CU Opera provided student vocalists for the lead roles in the Colorado Music Festival’s presentation of Hans Krasa’s “Brundibar,” June 28-29. Jessi Goebel and Lukas Graf played the young heroes, Anniku and Pepicek, in search of milk for their ailing mother. Malcolm Ulbrick, as the villain Brundibar, received a chorus of boos from the audience each night. His character, a bully who kept families from living in peace together, was clearly identified with Hitler.
Other CU students included Kenneth Donahue and Max Hosmer, and a trio of charming animals played by Chelsea Lewis (sparrow), Adam Ewing (dog) and Anna Englander (cat). The performance also incorporated a children’s choir made up of singers from local church and community ensembles. The children added a sweet, eager joy to the performances and their voices evoked the original production, which was sung by children in the Terezin concentration camp.
One of the original performers from that time, Ela Weissberger, is the sole living survivor of those productions and was a guest of the Colorado Music Festival for the week. She spoke of her experiences in a concentration camp in rehearsals and at performances. Her inspiring, touching story of survival was incredibly moving for the cast and audiences.
"I will be forever inspired by the story and the tremendous spirit of Ela Weissberger," said Leigh Holman, stage director. "The students at CU have told me that they were transformed by meeting her -- I know I was.”
The small orchestra, led by conductor Michael Christie, filled the back half of the Chautauqua stage, while a simple set and staging put the vocalists and the story in the foreground.
“What a thrill it was to collaborate with the Colorado Music Festival on Krasa’s opera, Brundibar," Holman said. "The cast, the musicians and all the people behind the scenes pulling this together truly understood the magnitude of the piece we were putting forth.”
The semi-staged performance was part of the Rediscovered Masters series of performances celebrating Jewish composers and their music, with an emphasis on music composed before, during and immediately after World War II. The music of many Jewish composers was suppressed during the Holocaust period, and a great deal of their work was subsequently forgotten. Music Director Michael Christie is committed to resurrecting these lost treasures and celebrating these artists’ rightful places in musical history.