Register Your Cart



A few minutes of freedom

Ela Weissberger, one of the few survivors to have taken part in every performance of Brundibár at the Theresienstadt concentration camp, will be attending the première of the opera in St. Petersburg. Ela Stein Weissberger is now 85 years old, and an American citizen living in New York. Brundibár occupies a very significant place in her life and in her personal experience of the fight against Nazism.

Ela Weissberger flew to Russia on 24 January 2016. She had never visited the country before, but had dreamed of such a trip for many years. We would like to share a part of her story with you.

"For me, the war began when I was with my grandmother and sister in Brno. I was in the second year of school. On 15 March 1939, they took the entire school on a parade to welcome Hitler. I can still hear the sound of his voice, shouting over the radio: Jews! Jews! I remember my fear when they told us we had to go and greet Hitler: I was horrified, in despair. He passed through in an enormous car with one hand raised, and we stood there, surrounded by soldiers on all sides. He set off in the direction of Prague Castle.
That was the day that Hitlers occupation of Czechoslovakia began. Soon afterwards, we were excluded from school. We were forbidden to walk the streets of the city; we could only go down small side alleys. And in the trams which operated at that time in Prague, we were forced to stand on the rear platforms of the carriages. The Nazi laws against Jews came into force.

In 1941, the Nazis sent 7,000 Jews from Prague to Poland for the first time  to the Łódź Ghetto. We knew that we might be the next to be sent away. My uncles name was known to the Nazis, as he was a well-known figure in the city, and his surname began with the letter A  Altenstein. My grandmother was also an Altenstein. My mother told me that we all had to go together. We were registered as a family and sent to the Theresienstadt concentration camp, on one of the first trains.

We were allowed to bring just 50 kilograms of luggage with us. We werent sure what to take at first, so my mother made us wear lots of clothes. This was during winter. I was wearing so many layers of clothing that I could barely walk. We arrived at Theresienstadt on 12 February 1942.

The Brundibár score was brought into the camp secretly. It was our teacher, Rudi Freudenfeld, who held onto the piano score, written by the composer Hans Krása. As for Krása himself, he had already been sent to Theresienstadt. The author of the libretto, Adolf Hoffmeister, had seized his chance and escaped to England.

Even though we were only allowed to bring in 50 kilograms of possessions, Rudi put his copies of the score in his luggage and brought them into the concentration camp. We were all so inspired by that. Almost all the children from the orphanage, where the opera had been performed twice during the occupation, were in Theresienstadt at that point. Rudi knew that there were people for whom Brundibár could be performed at the camp. He also picked out the children who could sing well. I couldnt read music, but I could sing. I even said so myself, and sang something like: Do-re-mi... He said to me: You are going to sing the part of the Cat. A cat?! In an opera?! I was so happy to be given a part in the opera.

The day of the première was very special. The performance took place in the Magdeburg Barracks, which were very small. There was only enough space in the room for 100 people to watch, including Nazi officers, who were standing guard. And a chair was always kept free for Hans Krása, because he wanted to be present at every performance. The stage designer was František Zelinka, who had worked at the Prague National Theatre before the war. He put on 55 performances with us.

My makeup was very simple. František had a small tube of shoe polish. And that was what he used to paint my lips.

Our yellow Stars of David were, and still are, of great significance. We were not required to wear them while on stage. It felt like a few minutes of freedom, when we werent forced to wear them. We were free then. I will never forget that.

On the eve of 23 June 1944, there was a lot of talk of Nazi plans to shoot a propaganda film. They wanted to show the whole world what was happening and refute the rumours that they were murdering children. The film was shot in the Sokol Barrack, which was being used as a makeshift childrens hospital and where there was a lot of space. First of all, they took out all the childrens beds and sent the sick children to Auschwitz, before preparing the building for a film shoot of Brundibár. The opera was well known throughout the camp at this point. Our teachers began rehearsing with us for the shooting of the film.

In his memoirs, Rudi Freudenfeld recalls how camera operators and soldiers came to the Sokol Barrack and took up positions on the balcony. They were in Nazi uniform. When we got to the bit with the lullaby  theres a lullaby in the opera  the Nazis took off their caps, and sat for a long time on the balcony watching us, a group of children singing a lullaby. Perhaps they had children of their own at home, and they felt sorry for the children from Brundibár. That was the final performance, and it was captured as part of that Nazi propaganda film.

After that, the prisoners gradually began to be transported to Auschwitz. Of the 140,000 people who passed through Theresienstadt, there are just 100 of us left. I am one of those who survived Theresienstadt.

Our dream is for Brundibár to survive too. It was written for children and to be performed by children. There are so few of us left, so few of us who remember that time, and how very, very tough it was. We have the opportunity to talk about things which are of immeasurable importance to us, the things which actually saved our lives. I will never forget the morning when I heard that Russian soldiers had forced their way into the camp on motorcycles. I heard them shouting: You are free!, Hello!

It will be a huge joy for me when the lack of understanding between countries disappears, when everybody realizes how important it is that that should happen. I love all the people whose lives have crossed paths with mine."



1.1.    This User Agreement (hereinafter referred to as the Agreement) defines the procedure for accessing the website of the St. Petersburg State Funded Cultural Institution, the St. Petersburg Mussorgsky State Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre Mikhailovsky Theatre (hereinafter referred to as the Mikhailovsky Theatre) located at the domain

1.2. This Agreement regulates the relationship between the Mikhailovsky Theatre and the users of this website.


2.1. For the purposes of this Agreement, the terms indicated below shall have the following meaning:

2.1.2. Mikhailovsky Theatre Site Administrators those employees authorized to manage the website, acting on behalf of the Mikhailovsky Theatre.

2.1.3. User of the Mikhailovsky Theatre Site (hereinafter the User) a person having access to and using the website via the Internet.

2.1.4. Site the Mikhailovsky Theatre website located at the domain

2.1.5. Content of the Mikhailovsky Theatre Site the protected results of intellectual activity, including extracts from audiovisual productions, their names, forewords, annotations, articles, illustrations and covers, with or without text, graphic, textual, photographic, derived, composite, and other works, user interfaces, visual interfaces, logos, and also the design, structure, selection, coordination, external appearance, general style, and placement of the Content making up the Site and other intellectual property whether together and/or separately contained in the Mikhailovsky Theatre Site and the Personal Area, from where it is then possible to purchase Mikhailovsky Theatre tickets.


3.1. The subject of this Agreement is the provision to the User of access to the services available on the Site.

3.1.1. The Mikhailovsky Theatre Site shall provide the following services to the User:

- access to information about the Mikhailovsky Theatre and information about how to purchase tickets

- purchase of electronic tickets

- discounts, promotions, concessions, and special offers

- receipt of information about Theatre news and events, including via news and information distribution services (email, phone, text message)

- access to electronic content, with the right to view such content

- access to search and navigation tools

- the opportunity to post messages and comments

- other services provided through the pages of the Mikhailovsky Theatre Site

3.2. This Agreement covers all services existing (or functioning) at the present time on the Mikhailovsky Theatre Site, and any subsequent modifications to them and additional services which may appear in the future.

3.2. Access to the Mikhailovsky Theatre Site shall be provided free of charge.

3.3. This Agreement is a public offer. In obtaining access to the Site, the User shall be deemed to have opted in to this Agreement.

3.4. Use of the materials and services on the Site shall be governed by the provisions of current Russian Federation legislation.


4.1. The Mikhailovsky Theatre Site Administrators shall have the right:

4.1.1. To change the rules for use of the Site and to change the Content of the Site. Changes to usage rules shall enter into force from the moment the new version of the Agreement is published on the Site.

4.2. The User shall have the right:

4.2.1. User registration on the Mikhailovsky Theatre Site shall be for the purpose of identifying the User in order to provide Site services, distribute information and news (by email, post, telephone, text message, or other means), and to obtain feedback and a record of the provision of concessions, discounts, special offers, and promotions.

4.2.2. To use all of the services available on the Site.

4.2.3. To ask any questions relating to the information presented on the Mikhailovsky Theatre Site.

4.2.4. To use the Site solely for the purposes and in the manner provided for by this Agreement and not prohibited by Russian Federation legislation.

4.3. The User shall:

4.3.2. Take no action which may be considered to be in breach of the normal functioning of the Site.

4.3.3. Avoid any actions which may result in a breach of confidentiality with regard to information protected by Russian Federation legislation.

4.4. The User may not:

4.4.1. Use any device, program, procedure, algorithm or method, automated devices, or similar manual processes in order to access, acquire, copy, or track the Content of the Site.

4.4.3. Circumvent in any way the navigational structure of the Site in order to obtain or attempt to obtain any information, documents, or material by any means which are expressly not provided by the Site services;

4.4.4. Breach the security or authentication systems of the Site or any network associated with the Site. Carry out reverse searches, track, or attempt to track any information about any other User of the Site.


5.1. The Site and the Content contained therein belong to and are managed by the Mikhailovsky Theatre Site Administrators.

5.2. The Content of the Site may not be published, reproduced, transferred, or distributed by any means, nor posted on the worldwide networks of the Internet without the written consent of the Site Administrators.

5.5. The User shall be personally responsible for the confidentiality of the information in his/her account, including his/her password, and for all activity, without exception, which is carried out on behalf of the User of the account.

5.6. The User must immediately notify the Site Administrators of any unauthorized use of his/her account or password, or of any other breach of the security system.


6.1. Losses which the User may suffer in the event of a deliberate or negligent breach of any provision of this Agreement, or as a consequence of unauthorized access to the communications of any other User, shall not be reimbursed by the Mikhailovsky Theatre Site Administrators.

6.2. The Mikhailovsky Theatre Site Administrators shall not be liable for:

6.2.1. Delays or malfunctions in the process of carrying out operations arising as a result of force majeure circumstances, nor for any faults in the telecommunications, computer, electronic, or other related systems.

6.2.2. The actions of banking, transfer, and payment systems, nor for delays connected with their operation.

6.2.3. Improper functioning of the Site in cases where the User does not have the technical equipment required for its use, nor do the Administrators accept any obligation to provide Users with such equipment.


7.1. The Mikhailovsky Theatre Site Administrators shall have the right to terminate and/or block access to the Site, without prior notice to the User, if the User has breached this Agreement or the terms of use of the Site contained in other documents, or in the event of the Site ceasing to function, or due to technical glitches or problems.

7.2. The Site Administrators shall not be liable to the User or third parties for termination of access to the Site in the event of a breach by the User of any of the provisions of this Agreement or any other document containing the terms of use of this Site.

7.3. The Site Administrators shall have the right to disclose any information about the User as may be necessary for the execution of the provisions of current legislation or judicial rulings.


8.1. In the event of any disagreements or disputes arising between the Parties to this Agreement, a mandatory condition before resorting to the courts is that a claim should be submitted (a written proposal for voluntary resolution of the dispute).

8.2. The recipient of the claim shall, within 30 calendar days of receipt, notify the claimant in writing of the results of consideration of the claim.

8.3. If it is not possible to settle the dispute by voluntary means, either Party may apply to the courts for protection of their rights as provided for under current Russian Federation legislation.


9.1. In opting in to this Agreement and leaving his/her information on the Mikhailovsky Theatre Site by completing the registration form, the User:

9.1.1. Consents to the processing of the following personal information: full name; date of birth; telephone number; email address; payment details (if the service is used to purchase electronic tickets to the Mikhailovsky Theatre);

9.1.2. Confirms that this personal information belongs to him/her personally;

9.1.3. Gives the Mikhailovsky Theatre Site Administrators the right to carry out, without limit in time, the following actions (operations) with his/her personal information:

- collection and accumulation

- storage for an unlimited period of time (indefinitely) from the moment that the information is provided until it is recalled by the User by means of an application to the Site Administrators

- clarification (renewal, modification)

- destruction

9.2. The User's personal information shall be processed in accordance with Article 6.1.5 of Federal Law No. 152-FZ dated 27.07.2006 On Personal Information, solely for the purposes of performing the obligations accepted by the Mikhailovsky Theatre Site Administrators under this Agreement with respect to the User, including those indicated in clause 3.1.1 of this Agreement.

9.3. The User accepts and confirms that all of the provisions of this Agreement and the terms of processing his/her personal information are understood by him/her, and expresses his/her consent with the terms of processing his/her personal information without reservation or limitation. The Users consent to the processing of his/her personal information is specific, informed, and conscious.