Brundibar, the children’s opera by Hans Krása, was performed many times by children in Theresienstadt concentration camp, and the music is very much of the time, wandering from tango to ragtime with overtones of Kurt Weil. This rather sombre historical note is echoed in the pre-show performance by Trinity Laban’s Colab singers, with songs actually written in Theresienstadt, with their final song segueing straight into the opera.
There isn’t much plot, two children – Joe & Annette are sent out to find milk for their sick mother, but they have no money. They spot Brundibar raising cash playing a barrel organ, and hatch a plan to make the money for milk by singing. Bundibar takes exception to them muscling in on his action, and threatens to have them jailed. All the children, and some animals, gang up on him, and eventually Joe and Annette manage to get milk and all is resolved happily.
In our Blackheath version Brundibar is played by Nicholas Merryweather, in some rather alarming makeup, with me, Alix and David as henchies, going about with buckets demanding money with menaces. This necessitates some seriously ghastly fake leather coats (hench-coats, as Alix has dubbed them), our habitual army boots and a lot of sneering and posturing. We are having a lot of fun!
The main roles are taken by Adam Music and Rebekah Smith, but the children are the stars – especially those playing the animals – wonderful sparrows and a magnificent cat who has a voice I could listen to all day.
It wouldn’t be a Blackheath production if there weren’t some kind of construction job as part of the action -Harry Fehr always gets us doing something complicated in the summer opera, and James Hurley does likewise here, with walls built of suitcases.
The costumes for the animals are wonderful, and our sparrows actually get to fly…