Toledo Symphony and Toledo School for the Arts to Present Holocaust-Era Children’s Opera, February 20, 2020

Published Monday, November 18, 2019 12:00 pm

The Toledo Symphony Orchestra (TSO) announced today that it will present the Holocaust-era children’s Opera Brundibár on Thursday, February 20, 2020 at the historic Toledo Museum of Art Peristyle Theater to commemorate the 75th anniversary of World War II.

Directed by Jamie Dauel and Juliette Quinlan, singers from Toledo School for the Arts will join the TSO on stage. Performances for area teachers and students as part of the TSO’s Young People’s Concerts are 9:45 AM and 11:00 AM. A showing for the general public is at 7:00 PM. Tickets for the evening performance are $20. A portion of ticket sales will go to support the Jewish Federation.

Composed in 1938 by Czech composer Hans Krása with lyrics by Czech librettist Adolf Hoffmeister, Brundibár was an opera written to be performed by children. The story follows siblings Aninka and Pepíček who travel to the market to fetch some milk for their sick mother. Without any money, they adopt the ways of Brundibár, a greedy street musician who cranks a music-making box and decide to sing in hopes of collecting tips. Brundibár runs the children out of the market, and Aninka and Pepíček realize they must gather more singers to overpower him. With the help of a trio of animals—a dog, a cat, and a sparrow—they create a booming chorus of friends. Their combined voices vanquish Brundibár, and the children make enough money to buy milk for their mother.

Originally created as an entry for a children’s opera competition, Brundibár premiered in German-occupied Prague and was performed by the children at the Jewish Orphanage. It received one additional performance before the mass transport of Jews to Theresienstadt concentration camp in Czechoslovakia began in 1942. The piano score was later smuggled into the Theresienstadt in 1943 by Rudolph Freudenfeld, the conductor of the original premiere. Krása later re-orchestrated Brundibár for the instruments available at the camp.

The Nazis arranged a new staging of Brundibár for their propaganda film titled The Fuhrer Gives a Village to the Jews. The film was made to create the illusion for the outside world that the camps were benign and the Jews were being treated humanely. The new production premiered in 1944 and would be the last of the 55 performances by the children of Theresienstadt. Two weeks later, Krása and most of the children who performed in the opera were deported to Auschwitz and perished in gas chambers.

Holocaust survivor Ela Weissberger, who played the role of the Cat in every performance of Brundibár, was one of few child performers at Theresienstadt who survived the war. Ela’s daughter, Tamar Grishpon, will speak about her mother’s experiences at the performances on Thursday.

“This story of triumph over evil is multi-layered,” says Rachel Schultz, Director of Education and Community Outreach at the Toledo Symphony. “For younger students, the children’s story we see on stage will tell a story of bullies, friendship, perseverance, and teamwork. Peel back the layers, and older students and adults will uncover how this production fits into the world then and now.”

“The unlikely survival of this opera is remarkable,” says David Saygers, Artistic Director at the Toledo School for the Arts. “The actual events of what happened to the original performers at Theresienstadt should never be forgotten, and we are honored to present these shows with the Toledo Symphony to commemorate the original cast, enlighten the community, and remind everyone that music and art can outlast hate.”

“In the next few years, there will not be any Holocaust survivors left,” says Hindea Markowicz, Director of the Ruth Fajerman Markowicz Holocaust Resource Center of Greater Toledo. “It is up to us to remind the world of the atrocities that took place during World War II, and this presentation of Brundibár by the Toledo Symphony and Toledo School for the Arts will certainly move us and help us all remember.”

The one-night-only evening performance of Brundibár will open with But the Giraffe, by Tony-award playwright Tony Kushner and Maurice Sendak. But the Giraffe tells a fictional story behind the extraordinary true events of how Rudolph Freudenfeld was able to smuggle pieces of Krasa’s opera into Theresienstadt. In the story, a young girl is determined to bring her stuffed giraffe with her when she learns her family is moving to a new home. Her mother insists there is no room for the giraffe as her uncle needs the space for a pile of papers, the score to a children’s opera that would bring joy to not only one little girl, but lots of little boys and girls.

Tickets for the evening performance open to the public are $20 and can be purchased in-person at the TAPA Box Office (1838 Parkwood Avenue), by calling 419.246.8000 (Monday through Friday, 9-5PM), or by visiting the website at toledosymphony.com. A portion of ticket sales will go to support The Ruth Fajerman Markowicz Holocaust Resource Center.

School groups interested in attending the school day performances of Brundibár can reserve their seats by visiting toledosymphony.com/youngpeoples. Homeschool families can call or visit the TAPA Box Office.

For more information, please contact Felecia Kanney, Director of Marketing for the Toledo Symphony at fkanney@artstoledo.com.

TOLEDO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA

The Toledo Symphony Orchestra is a community-supported organization of professional musicians and teachers who deliver quality performance and music education for all.

Formed in 1943 as The Friends of Music and incorporated in 1951 as the Toledo Orchestra Association, Inc., the Toledo Symphony Orchestra (TSO) has grown from a core group of twenty-two part-time musicians to a regional orchestra that employs sixty-nine professional musicians who consider the Toledo Symphony their primary employer, as well as numerous extra players annually as repertoire demands.

On January 1, 2019, the Toledo Symphony and Toledo Ballet officially merged to form the Toledo Alliance for the Performing Arts (TAPA), a new non-profit organization dedicated to providing exceptional live music and dance performances and education for the region. This partnership promises to create new and invigorating programs, provide cost and revenue synergies in operations, and integrate the arts through shared educational missions.

The Toledo Symphony reaches more than 260,000 individuals annually through performances and education programs. The series concerts (Masterworks, Pops, Chamber, Mozart in the Afternoon, and Family Series) are the critical underpinning of the orchestra’s artistic mission and regularly draw people from 135 postal zip codes. Education programs, student performances, and community concerts are held in schools, neighborhood churches, performing arts centers, and community facilities throughout the region; many are offered at no charge or provided at a reduced fee to help expand participation.

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