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Description of "Brundibar" performance from April 2nd, 2014 at WBAIS (American School in Israel

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  1. 1. All-Star Cast--Original Child Actors Who Survived the Holocaust, Attend WBAIS Performance of the Infamous “Brundibar” “Brundibar” a children’s opera by Czech composer Hans Krasa was performed over three consecutive nights, by two full casts made up of approximately sixty 3rd thru 12th grade children who attend the Walworth Barbour American International School. In addition, students not only painted the backdrop and filled the school lobby with related artworks, but in true team effort, they created 15,000 handmade paper butterflies—the number of children who passed through and died in the Terezin ghetto—and hung them in the school courtyard for a guest reception hosted by the embassies of the Czech Republic and the United States. The play tells the story of Pepicek and Aninka, two young children who rush into town to find milk and medicine for their ailing mother. When they are spurned by the townspeople, they try singing to earn cash to buy the remedies, but they are confronted by a volatile organ grinder who chases them away from his turf, and steals money they have collected. In the end, the townspeople unite with the children and confront the bullying thief. The infamy of the operetta, however, is not the defeat of the tyrant organ-grinder Brundibar, whose character parallels that of Adolf Hitler. The tragedy is that the original children’s opera made its premiere in a death camp of Jewish detainees-- the Terezin/Theresienstadt ghetto—where Hans Krasa, and the child actors who performed it, were imprisoned. Worse yet, it was an attempt by the Nazis to convince the world of their humanity in dealing with their Terezin prisoners. The play was performed more than 55 times in the camp outside of Prague, and the Nazis filmed it for use as propaganda (part of the film was found when Allied soldiers liberated the camp.). The Nazis Above left and right: WBAIS students performing in the 70 th anniversary showing of Brundibar, a children’s opera by Czech composer Hans Krasa.
  2. 2. Ela Weissberger, center, poses with WBAIS students after their performance of Brundibar, the children's opera by Hans Krasa. Ela played the role of the cat in the original showing, which was performed at the Terezin/Theresienstadt ghetto camp outside Prague in 1944. also commissioned its performance in front of a committee of the International Red Cross in 1944; but after its run, they transferred Krasa and many of the actors to Auschwitz, where they were executed. The WBAIS students and their director Frannie Goldstein produced an outstanding and endearing 70th anniversary performance. But the participation of a handful of original cast members, who survived the Holocaust and joined the actors onstage for the finale, moved the audience more than this simple article can describe. Above and upper right: Surrounded by ex-prisoners of the Terezin/Theresienstadt ghetto in the Czech Republic, Handa Drori (microphone in hand) introduces herself as a former cast member of the original Brundibar, at the 70 th commemorative performance at Walworth Barbour American International School April 2, 2014. At right is Greta Klingsberg, who played the role of Aninka for some 50 performances, after which she was sent to Auschwitz death camp with her sister. Photos by Mary Knight