The Brundibar opera is coming to Augustana College in November. The Augustana Chamber Orchestra joins Opera@Augustana and the Jenny Lind Vocal Ensemble in a performance of “Brundibár,” a children’s opera by Jewish Czech composer Hans Krása.
“Brundibár” was written in 1938 but was not performed until 1942 when it premiered at the Vinohrady Jewish Boy’s Orphanage in the Prague ghetto.
Krása had already been sent to the Terezín concentration camp where he was the musical director of the Freizeitgestaltung, a group of prisoners tasked with organizing cultural activities for the camp.
When the conductor of the original Prague production was sent to Terezín himself, he smuggled in a piano score to “Brundibár.” From this and his own memory, Krása reconstructed the opera, taking into account the performing forces available to him in the camp.
Beginning with a performance on July 23, 1943, “Brundibár” was performed 55 times in the Terezín camp over the course of the next year and a performance was central to an International Red Cross visit to the camp in June 1944, during which the visiting delegation was deceptively shown a healthy and happy Jewish population.
As the war was nearing its close, Krása was taken on a transport that left Terezín on Oct. 16, 1944, and he was killed in a gas chamber at Auschwitz two days later.