Pedagogy in the Playhouse: The Role of Hans Krása's Opera Brundibár in Modern Holocaust Education Through the ArtsJulie Levey UG'24 (2263204)
Composed by Hans Krása right before the Holocaust began, the children’s opera Brundibár became a distinctive example of the role of music in concentration camps after much of its original cast and creative team were transported to Theresienstadt. The opera was performed 55 times within the camp and served both as a distraction for its performers and for those interned in Theresienstadt, as well as a source of Nazi propaganda. Although most of the cast of Brundibár did not survive the Holocaust, the opera itself did and has since been performed by children around the world. Given the complexities and the precariousness of performing a piece of theater that is so closely linked to the Holocaust, and, specifically, to the history of children during the Holocaust, this paper sought to develop prescriptions for staging Brundibár today. I assert that children should learn about the Nazi regime and concentration camps as they perform the opera, while also discovering how its themes connect to their own lives. Children should not be encouraged to assume the personas of the original performers, for doing so removes the responsibility of the modern performer to reflect on the Holocaust. Moreover, the opera’s artistic qualities should not be disregarded, for doing so is a disservice to Brundibár’s creators. Most importantly, the opera must always be contextualized through Holocaust education. Performed in accordance with these prescriptions, Brundibár has the power to serve as a poignant pedagogical tool for remembering and reflecting on the Holocaust.