Classical Music, Dance, and Opera

Chicago Opera Theater:
The 2003 Season includes Comedy on the Bridge, with Maurice Sendak (author of Where the Wild Things Are) as the production designer. From the website, the desciption reads:

Double Bill!
Composer: Hans Krása (1899-1944)
Librettist: Adolf Hoffmeister
Written in 1939 in German
Children's opera in one act
English translation by Tony Kushner

Comedy on the Bridge
Composer: Bohuslav Martinu (1890-1959)
Librettist: Bohuslav Martinu
Written in 1937 in Czech
Radio opera in one act
English translation by Tony Kushner

Two one-act parable operas written in the mid-twentieth century, Brundibár and Comedy on the Bridge are responses to the escalating danger facing Europe after the Nazi party took power in Germany. Both Czech composers, Krása and Martinu used their satirical art to express political opinions in an oppressive time and to celebrate the undying human capacity for hope and redemption.

Originally performed by youth living in the Theresienstadt concentration camp, Brundibár tells of two children, Aninka and Pepícek, who must procure milk for their sick mother. When they attempt to raise money by singing, the greedy organ grinder Brundibár overpowers their voices and then chases them away. Aninka and Pepícek recruit the help of animals to assemble all the children of the neighborhood so that together they can sing even louder than Brundibár's organ. For many children living in the concentration camp, this parable of triumph over evil represented their tireless hope that in solidarity they would survive the worst oppression.

Comedy on the Bridge examines the forces that separate people from one another, especially during wartime. Two guard posts protect a bridge that divides a battlefield from a village, and citizens may pass over, provided they have the proper paperwork. Popelka is allowed on to the bridge, past the enemy sentry, but she is refused entry to the side where her family lives; then when she attempts to exit in the direction from which she came, the enemy sentry prevents readmission since her pass only allows travel in one direction. One by one, others become stuck on the bridge in the same manner, and the claustrophobia of the situation quickly cultivates a series of confessions and personal revelations. This witty, optimistic work considers the emotions that come with being caught in the middle, between borders and affections.

Collaborating on a new English-language version of the operas are some of America’s foremost theater practioners: Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Tony Kushner will translate, Michael Mayer will direct, and Where the Wild Things Are author and illustrator Maurice Sendak will design sets and costumes. COT’s resident conductor Alexander Platt will lead a cast featuring Young Artists and children in lead roles.

All of this, and more, can be found on the Chicago Opera Theater website:

"Recess!" is a co-production of the University of Florida's Center for Children's Literature and Culture and WUFT-FM, "Classic 89."
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