NEW ORLEANS (April 28, 2016)—In partnership with the New Orleans Opera Association, The National WWII Museum will present three performances of “Brundibár,” a two-act children’s opera written by Jewish Czech composer Hans Krása. Three performances of “Brundibár,” which was originally staged by children at Theresienstadt concentration camp during World War II, will take place in the Museum’s US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center on May 14 and 15. Ela Weissberger, an original cast member and Holocaust survivor, will be the guest of honor.
“We couldn’t be more pleased to partner with The National WWII Museum to bring this important opera to New Orleans,” said Robert Lyall, general director of New Orleans Opera. “‘Brundibár,’ which is still performed in its historical context, became emblematic of the quest for hope, humor and survival during the darkness of World War II. It’s an honor to join The National WWII Museum in presenting such a significant part of history, accompanied by educational programming focused on Ela Weissberger, her story of survival and her memories of the struggles she and fellow prisoners faced to bring Krása’s opera to life.”
Hans Krása completed “Brundibár” in 1938 for a competition sponsored by Czechoslovakia’s Ministry of Education, but the competition was cancelled because of events surrounding World War II. Shortly after, Krása was relocated to Theresienstadt—a concentration camp devoted primarily to artists, the intelligentsia and children—where he was ordered to act as head of musical activities. There, the opera was performed 55 times and became a symbol of hope for prisoners, who visualized the evil organ-grinder character of Brundibár as Adolf Hitler, defeated again and again. Weissberger, who was only 11 years old when she was taken to Theresienstadt, played the role of the Cat in the original production.
“We’re delighted to welcome Ms. Weissberger to the Museum for these very special, historic performances,” said Lauren Handley, assistant director for public programs at The National WWII Museum. “She’s the sole surviving member of the cast at Theresienstadt and she’s dedicated so much of her life to traveling around the world, educating the public about the Holocaust. It’s thrilling to have her join us here, where she will be featured in educational programs and a distance-learning broadcast preceding the performances.”
In addition to the three performances, Weissberger will also participate in a Butterfly Project Family Workshop—a children’s workshop to design ceramic butterflies that memorialize the children lost during the Holocaust. During the workshop, Weissberger will share stories from her childhood spent at Theresienstadt, as well as her participation in the original “Brundibár.” Each child’s completed butterfly will then be included in a temporary public display at the Museum. Weissberger will also share her stories via a webinar on May 13. The webinar will broadcast live in classrooms across the nation, allowing students to ask Weissberger and Museum educators questions throughout the program.
Both the workshop and webinar are free but advanced registration is required. Tickets for “Brundibár” performances, which will be conducted by the New Orleans Opera’s Robert Lyall, cost $20 for adults and $5 for children.* Community members can also support the collaboration between the New Orleans Opera and The National WWII Museum by donating on GiveNOLA Day.
New Orleans Opera Association (NOOA) is the only fully professional presenter and producer of opera in New Orleans and one of the largest opera companies in the Gulf South. Since 1943, NOOA has carried on the operatic tradition of “America's First City of Opera,” where operas have been part of the musical lifeblood of the city since the 18th century. Today, we produce an average of four mainstage productions each season, which reflect a broad cross-section of the operatic repertoire. For more information, call 504-529-3000 or visit neworleansopera.org.
The National WWII Museum tells the story of the American experience in the war that changed the world—why it was fought, how it was won, and what it means today—so that future generations will know the price of freedom, and be inspired by what they learn. Dedicated in 2000 as The National D-Day Museum and now designated by Congress as America's National WWII Museum, it celebrates the American Spirit, the teamwork, optimism, courage and sacrifices of the men and women who fought on the battlefront and served on the Home Front. For more information, call 877-813-3329 or 504-528-1944 or visit nationalww2museum.org.
Ela Weissberger is an extraordinary grandmother with a ready smile. She’s dedicated a great portion of her later life to speaking around the world about the Holocaust. She has a unique, cautionary and ultimately hopeful message to share with her life story. Born in 1930 in the small Czech town of Lom U Mostu, Ela was the second daughter to Max and Marketa Stein. When she was just eight, she began to experience anti-Semitism—townspeople painted “Jews Out” on the Stein front door and smashed in their windows on the night now known as Kristallnacht, or “night of broken glass.” The Steins moved continually over the next four years as the Nazi occupation grew. In June 1942, Ela and her family found themselves in Terezin, an old Austrian military fortress the Nazis had taken over and renamed Theresienstadt. The Nazis presented Theresienstadt as a model Jewish settlement to the outside world, when in reality it served as a way station for Jews en route to Auschwitz. While at Theresienstadt, Ela performed in “Brundibár,” the popular opera played in front of concentration camp residents and Nazis alike. She spent three and a half years at Theresienstadt, which was liberated in May 1945. She currently lives in New York City and is the lone surviving cast member of “Brundibár.”