Press release from Count Basie Theatre 

The Count Basie Theatre Performing Arts Academy today has announced a summer residency with famed Los Angeles Opera director Eli Villanueva, on a summer opera camp program for vocalists aged 10-17.

The two-week intensive, open to students of all vocal types, begins with auditions on Saturday, May 20 — and culminates with a pair of performances of Brundibar, the famed children’s opera originally staged at the Theresientadt concentration camp in occupied Czechoslovakia. Needs-based scholarships will be available to those students who qualify.

The public performances will take place on Saturday, August 19 at the Count Basie Theatre and on Sunday, August 20 at the Jay and Linda Grunin Center for the Arts, located on the campus of Ocean County College in Toms River.

In the words of Villanueva (pictured), “While putting together a children’s work of great historical significance…we will explore and master ways to be a more engaging, more powerful and musical stage performer; all in a focused yet fun environment.”

Brundibar, by Jewish Czech composer Hans Krása, tells the story of a brother and sister who join forces with a sparrow, a cat and a dog to outwit an evil organ grinder named Brundibar. Brundibar was performed by the children of Theresienstadt concentration camp in occupied Czechoslovakia, and has since been staged around the world to symbolize the plight of people joining forces to fight intolerable situations. “It was performed at the camp 55 times, providing distraction and perhaps a small respite from the misery,” according to the New York Times. “But it was also exploited by the Nazis for propaganda purposes in their attempts to present Theresienstadt as a comfortable environment.”

In 2003, Playwright and filmmaker Tony Kushner (Munich, Angels In America) and illustrator Maurice Sendak (Where The Wild Things Are), wrote and illustrated a book on the play, which they adapted to the stage for a series of critically-acclaimed performances in 2006 in Chicago.

Villanueva will be joined by musical director Jason Tramm, an assistant professor and director of choral activities at Seton Hall University. To arrange for a time slot for an audition (to be held at the Count Basie Theatre building at 99 Monmouth Street), call (732)224-8778 ext. 125.

Camp sessions will run from Monday, August 7 to Friday, August 18, between the hours of 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and will take place at the Monmouth Conservatory of Music, 50 White Street in Red Bank.

Tickets for the August 19 concert in Red Bank are available here. Take it here for tickets to the August 20 event in Toms River.