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LA Opera camp teaches kids about Holocaust

August 9, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
Children in the L.A. Opera's summer camp are rehearsing for the weekend performance of a children's opera with a deep connection to dark history. Most of the children who sang in this opera 70 years ago were killed in concentration camps.

"Brundibar" was written for and performed by children. It was performed by Jewish children imprisoned at the Terezine concentration camp in Czechoslovakia.

One performance was staged for Red Cross inspectors and filmed by Nazis who later moved most of the children to Auschwitz, where they were killed.

Among the few survivors is Ela Weissberger, who played the role of the cat when she was a young girl. She now visits "Brundibar" performances everywhere, telling the story of her friends.

With each visit, she explains how history survives through the music.

"This little opera will never die, and you are part of it," Weissberger told the children.

The opera's composer, Hans Krasa, was sent to the camp, where he directed his work, then died with the children. Weissberger will keep sharing the story.

"I'm dedicating (the) end of my life to go anywhere 'Brundibar' is performed," she said.

More than 50 children from throughout Los Angeles spend two weeks every summer in opera camp, working with professionals toward their goal of a public performance.

For the children of L.A. Opera camp, the staging of "Brundibar" is more than just learning about a children's opera. It is living in history.

"It's amazing to get inside history like that. You don't normally get that kind of opportunity when you're just studying the Holocaust in school," said student Muse Lee.

For this opera, before learning the songs, the children learned about the Holocaust.

"Every kid in Los Angeles, in our country, ought to know of this story and ought to know about what children can do when they work together," said Stacy Brightman of L.A. Opera.

The opera will be presented in four short matinees this weekend for free. If you go, listen carefully: Behind the bright voices onstage, you will hear the echoes of the children of Terezine and the voice of a survivor dedicated to their memory.

For more information, visit http://www.laopera.com/opera-camp.


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