“Every theatre is a madhouse, but opera is the ward for the incurable,” claimed Franz von Dingelstedt, the first director of the Court Opera House in Vienna. And he was right, for once someone’s fallen in love with opera, that’s it. Opera’s a stepchild of the Renaissance, with a Baroque wet nurse: it was on the cusp between these two great eras that the idea of purely sung theatre saw the light of day. Step by step, composers taught the art of singing to classical gods and brave women, Christian heroes and pagan enchantresses, a Seville barber, a Babylonian king and the Czech Mařenka and Jeník. But it was only here in Brno, thanks to Leoš Janáček, that truly psychological musical drama was born, drama that sees into a person’s heart. Today the Brno opera company has its home in a theatre named after Janáček, mounts a major festival devoted to the city’s most famous composer every two years, and has set its sights very high. “The more opera is dead, the more it flourishes,” pronounced the philosopher Slavoj Žižek when speaking of this fanatically loved but just as fanatically rejected genre. By this measure, opera in Brno these days must have been dead at least a dozen times.
To write a guide to music in Brno in the past and present means digging deep into one’s own recollections and those of others as well as into sources with varying degrees of reliability, and as far as possible not believing anything automatically but always asking “Did this really happen just like that?” And in doing so, to be very, very suspicious of one’s own memory. Two basic questions that cropped up in connection with almost every sentence were “What is it about this band or that event that makes them special? Would someone who’s never been to Brno and has no ties with the city find it interesting?”
Trumpet player Jiří Kotača is the leader of a young, but very interesting and healthily ambitious big band named Cotatcha Orchestra. While this Brno-based orchestra is still waiting for its first album, Kotača recently released a CD with his smaller ensemble – the international Alf Carlsson/Jiří Kotača Quartet. The album is entitled Journeys.
Due to the impact of extraordinary measures taken because of the Covid-19 pandemic on stakeholders of the cultural and creative industries in Brno, Brno leaders and the Department of Culture of the Brno City Municipality are working intensively on a set of precautions for minimizing the damages. At the same time, communication is conducted on all levels of public administration, predominantly in collaboration with the Institut umění – Divadelní ústav [Arts and Theatre Institute], which is mapping the situation on the nationwide level. Until 22 March 2020 you can help assess the current situation by means of an online survey (the link is provided below). Further steps will be taken according to the results of the survey.
The fourth subscription evening prepared by the Brno Philharmonic for the chief conductor's series called Philharmonic at Stadion and Janáček Theatre is an exceptional dramaturgical feat. The programme entitled "Pictures at an Exhibition", based on Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky's initial composition, combines additional works originated in and inspired by painting: The Frescoes of Piero della Francesca by Bohuslav Martinů, and Mathis der Maler, a symphony by Paul Hindemith. Sounding painting is accompanied by unique, music-illustrated visualisations of Cori O’Lan in collaboration with Ars Electronica. This week's difficult situation, not only for cultural institutions, was managed by the Brno Philharmonic promptly and with a great acclaim. Much like Cirk La Putyka on the day before, the Philharmonic decided not to cancel the performance at the Janáček Theatre and to broadcast the music and visualisations on 12 March from the Besední dům live on the web and on social networks.
The story of fateful love of the beautiful courtesan Marguerite and her sweetheart Armand, as we know it from the autobiographical prose The Lady of the Camellias by Alexander Dumas Jr., need not be largely introduced. One of the most famous novels of the 19th century has already been subject to a number of remakes, and now the National Theatre Brno ballet ensemble also came up with a new modern concept of this story of pain, passion and self-sacrifice.
Last year, after several years of stagnation, Brno's folklore enthusiasts woke up again and began organizing gatherings with dulcimer music, folklore parties, etc. at several different venues. This is certainly gratifying. However, motivation, experiences and concepts differ. One of them is We <3 folklore in the Metro music bar.
We know several singing cello players from the domestic music scene: Olin Nejezchleba, who recorded his first solo album at the age of fifty; Tara Fuki, which even consists of two singing cellists; and Natálie Velšmídová, who shone out bright with her folk song remakes at the end of the millennium. However, Pavel Čadek is the only true singer-songwriter in the sense that he writes his own songs and uses cello as his main (or even the only) accompanying instrument. Moreover, thanks to his classical music training and his past with The Eclipse, a harder cello group, he is able to work with the cello freshly and, above all, in a non-folk manner, and that is why his instrument sometimes plays more than just an accompanying role. Although his debut album would be sufficiently varied even with cello only, Pavel decided to work with more sophisticated arrangements and invited accordionist Ondřej Zámečník, cajon player Jakub Špiřík and some other guests in episode roles to the studio.
The singer Lizz Wright was born in 1980 to the family of a pastor. From childhood, gospel music was close to her, she used to sing in a choir and later began to adore additional originally Afro-American genres, such as soul, blues and jazz. In November 2019 at the Blues Alive festival in Šumperk she performed with her own band, but in Brno she will be accompanied by the Brno Philharmonic along with a trio of Prague jazz performers (David Dorůžka – guitar, Tomáš Baroš – double bass, Daniel Šoltis – drums). The concert will take place on 3 May in the Janáček Theatre as part of the JAZZFESTBRNO 2020 festival.
On Friday 14 February, the Sono Centre in Brno hosted a genre-diversified festival, which was also a celebration of three decades of activity of three publishing branches, which we associate with the original simple name Indies Records. Over the years, Indies Records has divided itself into three separate labels with three distinct edition catalogues – Indies MG, Indies Scope and Indies Happy Trails, which are operated by the personalities of Miloš Gruber, Milan Páleš and Jaromír Kratochvíl.
A fateful comedy, the third part of a musical trilogy or a fantasy musical. These attributes define Paradise, a new authorial piece from the workshop of Zdenek Merta and Stanislav Moša. Their ninth joint work in the field of music theatre was premiered yesterday on the big stage of the Brno City Theatre. The result is embarrassing.
Director, librettist and stage designer David Radok and composer, but also chief conductor of the opera ensemble Marko Ivanović created the authorial work for the opera ensemble of the National Theatre Brno. The opera The Monument, which was premiered yesterday, tells the story of sculptor Otakar Švec (1892–1955), whose design in 1955 was a portent of Stalin's monument at Letná. The title roles in the Janáček Theatre were performed by: Stanislav Sem (Sculptor), Markéta Cukrová (Wife), Roman Hoza (Colleague) and Ondřej Koplík (Minister of Culture). The solo parts were complemented by the Opera Choir, the Czech Academic Choir and the Brno Children's Choir. The Janáček Opera Orchestra was directed by the author of the music Marko Ivanović.
The cellist Josef Klíč, concert master of the Janáček Theatre in Brno, is close to classical music as well as underground, works together with poets and wrote several essential compositions exploring the border between contemporary and alternative music. His new solo album, Josef Klíč & His One Man Cello Squad, contains songs without words, which is, as Klíč pointed out in an interview last year for our server, a form that "existed already in the Renaissance times". And he explains: "A song without words is a composition that you can put your own lyrics into. It has a melody and you can sing the lyrics to it for yourself. Therefore, it must be a song with a powerful melody."
On the next day after the powerful experience I had gotten from the performance of Requiem by the Armenian composer Tigran Mansurian, I had the opportunity to meet its creator. The fragile, gentle and sincere music thus foreshadowed me of its author, with whom I spent a few precious moments in the director's lounge of the Besední dům in Brno in a very friendly conversation.
A new broadcasting studio has been set up in the premises of the former penitentiary on Cejl Street, nowadays called Káznice, which will broadcast live concerts, theatre performances, lectures, discussions and even religious masses. The premiere broadcast has been announced for this evening, featuring Tomáš Vtípil.
TIC Brno responds to the current state of society and culture by launching an online project entitled (ni)KAM v Brně [(no)WHERE TO in Brno], which follows on the printed KAM (WHERE TO) magazine. The portal will gather and promote cultural activities in Brno so that supporters of culture can stay together even during this quarantine period.
As soon as this Sunday, the Czech Radio Brno will release a programme named Sedmikrásky na nebi (Daisies in the Sky), featuring live commenting of the sky. The show is developing as a result of collaboration with the Brno Observatory and Planetarium, and Jiří Dušek, director of Brno Observatory and Planetarium, will appear as a guest.
This Thursday and Friday, Brno Philharmonic will present a programme entitled Pictures at an Exhibition, which will feature three great music pieces accompanied by visualisations of Cori O´Lan. These were created in collaboration with Ars Electronica, an organisation focusing on the use of latest technologies in art. The concerts will be conducted by Dennis Russell Davies.
The Janáček Opera ensemble is preparing the world premiere of a piece written specifically for it. The Monument is a tailor-made work for the stage of the Janáček Theatre, a big orchestra, ten soloists and three choirs: the opera choir, the Czech Academic Choir and the Brno Children's Choir. The opera production is being created under the direction of David Radok, who also wrote the libretto, while the music was written by the composer and chief conductor of the Brno opera ensemble Marko Ivanović. Svatopluk Sem, Markéta Cukrová, Roman Hoza and others will appear as soloists.