Performed in the original Czech with Czech and English subtitles.
Four paintings, four parables about sin and forgiveness. “A production with an excellent cast, wonderfully designed, but first and foremost built on an impeccably written and often unconventional opera. A penetrating, stunning musical impact.” (Brno město hudby, Boris Klepal).
The archangel Gabriel announces the coming of Christ. The wise virgins are eagerly prepared and unquestioning. The foolish virgins are lukewarm in their faith, allowing their lamps to go out and so have to go to buy oil at the very moment Christ arrives… Mariken – a village girl who stays too late in the town, transported by the vision of the shops and their displays. She then gets lost in the dark woods. The devil appears, promising to get her out of the darkness, and offers her all the riches of the world. Mariken succumbs… The Virgin Mary is looking for a place to give birth. Neither inns nor smithies have room for her, and so she ends up in a stable behind the smithy… The nun Paskalina, who dreams of worldly love, leaves her convent and goes to her lover. After much suffering she returns to the cloister, where her place was taken by the Mother of God in her absence.
There are composers whose works are not easily pigeonholed. One of them is clearly the native of Polička, Bohuslav Martinů (1890–1959). Each of his operatic works explores new possibilities and in an original and exceptional manner creates bridges between various artistic genres. This is also the case with The Plays of Mary, made up of separate stories involving the Christian concepts of forgiveness of sin and redemption. It is made up of four independent tales, which however – despite the contrasts between them – are linked like the pieces of a masterfully constructed mosaic: “The Wise and Foolish Virgins” (prologue, drama), “Mariken of Nimègue“ (miracle), “The Nativity” (pastoral), “Sister Paskalina” (legend). Despite their diversity in style and origins when linked with Martinů’s compelling forceful music a whole is produced of the great mysteries and strong spiritual witness. The world premiere of The Plays of Mary took place on February 23, 1935, in what is now the Mahen Theatre under the baton of Antonín Balatka and directed by Rudolf Walter. Today this unique work of Bohuslav Martinů is returning after eighty years to the site of its first performance on the theatre stage under the direction of the artistic head of the opera Jiří Heřman. His production was originally created in 2009 as a coproduction project of the National Theatre in Prague and the Opera Wroclawska, and it was received to great acclaim in both theatres.
Janáček Opera Ensemble and Orchestra of the National Theatre Brno