Charles McGrath talks to Maurice Sendak about "Brundibar" and its production for The New York Times.
"Brundibar" is running until March 5 at the Yale Repertory Theater in New Haven and then it will move to New York's New Victory Theater. "Brundibar" "is based on Mr. Sendak's 2003 picture book of the same name, written with Mr. Kushner, which in turn was inspired by the original opera, by Hans Krasa, with a libretto by Adolf Hoffmeister, which was first performed in 1942 at a Jewish orphanage in Prague."
McGrath writes, "What gives the opera additional poignancy is that shortly before the first performance, Krasa, a Jew, was arrested and sent in an early transport to Theresienstadt, the 'model camp' that was in fact a way station for Auschwitz. Under Krasa's direction, 'Brundibar' was subsequently performed 55 times at Theresienstadt, with a cast of imprisoned children, for an audience that sometimes consisted of visitors sent by the Nazis, trying to demonstrate how humane they were. "
McGrath's interview with Sendak is wonderful. Sendak tells McGrath, "When he first heard about 'Brundibar'... he felt the dead crowding around him — especially the Sendaks who didn't make it to this country, as his parents had, and instead disappeared in Poland. At the same time, he knew the story was the perfect subject for him: 'This is an opera about children and how the hell do they survive.'"
Sendak talks about the Holocaust, the regret "Antique Roadshow" causes a family left with no heirlooms, and his new projects, including a pop-up book. Please do read the last line of the article in which Sendak considers a pop-up version of In the Night Kitchen. Pure brilliance.