Raphael Schächter was born in Braila, Romania on 27 May 1905, and was raised and educated in Brno. He went to Prague after World War I to study piano, composition and conducting at the Prague Conservatory, from which he graduated. He established the Chamber Opera in 1937 to play neglected baroque music and worked with Emil F. Burian at his Avant-garde theatre. However, Nazi persecution soon forced Schächter to reduce his musical activities to private lessons and home concerts.
Schächter arrived at Theresienstadt in November 1941 and soon after began to organise singers and instrumentalists. He was a pioneer of cultural life in the ghetto, and worked with Karel Svenk and Gideon Klein among others to arrange musical activities.
In summer 1942, Schächter had began to rehearse Bedrich Smetana's The Bartered Bride. The opera premiere took place on 28 November without sets or costumes, and Schächter accompanied the ensemble on a battered baby grand piano. The performance was celebrated as 'a great musical act', and was so successful that it was repeated 35 times. A 13-year-old wrote in her diary:
'I had heard the Bartered Bride three times in Prague, but it was never so beautiful as here. It is indeed a miracle that conductor Schächter is able to prepare it like that. When I was walking home and overheard all the small talk about food, black-marketing, passes, and work in the fields, I felt like a person having had beautiful dreams, who awakens suddenly, and everything is again as trite as always. I was thinking all the time about the Bartered Bride, and even in my half-slumber I heard in my head "Faithful loving" [the love duet from the opera.]'
Schächter began to rehearse a second opera, The Kiss, soon afterwards. Describing the performance, the singer Bedrich Borges recalled:
'Rafael Schächter literally poured spirit into people. I remember, for example, how he was working with choir in opera The Kiss. I didn't sing, and sat in the audience; I looked at Schächter and thought I was looking at Johann Sebastian Bach. The man was simply impregnated by music, a rock of a man.'