"Brundibar" Children Opera

The “Brundibar” opera was presented in Ostrava and Opava by children artistic groups of the Volgograd Region

On September 23-24, 2015, the children opera “Brundibar” in the Russian language premiered in the cities of Ostrava and Opava (the Moravian-Silesian Region). The opera, written by a Czech composer Hans Krása to the lyrics by Adolf Hoffmeister, was first performed by the little prisoners of the Theresienstadt concentration camp during World War 2. The interpretation prepared by young Volgograd musicians is the first Russian-language edition of the opera to be played in the Czech Republic, the composer’s motherland.

The opera’s demonstration became possible due to the close cooperation and the twinning relations existing between Volgograd and Ostrava as well as to the support from both Volgograd Region Administration and the Government of the Moravian-Silesian Region.

The “Brundibar” theater play was written in Prague in 1938, with the city already being under the Nazi occupation. A bit later, its author was sent to the Theresienstadt concentration camp, where he restored the full score of the opera from his memory and organized its first staging with the participation of the camp’s little prisoners, the majority of whom later perished in gas cameras.

The opera’s main characters are a brother and a sister who have to earn their living by singing in the streets. Music and friends help the protagonists to overcome all difficulties and triumph over the evil forces incarnated in the character of Brundibar – the market organ-grinder. In 1942-1943, the opera was played over 50 times, becoming one of the symbols of resistance to fascism.

The idea of staging “Brundibar” in Volgograd on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the victory in the Great Patriotic War, belonged to Mr. Yuri Ilynov, the chief conductor of “Tsaritsyn Opera” Volgograd State Theater. Literary translation to the Russian language was prepared by a Volgograd screenwriter and playwright Ms. Natalia Leontieva.

The opera’s performers are the young Volgograd musicians aged between 10 and 20. Among the artistic groups, there are members of the Children Musical Theater “Si-Mi-Re-Mi-Do Gardens”, Volgograd Children Symphonic Orchestra, Jewish male vocal ensemble “Gvura”. The design of stage costumes was restored by cinema chronicles and rare photos. A matter of special significance and interest to the critics and opera amateurs is that Volgograd children not only perform on stage but also play in the orchestra.

“Brundibar” opening night in the Czech Republic took place on September 23 on the stage of Ostrava House of Culture. The audience was greeted by the Vice-Mayor of Ostrava Zbyněk Pražák, General Consul of the Russian Federation in Brno Aleksandr Budaev, Vice-Hetman of the Moravian-Silesian Region Ivan Strachon, ex-Minister of Culture of the Czech Republic Ilja Racek, and Luděk Eliáš – an actor who played in the very first “Brundibar” performance in the Theresienstadt concentration camp. The speakers spoke about the tragic history of the opera, emphasizing the necessity to preserve historic memory about the war within the new generations, and especially noted how important such cultural and humanitarian projects are for the development of relations between the two regions.

On September 24, the opera was shown again – this time, in the House of Culture “Na Rybníčku” in the city of Opava, where it became a part of the Bezruč Opava Festival – an annual international event, in 2015 held under the motto “Truth conquers everything – and sometimes frightens”. Among the members of the audience, there were the Honorary Consul of Russia in Ostrava Mr. Aleš Zedník, staff of the Russian Consulate in Brno and a young Czech singing choir that had previously performed with their own rendition of “Brundibar” in Israel. During the triumphant final song “We have defeated Brundibar”, which is traditionally sung both in Russian and Czech, the Czech choir joined the Volgograd singers.

Performances by the young Volgograd artists were met with great interest and affection on the part of the Czech audiences. Listeners sympathized greatly with the protagonists and were deeply moved by the sincerity and talent of the young musicians and singers. Both concert halls were full.

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