(photo credit: courtesy)
Brundibar, a fully staged children’s opera by Hans Krasa, will be performed today by the local Moran Children’s Choir, together with the Pueri Guadentes Choir from Prague and the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, in a special concert dedicated to commemoration of the victims of the Holocaust.
Krasa wrote his opera in 1938 on a libretto by Adolf Hoffmeister, a tale of the victory of good over evil, for a competition organized by the Czech Ministry of Education and Culture.
Shortly afterwards the Nazis invaded and the works of Krasa, who was Jewish, were banned from being performed before a general audience.
Even before the first performance of Brundibar took place at a Jewish
boys’ orphanage in Prague, Krasa and the opera’s conductor were arrested
and were sent to a transit camp, Theresienstadt.
There, in the “exemplar ghetto,” the composer was reunited with the
children. Brundibar was performed in Theresienstadt 55 times, with the
cast constantly being renewed, as the inmates were sent to their deaths
in extermination camps. The opera was also performed before the Red
Cross representatives, and parts of it were filmed for the Nazi
propaganda movie The Fuhrer Gives the Jews a Town. All the participants
of the production were herded into cattle trucks and sent to Auschwitz
as soon as the filming was completed. Most of them were gassed
immediately upon arrival – the children, Krasa, the director Kurt Gerron
and the musicians.
“Brundibar is a moving opera. It is a symbol of the victory of art over
the dark forces,” said Naomi Faran, the founder and artistic director of
the Moran Children’s Choir, in a phone interview from her home in
Moshav Beit Itzhak. “Although the artists were sent to Auschwitz, they
left their art in Theresienstadt, and the opera was performed time and
The Moran choir was first invited to perform Brundibar in 2009 in Leipzi
at the famous Gewandhaus Hall and at the new Jewish Museum in Berlin.
Then, together with their German counterparts, Moran presented Brundibar
twice in Rishon Lezion – first for children, and then for the Holocaust
survivors. And now, following an invitation from the Czech Republic,
Moran performs Brundibar together with a local boys’ choir in Prague and
“For our children, performing Brundibar is a very important experience,”
stresses Faran. “We wanted to help them to identify with the
characters, with the situation, with the kids in Theresienstadt.
We visited the camp, we saw documentaries, and I feel that they have
grasped the essence of the piece – that this is all about life and
Yet she clarifies: “Brundibar is not a tragic opera, and kids are happy creatures who always enjoy being on stage.”
Today Moran, which was founded 25 years ago, is arguably one of the
country’s best choirs, performing both in Israel and abroad. But the
beginning was not easy, Faran recalls.
“I was a school music teacher in a village. I have always been in love
with my profession, but a school choir was not enough for me. I wanted a
choir that also worked in the evening, not only during school hours. At
first, people simply could not understand why do we needed a
professional choir, which demands funding. They thought that kids
singing nicely on holidays was enough.”
But for Faran, it was not enough. She continued her studies at the Tel
Aviv Music Academy. “I knew with the kids you could fly as far as you
want, it only depends on how good you are as a conductor. I believe that
singing is the most natural thing one can do with one’s voice, and the
kids are so natural and open. Choirs like Tölzer Knabenchor and the
Hanover Girls’ Choir served as my model,” she says.
Faran’s dream of assimilating the culture of choral music in Israeli
society as a whole and especially in the younger generations has come
true. Not only does the Moran choir appear in Israel and abroad, but
over the years many children’s choirs have flourished around the
The fully staged Brundibar opera by Hans Krasa, with the participation
of 70 singers from the Czech and Israeli children’s choirs, will be
performed today at noon at the Mann Auditorium (Heichal Hatarbut) in Tel
Aviv. Naomi Faran conducts.