Briefly, the plot of Brundibár shares common elements with older, established fairy tales. Aninka (anglo – Annette) and Pepíček (Little Joe) are orphaned siblings. Their mother is terribly sick; her doctor prescribes milk. Being destitute, the children do not have money to purchase their mother’s much needed milk. The pair elect to sing in the marketplace, begging to raise money. But an evil organ grinder Brundibár rules the marketplace as his own and scares the siblings away. However, a sparrow, cat, and dog, and the area children of the town run Brundibár off and sing in the market square.
It would be difficult to have found a more sympathetic conductor for this special piece of music than Seattle Symphony’s own Gerard Schwarz nor a more empathetic ensemble than Seattle’s Music of Remembrance, a nonprofit organization dedicated to remembering Holocaust musicians and their art through performance, education, and recordings like this one. The orchestra performs the opera plaintively evoking the necessary admixture of sadness, joy, memory, and hope that such a composition should evoke.
Tenor Ross Hauck and soprano Maureen McKay perform the roles of Aninka and Pepíček with innocence and wonder. Baritone Morgan Smith sings with elegantly foreboding as Brundibár, carefully avoiding caricature. The lesser roles also shine. Male soprano David Korn sings with a nuzzle as the Cat. The small orchestra goes a long way in capturing what must have been the cloistered confines of the camp as the end approached. This is affecting and effecting music in any estimation.
Hans Krasa - Brundibár: Act One; Serenade; Act Two; Overture for Small Orchestra; Lori Laitman – I Never Saw Another Butterfly: The Butterfly, Yes, That’s the Way Things Are, Bird Song, The Garden, Man Proposes, God Disposes; The Old House.
Music of Remembrance, Gerard Schwarz, Conductor; Northwest Boychoir, Craig Sheppard: piano; Maureen McKay: Soprano; Laura DeLuca: Clarinet.