One of the many highlights of WNO’s FREEDOM Season, taking place this month, are the three performances of Brundibár. It’s a charming children’s opera that provides WNO’s Youth Opera with the amazing experience of working under the creative leadership of David Pountney (WNO’s Artistic Director) and Tomáš Hanus (WNO’s Music Director) – something that is a first for Youth Opera. We spoke to Manon, a member of the WNO Youth Opera 10-14 group in South Wales, who is playing Aninku, about her experience with Youth Opera and rehearsing for Brundibár.
How did you first get into Youth Opera?
I was ten years old when I first joined. I heard about it when I moved down here from
North Wales and immediately thought that it would be a great opportunity for me to improve my musical skills and meet new people.
What’s the most exciting aspect about Youth Opera?
It’s really exciting to be a part of a professional group and it’s amazing to have the chance to be in a big show as well. You get to see everything that happens backstage and how much effort, hard work and commitment it takes for people to create and put on performances like this.
Tell us about your character in Brundibár.
I play Aninku, one of the siblings who are two of the main characters in the show. My brother Pepíček and I go searching for milk for our sick mother and face the villain, Brundibár, with the help of a wise dog, keen cat, fearless sparrow and also some children of the town. My character is unusually mature for her age because of her father passing away when she was young and her mother being sick. She’ll do whatever it takes to help her family.
What skills has Youth Opera helped you improve?
It’s greatly developed my skills for sight-reading and reading music. I feel like I’m more confident with my social skills as I’ve met so many new people. I also think I’ve improved my singing and acting since I first started.
What do you love the most about being on stage?
I love how you can embrace a new character and become someone completely different. The thrill of being on stage is one of my favourite feelings and it’s also really fun to be a part of a group.
What have you learnt during your preparation and rehearsals for Brundibár?
I’ve learnt to be more empathetic as you have to understand what the character feels and how she would react in different situations. Also, I have learnt about the backstage process of how shows are put together and all the work that goes on behind the scenes. We had a really interesting workshop to inform us more about Brundibár’s history – including information on the Holocaust – which helped us to understand the context behind the opera and why it’s important. We were given pictures and diary entries by the children held in Terezín and to be honest, some of these moved me to tears.
What are your dreams and ambitions over the next few years – do you want to continue performing?
I would! I’d love to be involved in as many productions as possible over the next few years with WNO and with my high school. I’ve got a while yet (I’m 12) to decide what to do performing wise. I guess my dream right now would be a career in West End musical theatre, but who knows.
Brundibár is supported by David Seligman and in memory of Philippa Seligman, Edith Rudinger Gray Trust Award and The Gibbs Charitable Trust.
WNO FREEDOM Season is proudly sponsored by Associated British Ports (South Wales) – 32 years of supporting WNO and our shared communities.