Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Fine Arts



First Advisor

Professor John Nardolillo


Brundibár, the children’s opera by Czech composer Hans Krása (1899–1944), is the story of two children who go to town to seek some milk to help their sick mother. When they arrive the children are bullied by the Brundibár, a mean adult who plays the organ grinder and takes the children’s money. To fight back against the overbearing Brundibár the children seek the help of the town’s young people—along with three fairy-tale animals—to make the town square a safe place again.

The piece was performed in 1942 by the children of Prague’s Jewish orphanage, and then presented with child singers in the Terezín concentration camp 55 times during World War II. A performance of Brundibár was a central part of an International Red Cross visit to Terezín in 1944, and sections of the work were later included in a Nazi propaganda film. In 2003 a third version of work was produced with a new English adaptation of the text by Tony Kushner. The composer and many of the original performers were killed before the conclusion of the war; however, one survivor, Ela Weissberger, who performed the role of the Cat in the Terezín production, now lives in the United States and often visits productions to speak about her experiences and help contextualize the work.

Brundibár remains a moving and powerful work of art, both as a children’s opera and as a symbol of resistance against the Nazi regime, but it presents many logistical and artistic challenges to directors and producers who may be interested in mounting a production. This project will provide some background on the work, including the circumstances of its creation and performance history. It will then lay out the work’s unique performance challenges and offer practical solutions to make the process of designing, rehearsing, and performing Brundibár more accessible and effective.

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