Tulsa Youth Opera will reprise 'Brundibar'
BY JAMES D. WATTS JR. World Scene Writer
Sunday, January 13, 2013
1/13/13 at 4:10 AM
Fifteen years ago, the Tulsa Youth Opera made its debut with a production of "Brundibar," a fable-like tale of good and evil.
The current incarnation of this ensemble, a project of Tulsa Opera's education and outreach programs, will reprise this work by Hans Krasa with two performances, Sunday and Jan. 20.
"This year is also the 70th anniversary of the opera itself," said Aaron Beck, Tulsa Opera's director of education and outreach. "It's such a historically significant piece, and one that people continue to relate to, that it seemed the logical thing to perform it for our 15th anniversary."
The production will feature the 35 members of the Tulsa Youth Opera, along with baritone Tim Petty as Brundibar. Stanley M. Garner, who has directed a number of Tulsa Opera productions including its 2011 "Norma," is the stage director. Beck will conduct the performance.
"We tend to keep the number of the group to around 35, although we've seen a great increase in the number of young singers wanting to audition," Beck said. "That way, we are increasing the level of ability that our ensemble has."
The Tulsa Youth Opera traditionally presents one major staged production a year. In addition to its weekly rehearsal, the group also takes part in master classes with visiting artists who provide insight into a professional singer's life.
"We realized that a lot of the students who go through our program don't intend to make a career out of music," Beck said. "But we've had a number of our students go on to study music at the college level, and we do want to do what we can to encourage and help those students."
The story of "Brundibar" resembles that of a fairy tale - two children must go to town to buy the milk their mother needs to get well. To raise the money needed, the brother and sister begin singing for coins, but an evil organ-grinder named Brundibar drowns them out so they can earn no money.
It's only with the help of the other children in the town that Brundibar is vanquished.
But the story about "Brundibar" is a tragic one. Composer Krasa and librettist Adolf Hoffmeister wrote the piece in 1938 as an allegory that Brundibar equated with Adolf Hitler.
It would not be until 1942 before the opera would be performed; by then, Krasa had been captured and sent to the Terezin camp in what is now the Czech Republic.
There, Krasa rewrote the opera from memory, adapting it for the few musical instruments available. It would be performed more than 50 times, including a special performance for the Red Cross that came to the camp to observe the conditions of the prisoners.
"Brundibar demonstrates how art can provide an outlet and escape for what troubles the human existence," Beck said. "Our young singers have been transformed by their experience with this work, and we hope our audience will too."
presented by Tulsa Youth Opera
When: 2 p.m. Sunday and Jan. 20
Where: Sunday performance at Lorton
Performance Center, 550 S. Gary Ave.;
Jan. 20 performance at Sherwin Miller
Museum of Jewish Art, 2021 E. 71st St.
James D. Watts Jr 918-581-8478
Tulsa Youth Opera members rehearse for performances of "Brundibar" set for Sunday and Jan. 20. CORY YOUNG/Tulsa World