Opera Santa Barbara’s newly formed Santa Barbara Youth Opera presents a fully staged production of Brundibár. Written for children with just one adult part, and no more than 40 minutes long, it was composed in 1938 by Hans Krása, with lyrics by Adolf Hoffmeister, as an entry for a children’s opera competition. It received its premiere in German-occupied Prague and was performed by children at a Jewish Orphanage. The children and the composer were eventually transported to the Terezín concentration camp. In July 1943, the score of Brundibár was smuggled into camp, where it was re-orchestrated by Krása for the various instrumentalists who were available to play at that time. The premiere of the Terezín version took place on 23 September 1943 in the hall of the Magdeburg barracks. The opera eventually had over 50 performances at Terezín. Nearly all of the children who performed in the opera were deported to Auschwitz and perished in the gas chambers. Hans Krása met the same fate. The history of Brundibar is brutal, but the opera itself is a parable of hope and justice.
This special production is a collaboration with the Ojai Youth Opera and the Santa Barbara Youth Symphony.
Sung in English
Production Sponsors: Eve Bernstein, the George H. Griffiths and Olive J. Griffiths Foundation, the Poomer Fund for Anne Smith Towbes, Jim & Stephanie Sokolove and the Zegar Family Fund.
Kostis Protopapas was named Artistic Director of Opera Santa Barbara in August 2015. He will make his conducting debut with the company in November 2016, conducting the season's opening production of Carmen. The company's 2016-17 season, the first to be planned entirely by Kostis, will also include two company premieres: Janacek's The Cunning Little Vixen, in a new production by Crystal Manich starring Isabel Bayrakdarian, and Puccini's La Rondine.
2016 saw the end of Kostis' long association with Tulsa Opera, where he served as Artistic Director from November 2007 until May 2013, as Interim Executive Director from November 2011 until February 2013 and as Associate Conductor and Chorus Master from 2001 until 2007. During his 15-year tenure with the company, Kostis conducted 30 productions of a diverse repertoire extending from popular classics like La Boheme, Carmen and Cavalleria Rusticana/I Pagliacci to contemporary American works like Elmer Gantry, Of Mice and Men and A Streetcar Named Desire. About his 2011 Barber of Seville performances, Alex Ross of The New Yorker wrote "Most impressive was the fluid idiomatic playing of the orchestra... In any city, it's rare to find a conductor that sets the right tempo so consistently that you forget he's there."
Kostis' leadership at Tulsa Opera focused on furthering the company's long-standing reputation for artistic excellence and expanding the company's commitment to contemporary and American opera. Under his leadership the company produced a major American work each season between 2011 and 2016. Other key initiatives of his tenure included the development of the Tulsa Studio Artists Program, the expansion of company's outreach and educational programs, and the forging of new partnerships with arts organizations in Tulsa and beyond.
Between 202 and 2008 Kostis was also an Assistant Conductor for the Lyric Opera of Chicago, LA Opera and Santa Fe Opera. At the Lyric Opera of Chicago he also served as Assistant Chorus Master under Donald Palumbo for two seasons. Kostis started his career on the music staff of Virginia Opera and Opera Memphis; he conducted at Opera in the Ozarks every summer from 2000 to 2004; has been a regular guest conductor at Union Avenue Opera in St. Louis since 2007 and a guest conductor for the Des Moines Metro Opera, Opera Columbus, Shreveport Opera, El Paso Opera, Winter Opera St. Louis and the Westmoreland Symphony. In 2016-17 he will return to Winter Opera St. Louis to conduct La Cenerentola.
Born in Athens, Greece, Kostis Protopapas studied Archaeology and History of Art at the University of Athens before coming to the United States in 1993, on an Onassis Foundation scholarship, to study piano at The Boston Conservatory and conducting at Boston University. He became an American citizen in 2011 and splits his time between Chicago and Santa Barbara, with his wife, soprano and stage director Cathleen Dunn-Protopapas, and their four cats, Gus, Miles, Zsa-Zsa and Gigi.
Aninka and Pepícek, two little children, have a sick mother. The doctor has prescribed milk for her health, and they go to seek it in the town marketplace, but they have no money to purchase it. Three traders hawk their wares: an ice-cream man, a baker and a milkman. The children engage the milkman in song, but he tells them that they need money for milk. Suddenly the children spot the organ-grinder, Brundibár, playing on the street corner. Seeing his success, they decide to busk as well (and proceed to sing a song about geese), much to the annoyance of the townsfolk and Brundibár, who chase them away. Three animals – a sparrow, cat and dog – come to their aid, and together they recruit the other children of the neighbourhood in their plan. Night falls, the dawn comes, the children and animals begin morning exercises and the townsfolk get ready for the day. The plan goes ahead: the animals and children drown out Brundibár; they then join in a beautiful lullaby. The townsfolk are very moved and give Aninka and Pepí?ek money. Suddenly, Brundibár sneaks in and steals their takings. All the children and the animals give chase and recover the money. The opera concludes with a victory march sung about defeating the evil organ-grinder.