adolf Hoffmeister and initially performed by the children of Theresienstadt, which served as a concentration camp in Terezín, Czechoslovakia.
By 1943 composer Krása and set designer František Zelenka and the children of the original chorus became prisoners in the town, while librettist Hoffmeister was able to escape via Prague.
Once at Terezín, Krása reconstructed the opera based on memory with the few pages he smuggled from his original partial piano score. Meanwhile, František Zelenka created a modified version of the stage, and both, with the assistance of director Kurt Gerron, would present Brundibár at the concentration camp.
The children’s opera would also be the perfect way for the Nazis to show that the prisoners at the camp were doing well and that conditions were satisfactory. In 1944 in an attempt to use Terezín as a model to show how everything was copacetic, the Nazis arranged a special performance for the representatives of the Red Cross that planned to drop in to inspect the living conditions at the camp.
The world bought it, as the Red Cross reported that everything in the town of Terezín checked out and that the children were spotted "smiling and happy."
As we know today, it was all a façade created by the Nazis, and in fact, the camp at Terezín would eventually serve as a feeder camp for Auschwitz.
Sadly, Brundibár's composer Hans Krása, the director Kurt Gerron, the musicians, the innocent children, and millions more ultimately perished during Hitler’s reign of terror.
Remarkably, Brundibár survived and has seen its popularity grow across the globe over the years to memorialize the children who initially performed the opera and serve as a reminder of what these souls endured.
Since February, the Youth Opera of El Paso has been working diligently to present Brundibár and will also screen footage of the original opera production from the camp.
Also, it's worth noting that the organ or Herty-Gerty for the upcoming production was handmade by local artist Chris Bevins of the Glasbox La Union by retrofitting an old icebox. While the prop piece doesn't play, it's a fantastic piece that adds to the realism of the opera.
Head out and support local talent beginning this Thursday when the Youth Opera of El Paso present Brundibár at the Philanthropy Theatre.
Tickets are on sale now at the Plaza Theatre Box Office (saves you on those ticket fees) or via Ticketmaster.com.
- Brundibár by Hans Krása
- Philanthropy Theatre (Inside the Plaza Theatre)
- April 28 - April 30, 2022, at 7:30 p.m.
- Admission: $16 (Proceeds to benefit the Youth Opera of El Paso's music programs)
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