BRUNDIBÀR & THE GONDOLIERS
Directed by David Radamés Toro
Conducted by Matthew Abernathy
Set Design by Erica Zaffarano
Lighting Design by Wu Chen Khoo
Costume Design by Jeni O'Malley (Brundibár) and Samantha Fromm Haddow (The Gondoliers)
Minnesota Opera - Project Opera 2019
Brundibàr by Hans Krása
Hans Krása wrote Brundibár initially for a children’s opera competition which was later first produced at the Prague Jewish orphanage in 1941. In 1942, Krasá was transported to the Terezín ghetto. A year later his collaborator, Rudolf Freudenfeld, joined him having smuggled the Brundibár score through the checkpoints. There, Brundibár was performed over fifty-five times. It provided the musicians and audiences a moment of humanity and escapism from the horror of their fate. Knowing all of this, it is important that this production acknowledged the opera’s history in its storytelling.
Immediately my mind went to the humanitarian crisis in Texas where US border agents are separating the children of undocumented immigrants from their parents and caging them in separate facilities. Reports tell us that the detention facilities are overcrowded, children sleep on mats with mylar blankets with the lights always on, chain-link fencing separating groups, and the list goes on. I began to visualize the show as a way in which children may handle daily stress by escaping into their imaginations. Using found objects and make believe a spoon becomes an ice cream cone, a feather duster becomes a sparrow, and twitter posts become the tune of a hurdy-gurdy. When our two heroes Aninku and Pepíček unite with other children, they defeat their imaginary bully. However, this adaptation reminds us that bullies still exist in the real world.
The Gondoliers by Gilbert and Sullivan
W. S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan found humor in the verbosity of Victorian speech, the ridiculousness of English pomp and status, and the popularity of melodramatic romances. The Gondoliers includes the Gilbert and Sullivan tropes of mistaken identities, inter-status love affairs, and corrupt nobility. From Grand Inquisitor to member of the chorus, no role is too small. Every singer is learning the importance of comic timing, text research, stage presence, and for a few singers, how to perform a pants role. In our redux adaptation, we transport the story to 1950s Venice, where locals and tourists converge to observe a gondolier marriage and the crowning of a king. Silliness and jokes ensue when a bankrupt noble family arrive to marry off their daughter to the king only to discover that the grand inquisitor misplaced the boy when he was a baby.