Though early rehearsals took place at a Jewish orphanage in Prague, it wasn’t until Krása and all the orphans were deported to Theresienstadt in 1943 that the opera came into its own. There, Brundibar was performed 55 times, including a special performance in 1944 for Red Cross representatives who had come to survey the treatment of the inmates.
Shortly after, Brundibar was performed for the last time: the opera was filmed for a Nazi propaganda film, The Fuhrer Gives the Jews a City, after which the entire staff—children, musicians, director, and Krása himself—were deported to Auschwitz and gassed.
Nearly 60 years later, in 2005, famed playwright Tony Kushner revived Brundibar for an off-Broadway run. A full production, including Kushner’s own English libretto, and beloved writer and illustrator Maurice Sendak‘s production design, along with Kris Stone, saw incredible reviews. Each performance was preceded by a short play, But the Giraffe, intended to softly contextualize the opera for attending children.
(Photo credit: Opera Theater of Pittsburgh)