Brundibár 2005 and 2006

Saskatoon, Regina and Winnipeg, Canada

To commemorate the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II, the Saskatoon Children’s Choir presented a poignant production of the children’s opera Brundibár, first performed by the children internees of the Nazi concentration camp of Terezín. The choir performed Brundibár to eleven sold-out audiences in Saskatoon, Regina, and Winnipeg. This project connected choristers to history and to a world beyond their borders, as they met with two Holocaust survivors who performed in the original productions.

The resulting CBC Radio recording (Shauna Powers, producer and Chris Haynes, sound engineer) received the national CBC award for best documentary in 2005.

The opera Brundibár was written by a Jewish Czech composer Hans Krása in 1938. In 1942, he was deported to Terezín (or Theresienstadt), a ghetto created by the Nazis to amass European Jews in one location prior to transportation to the East for the “final solution”. In Terezín, Krása’s opera Brundibár was performed more than fifty times by children and musicians from the ghetto. During the rehearsals and performances, as the transports to the East were in progress, there was a constant stream of new performers, replacing the previous performers who were being shipped to Auschwitz for extermination.

The opera itself is a simple story about friendship, good winning over evil and overcoming bullies. The final chorus of the opera goes like this: “Victory spectacular, goodbye to Brundibár, never afraid of him, battle won, war is done, now we are number one. Our song is strong and clear, our voices without fear, what a phenomenon. Whoever loves justice and will defend it and is not afraid is our friend and may play with us”.

What is particularly significant and moving is the historical context in which it was originally performed – in a concentration camp, under the noses of the Nazis, who either were not listening or did not see the significance of the opera’s lyrics. The opera speaks to today’s children as well. It shows that if we pull together, we can overcome even the meanest bully.