Students perform Holocaust opera

Reliving a tragic event may be something to avoid, but to students at the Guilderland Central School District, it is necessary in order to learn the lessons of the past.

Students performed the opera Brundibar at Farnsworth Middle School on Wednesday, Dec. 19, for FMS eighth graders. The opera, originally written and performed by children, was performed 55 times at Terezin Concentration Camp during World War II.

Almost everyone involved in the original "Brundibar" production was sent to the concentration camp, and only a handful still survive. One of them is Ela Stein Weissburger, author of the book "The Cat with the Yellow Star," a chronicle of her experiences in the camp.

Most of the rest of the 5,000 children who came through Terezin were killed at Auschwitz.

"Fifteen thousand children were sent to Terezin. When we were free, 100 survived," Weissburger said.

During her imprisonment, which lasted three and a half years, 12-year-old Weissburger auditioned for a part in the children's opera "Brundibar" about a gang of children who take on a greedy organ grinder named Brundibar.

"Music was a part that led us through bad times at the camp," Weissburger said. "In all this horror, I learned to dance the waltz with my mother."

Farnsworth Middle School student Alex Benninger said he was excited to be a part of "Brundibar," which he said served as an outlet for political prisoners.

"An original cast member who was in it can see us perform," he said.

Cast member Tony Pitkin said the fact that Weissburger was in the audience put extra pressure on the cast.

"If anyone forgot a line, it would reflect bad on us," Pitkin said.

"It is an uplifting story," Clare Ladd said.

For eighth-grade cast member Alexis Rabadi, the show is symbolic of defeating evil.

"It is a little opera, but I think it is powerful with the message it conveys," she said.

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