It was the ultimate cynical propaganda; when the Nazis created Terezin, they billed it as a "health spa," sending prominent Jews whose disappearance would be noticed, had earned medals in the previous wars, and those who older than 65 there. In the beginning, there was a vibrant cultural life with concerts, lectures, and covert education for the many children housed. In truth, it was a way station for the prisoners, most of whom would be shipped to death camps.
It was here that Hans Krasa's Brundibar, a children's opera, took flight. Krasa and librettist Adolf Hoffmeister had mounted it in Prague shortly before Krasa and most of the cast were rounded up and sent to Terezin; only Hoffmeister managed to escape. Krasa adapted the score for the instruments available in the ghetto, and premiered Brundibar in Terezin; it was performed 55 more times over the course of the year, despite the fact that it was a thinly disguised anti-Hitler allegory. Oddly, the Nazis didn't seem to notice, making good use of it; the children performed it for the Red Cross during a camp inspection and later that year, the Nazis filmed it for a documentary. No sooner had the cameras stopped rolling when most of the cast was shipped to Auschwitz, and immediately gassed--the children, orchestra, the director, and composer Hans Krasa.
But Bundibar did not perish in the death camps. It continues to live on the stage and in the movies--there's even a children's book by Maurice Sendak. Krasa was one of many composers sent to Terezin; Cordancia Chamber Orchestra celebrated some of the many in a concert on May 12, 2019 in the First Presbyterian Church in Pittsford. This is a suite from that opera. Rachel Lauber conducts.