Brundibár: children’s opera from Terezín ghetto

Brundibár opera, photo: Public Domain

In today’s edition of Sunday Music Show we’ll be listening to the children’s opera Brundibár, performed by children at the wartime Jewish ghetto in Terezín.

The two-act opera was written in 1939 by the renowned Jewish composer Hans Krása to the libretto of Adolf Hoffmeister. Krása himself rehearsed the opera with the children in Terezín after he was deported there in 1942. It premiered in September 1943 at the garrison town’s barracks and was staged there altogether 55 times.

Hans Krása
Brundibár is a simple tale of good and evil, in which innocent children triumph over an evil organ-grinder. Unfortunately, the Nazis used Brundibár for their own propaganda. In 1944 they staged a special performance of the operafor representatives of the Red Cross, who came to inspect living conditions in the camp.

Later that year, the Brundibár production was filmed for a Nazi propaganda film. As soon it was finished, all the participants in the Theresienstadt production were herded into cattle trucks and sent to Auschwitz. Most of them were gassed immediately upon arrival, including the children, the composer Hans Krása, and the musicians.

The wartime children’s opera Brundibár is frequently performed to this day, to honour the memory of the millions of Holocaust victims and to help today’s young generation to better understand the incomprehensible tragedy.