Tribute to Dol and Robert Dauber

Dol (Adolf) and his son Robert Dauber were two famous Czernowitzer musicians. Dol Dauber, born on 23.07.1894 in Wiznitz, was well-known as composer, arranger and director of the Dol Dauber Salon Orchestra in the 1920s. Adolf Dauber was very famous in Czechoslovakia and Austria prior to World War II. He used the stage name Dol or Dolfi as derived from his first name. He was best known for his dance and jazz band arrangements. During the war, Dauber and his wife were somehow spared from being deported to a concentration camp. But in 1943, Dauber’s son Robert was sent to Theresienstadt. During a visit to Prague, Hitler requested that Dol Dauber play in the presence. Dauber stated that he would do so if his son were released. His request was refused. Robert Dauber was twenty when he was sent to Theresienstadt, where he performed on 23.09.1943 the legendary staging of the children’s opera Brundibár. Later, Robert was sent to Dachau, where he perished in 1945. Dol Dauber’s rapid professional decline after the war and his relatively early death on 15.09.1950 may be linked to his depression over the loss of his son.

Wikipedia: “…Krasa and Hoffmeister wrote the opera [Brundibár] in 1938 for a government competition, but the competition was later cancelled due to political developments. Rehearsals started in 1941 at the Jewish orphanage in Prague, which served as a temporary educational facility for children separated from their parents by the war. In the winter of 1942 the opera was first performed at the orphanage: by this time, composer Krasa and set designer Frantisek Zelenka had already been transported to Theresienstadt. By July 1943, nearly all of the children of the original chorus and the orphanage staff had also been transported to Theresienstadt. Only the librettist Hoffmeister was able to escape Prague in time.

Reunited with the cast in Theresienstadt, Krasa reconstructed the full score of the opera, based on memory and the partial piano score that remained in his hands, adapting it to suit the musical instruments available in the camp: flute, clarinet, guitar, accordion, piano, percussion, four violins, a cello and a double bass. A set was once again designed by Frantisek Zelenka, formerly a stage manager at the Czech National Theatre: several flats were painted as a background, in the foreground was a fence with drawings of the cat, dog and lark and holes for the singers to insert their heads in place of the animals’ heads. On 23 September 1943, Brundibár premiered in Theresienstadt. The production was directed by Zelenka and choreographed by Camilla Rosenbaum, and was shown 55 times in the following year.

A special performance of Brundibár was staged in 1944 for representatives of the Red Cross who came to inspect living conditions in the camp; what the Red Cross did not know at the time was that much of what they saw during their visit was a show, and that one of the reasons the Theresienstadt camp seemed comfortable was that many of the residents had been deported to Auschwitz in order to reduce crowding during their visit. Later that year this Brundibar performance was filmed for a Nazi propaganda film. The Brundibar footage from this film is included in the Emmy-Award winning documentary “Voices of the Children” directed by Zuzana Justman, a Terezin survivor, who sang in the chorus. Ela Weissberger who played the part of the cat, appears in the film.

Most of the participants in the Theresienstadt production, including the composer Krása, were later exterminated in Auschwitz…”

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