Classical 91.5

Sat 4/25, 4:00p Cordancia performs Krasa's Brundibar Suite

Apr 13, 2020

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.

Credit Gerry Szymanski

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.