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Opera brought to life outside concentration camp

Opera brought to life outside concentration camp

Children and adults are coming together in a production exploring music actively suppressed and banned under the Nazi regime in the 1930s and 1940s.

Rehearsals for Hans Krása’s opera Brundibár (Bumblebee) are underway and the production will be staged later this year as part of the Recovering Forbidden Voices conference.

The opera will be conducted by Dr Robert Legg, a senior lecturer in music education and pedagogy at Te Kōkī New Zealand School of Music (NZSM). It will be directed by Frances Moore, a graduate of the school, who says the wonderful thing about Brundibár is that it can be read on different levels.

“Ostensibly it’s a simple tale about children and talking animals, but when you look deeper there’s a strong message about standing up to tyranny and oppression. Krása’s music is very beautiful so the piece is a pleasure to rehearse.”

Written at the start of the Second World War, Krása’s work is famous for the many performances it received inside the Nazi concentration camp at Terezín, and for the positive contribution it made to the cultural life of the camp.

The production is rehearsing with a revised version of the original orchestration which was created whilst Krása was inside Terezín to accommodate the skills of musicians also being held in the camp.

The opera’s story of a young brother and sister struggling against a tyrannical organ grinder has been interpreted as a symbol for Europe’s struggle against fascism.

A cast of soloists from the NZSM’s Young Musicians Programme and an orchestra of 12 instrumentalists will be joined by a 40-strong choir from Kelburn Normal School, who are delighted to be involved in this project according to Charles Bisley, arts director at Kelburn Normal School.

“Children take to the arts, which benefits their learning across the board. We are fortunate to be part of a wider community where institutions like the NZSM include us in their activities.”

The Recovering Forbidden Voices conference is a collaboration between NZSM and the German and History departments at Victoria University of Wellington and will include a range of performance, presentations and keynote addresses. Performances of Brundibár will be held on Thursday 21 and Friday 22 August at St Andrew’s on The Terrace, Wellington.

Te Kōkī New Zealand School of Music is a joint venture of Massey University and Victoria University of Wellington.


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