Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast

Sarasota Youth Opera
William S. Oser | Season Schedule

Also see Bill's reviews of The Sound of Music and The Thanksgiving Play

The Cast
Photo courtesy of Sarasota Opera
When performance time at a children's opera program can be used for more than the necessary opportunity to let parents see their progeny perform, and the youngsters learn about the Holocaust and intolerance of all kinds, everyone is well served. Hans Krása and Adolf Hoffmeister's children's opera Brundibár was written before the beginning of World War II, and was performed at Theresienstadt concentration camp more than 55 times. Today it is one of the most frequently performed children's operas in the world, clocking in at 40 minutes with a child-friendly story.

First, the audience was treated to Raise Up Your Voices, created by Martha Collins and Youth Opera conductor Jesse Martins, a 30-minute presentation of music from various sources, including Antonín Dvořák, Giacomo Puccini, and others, set to texts which explore the juxtaposition of love and intolerance. Featured were a cast of young voices in varied groups and as a choir of all.

Particularly moving were "We Hold These Truths" by Dvořák to text from the Declaration of Independence, "It All Depends on How You Look at It" also by Dvořák to text by Miroslav Košek, and "Little Partridge" an Armenian folk song. Subjects addressed included mass hatred, bullying, and the Holocaust. Performers were greeted with a standing ovation, mostly through teary eyes. The beauty of young people and their beautiful clear voices was highly moving.

Taking place in a small village in middle Europe, theoretically in two acts, is the story of brother and sister Annette and Little Joe. Their mother is sick, feeling weak. She needs milk to give her strength. The two go down to the village market where all kinds of wares are for sale, including the needed milk, but because they have no money, they can't get it. Brundibár, an organ grinder, enters and soon has the crowd under his spell with his oom-pah-pah tunes, to which they dance. Sister and brother wander into the woods, toward home, get lost and fall asleep as act one ends.

Act two has our hero and heroine waking up, greeted by trios of cats, dogs and sparrows. Besides showing them the way out of the woods, they also help hatch a plan to acquire the needed dairy drink. Back to the marketplace they go, where Brundibár again has the crowd in thrall. The children sing and dance to his music and when they pass the hat and collect much needed coins, the evil organ grinder grabs the money, claiming it is his. The crowd helps the children overcome the villain, happiness ensues, and mother recovers to happiness all around.

The opera makes no vocal demands not easily met by young voices. Krása wrote in an easily digestible harmonic palette, almost as if the late romantic composers had not existed. There is not a great deal of melodic interest, potentially good tunes never seem to go anywhere to become memorable. Still, it was fun for the kids and Sarasota Youth Opera used it well as a launching pad toward other issues.

The leading parts were double cast. Rather than single out any one person above others, let me say that all the singing was more than adequate and director Martha Collins got some nice acting from her charges. Costumes by Howard Tsvi Kaplan and uncredited settings should have made the children feel like pros. Conductor Jesse Martin led both halves with poise.

Brundibár was presented by Sarasota Youth Opera November 15 and 16, 2019, at Sarasota Opera, 61 N. Pineapple Avenue, Sarasota FL. For more information call 941-366-8450 or visit

Little Joe: Eden Stahlmann/Sophia Thurman
Annette: Ana Olson/Ashley Lewis
Brundibar: Isabela Mendez/Mia Freeman
Ice Cream Man: Samuel Stahlmann
Baker: Ursula Kushner
Milkman: Caelyn Curry
Policeman: Lane Hubbard
Sparrows: Elizabeth, Bogard, Julia Koren, Amy Lee
Cats: Ally Albuerne, Madeline Blanton, Nadya Smirnova
Dogs: Eloise Celine, Amanda Koren, Katherine Laub
Mother: Leela Sundaram/Mirav Steckel
Doctor: Emilia Kelly/Frazar Henry

Brundibar orchestra:
Violin: Daniel Jordan (Concertmaster), Lena Cambis, Amanda Nix, Shawna Trost
Cello: Nadine Trudel
Bass: Gil S. Katz
Flute/Piccolo: Betsy Hudson Traba
Clarinet: Laura Stephenson Petty
Trumpet: Anthony Limoncelli
Percussion: Bruce Lehman
Piano: George Hemcher

Youth Opera Mixed Chorus:
Lizzie Agee, Ally Albuerne, Djoudly Aguste, Anahit Badalyan, Madeline Blanton, Elizabeth Bogard, Nico Brion, Charlotte Buckley, Eloise Celine, Aukan Coliguante-Rivero, Caelyn Curry, Iris Dougherty, Annika Elisha, Mia Freeman, Grace Grogan, Olivia Gumpel, Zane Hancock, Frazar Henry, Alie Herman, Lane Hubbard, Allison Karakas, Aydan Karimov, Emilia Kelly, Amanda Koren, Julia Koren, Ursula Kushner, Elie Lambert, Katherine Laub, Amy Lee, Ashley Lewis, Tori Linton, Zuleima Martinez, Jackie McLean, Isabela Mendez, Jocelyn Ober, Ana Olson, Nathaniel Palchevsky, Cristine Peterson, Ava Pickens, Melanie Pires, Julianna Regnander-Johnson, Isabella Rodriguez, Laura Sala, Aurora Salustri, Megan Scarbrough, Emily Scarbrough, Sofia Scheck, Zekiah Slaughter, Nadya Smirnova, Ilaria Smith, Yaira Spears, Samuel Stahlmann, Eden Stahlmann, Mirav Steckel, Leela Sundaram, Nikolina Supe, Haylee Surrena,Sophia Thurman, Aria Tillman, Logan Warren, Raven Whitefield

Youth Opera Preparatory Ensemble:
Maggie Agee, Holland Anders, Anjou Burkmier, Jaliyah Campbell, Jalil Campbell, Eleena Case, Evey Choate, Adah Choate, Jack Christie, Chase Christie, Eitan Katz, Zahra Kimunya, Helena Kusher, Viktoria Landelius, Mikayla Lucy, Finley MacBeth, Isabella Maltese, Balthazar O'Neil, Garrett Onstad, Ellie Paichevsky, Lila Paul, Natalie Purmort, Ovid Rawlins, Karina Shane, Estella Smith, Sophia Soriano, Matty Jay Stahlmann, Valentina Suarez Gewehr