BRUNDIBAR IS IN THE HISTORY BOOKS!
Our Brundibar performances are now complete. The show at Libbey Bowl on May 13th and the 2 shows at Lobero Theater in Santa Barbara this past weekend were spectacular. We thank EVERYONE who helped make all of this possible! Audiences were thrilled by the magic. Stay tuned for further announcements regarding a Brundibar film. For now, enjoy some marvelous Dress Rehearsal photos by Kevin King!
NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE VOICE OF A CHILD.
OJAI YOUTH OPERA IS PROUD TO ANNOUNCE OUR 2017 FEATURED PRODUCTION, BRUNDIBAR!
A JOURNEY INTO THE PAST TO RECLAIM THE PRESENT
OYO is proud to announce our featured 2017 production will be Brundibár, a children’s opera composed in 1938 by Jewish Czech composer Hans Krasa. In 1942 it was performed once by the children of the Jewish orphanage in Prague but by 1943, Krasa and the residents of the orphanage had been transported to Theresienstadt concentration camp. While in the camp, Krasa revised his children’s opera, tailoring it for the children and thirteen adult instrumentalists in the camp who performed it, fifty-five times in all. Theresienstadt was Hitler’s “model camp”, the squalor of its conditions hidden from visitors by false facades. In 1944, a special performance of Brundibár was staged for International Red Cross inspectors to convince them that life in Hitler’s concentration camps was not brutal. Later that year, Brundibár was performed for the Nazi propaganda film “Hitler Gives the Jews a City” perpetuating a repulsive and regrettably successful hoax upon the world. Immediately after the filming was finished, all the participants, children and adults alike, were sent to Auschwitz where most were gassed upon arrival. Fewer than twenty of the many children who had participated in Brundibár survived the war. After the death of Krasa and the liberation of the camp, the opera fell out of sight, but not forever.
The story of Theresienstadt and Brundibár seems to be a grim one. However, many positive and hopeful concepts arise from the history of this children's folk tale. First, the story itself is one of hope. The cat, the dog, and the sparrow issue the dejected children a call to action. The children, by being brave and being helped by their friends, prevail over the bully, Brundibár. Second, the singing and the performances themselves were acts of resistance. The children and the adults that worked so hard to put on the shows had refused to give in to the despair and the dehumanization of the camps. The teachers and others who worked with the children always referred to everyone by name. They treated each other with the respect that was lacking in all their other activities in camp life. Third, the performers were transformed and lifted out of their every day misery by the power of the arts. Prisoners who were involved in this and other performances in Theresienstadt have remarked about the power of the experience. Singing became not only a temporary escape from reality, but a means to endure their unthinkable reality. According to Ela Weissberger, one of the surviving members of the cast, "The show meant more to its young performers than food, for it helped them overcome feelings of helplessness while giving them a sense of membership in the human race."
Our vision is to bring this incredible work of art to the widest possible audience. In addition to opera audiences, we foresee performances in elementary schools where music teachers will have taught their choirs the last song of the work so that their students can join the Ojai Youth Opera singers in the grand finale, creating an exhilarating experience. We foresee hosting guests, people who have survived the camps— perhaps even Theresienstadt--who can join in the affirmation of life and hope this production of Brundibár will bring. We foresee tears and laughter.
Ojai Youth Opera has planned our Brundibár performances with a two-tiered approach:
First - a two month rehearsal and staging process with professional singers in the field of opera alongside auditioned youth will create an original production in both English and Czech with Krasa’s score and a libretto by Tony Kushner.
Followed by - a two month public performance run and education outreach tour that addresses themes of bullying and tolerance throughout Ventura County, Los Angeles County and Santa Barbara County unified school districts, reaching tens of thousands of public school children, ages 5th grade to high school juniors. The employed supplemental classroom curriculum for Brundibár meets United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Guidelines for Teaching about the Holocaust. These guidelines have been developed by the education staff at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.
BEAUTIFUL BRUNDIBAR FUNDRAISER AT THE COHEN RESIDENCE!
Saturday February 18th saw the clouds part just in time for a wonderful OYO fundraiser evening at the stunning home and Noga and Gidi Cohen. Guests were treated to an evening of incredible food, drink-- and delightful music from OYO founder Rebecca Comerford and the voices of the cast of Brundibar!
Check out more photos of our wonderful Brundibar fundraiser evening, courtesy of Kevin King: