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Bodhi Tree Concert Presents ‘Brundibar,’ A Children’s Opera With A Devastating History

Opera performed during Holocaust in Theresienstadt

Bodhi Tree Concerts is a nonprofit organization that performs “random acts of kindness” through music and art. It will be presenting "Brundibar," a charming children’s opera with a devastating history Saturday.

Companion viewing

"Transport From Freedom" (1962)

"Defiant Requiem" (2012)

"Wiedersehen mit Brundibar" (2014)

Bodhi Tree Concerts is a nonprofit organization that performs “random acts of kindness” through music and art. It will be presenting "Brundibar," a charming children’s opera with a devastating history Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Irwin Jacobs Qualcomm Theater.

Bodhi Tree Concerts co-founder Diana DuMelle said, "Our mission is twofold. One is to support local artists. We are all about local artists and giving them an opportunity to perform, highlight them but also pay them because we believe in a vibrant community for San Diego, and there aren’t all that many opportunities for artists and we know a lot of very talented people. The second part of the mission is to give away our profits to a charitable partner that we connect with each concert."

For the upcoming "Brundibar" the nonprofit organization will be partnering with Jewish Family Service and specifically a program called Serving Older Holocaust Survivors.

Hans Krása’s "Brundibar" depicts a tale of hope, friendship, collaboration, and good triumphing over evil. But what makes the opera tragic is that it was originally performed during the Holocaust in the Terezín concentration camp, and eventually almost all of the child performers and the composer were killed in the gas chambers.

Photo caption:

Photo credit: Bodhi Tree Concerts

A photo of the cast of children who performed "Brundibar" in the Terezín concentration camp.

Walter DuMelle, Bodhi Tree Concerts co-founder, explained "It was an opera written in Czech that was being performed in a concentration camp. And the Germans never took the time or efforts to translate it and in its own childlike way it is a very subversive piece giving the children hope and the will to survive."

Max Schindler is a survivor of the Terezín camp. He appreciates that "Brundibar" is being performed now.

"To me it is important it reminds the world what happened during the war and it brings this history alive again. And if we do not continue bringing this back it will be forgotten," Schindler said.

Performing in "Brundibar" is making history come alive for the students performing in the opera.

"The play is kind of anti-Hitler, it was originally performed in Czech, so the Germans didn’t understand it or really translate it so they propagandized an anti-Hitler thing," 12-year-old Benjamin Rodriguez said. "It’s kind of a small victory but still. It symbolizes that you don’t have to submit to a higher dictator or a tyrant that you can still be free."

The orchestra for the opera is small but it reflects what was originally used when performed in Terezín.

Diana DuMelle said "it brought hope to the children who performed in it, it brought hope to the children who watched it, and all the adults. I compare it to the American spiritual where there are these underlying currents of hope and good over evil and collaboration and not being able to silence their voices. I did tell Ben that story about the Nazis did not translate the Czech so they did not know exactly what was going on and they used that victory song at the end as one of the main themes of their propaganda film. So it is pretty special."

Bodhi Tree Concerts' "Brundibar" will feature young singers from Warren Walker and Language Academy schools, conducted by Michael Morgan, and the Youth String Orchestra from La Jolla Country Day School, prepared by Joan Diener. Before the opera Dr. Edith Eger will tell her personal story of surviving the Holocaust.

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