This is a very special and unusual issue, so it is
frustrating that the packaging makes it so hard to work out precisely
what the contents are. There are two discs here, which are the outcome
of a project that has been going on for some years, and in which children
from several different countries have been mounting performances in
their own language of Hans Krasa’s little masterpiece of music-theatre,
The first disc is an audio CD, which has a complete
performance given in the original language, Czech, by Czech children.
This is followed by eight further tracks, with samples of the performances
by the French, German, Swedish and Italian groups. The second disc is
a CD-ROM – not particularly well produced – with copious information
about the project, the piece, other related matters, and, fortunately,
the composer. I say ‘fortunately’ because Krasa’s name is difficult
to see on the outer packaging, and little is said about him in the booklet.
There is also no libretto, which made following the opera a tricky matter,
given the standard of my Czech (i.e. virtually non-existent!).
Those gripes aside, the audio CD makes wonderful listening.
I love the music; it has vitality, humour, and a cleanness of texture
that reminded me very much of early works by Martinů
such as La Revue de Cuisine, or Špaliček.
There are elements of folk-music and dance, jazz, and a very entertaining
references to Petrushka. But the real joy is the children’s voices,
which are stunning whether in solo or ensemble, and perfectly captured
on the recording. Every children’s choir trainer in the country should
listen to this, for both pleasure and instruction!
The opera was famously performed in Terezin concentration
camp many times during World War II, by groups of Jewish children who
were living under the constant threat of deportation and death; that
fate befell just about everyone connected with the opera’s production
at Terezin, including Krasa himself, who died in Auschwitz in 1942.
These thoughts, and the awareness of the amazing part this music played
in keeping up the spirits of those in such dire circumstances, makes
the singing of the children not just inherently beautiful but deeply
A moving and invaluable issue then; but you have to
work hard to get at its full significance. If it’s intended as a resource
for teachers, then it could be fine, but there’s probably not enough
to attract the initial interest of a child. There is a web-site – www.brundibar.net
– and it might be worth visiting this to get a fuller picture of the
whole project. To be honest, the CD-ROM is a bit clunky.