A Brno Don Carlos

3 February 2019, 18:00
A Brno Don Carlos

The latest opera production of the National Theatre in Brno is Don Carlos by the composer Giuseppe Verdi and the poet Friedrich Schiller. This work, directed by the director of this institution, Martin Glaser, had its premiere on Saturday 2 February 2019 in the Janáček Theatre. The stage set was designed by Pavel Borák and the costumes by Markéta Sládečková-Oslzlá. Lighting was the responsibility of Martin Špetlík. The performance was conducted by Jaroslav Kyzlink, who also produced the performance with the choir and orchestra of the Janáček Opera of the National Theatre in Brno. The main roles were filled by Luciano Mastro as Don Carlos and Federico Sacchi as King Philip II, Carlos’ father; Jiří Brückler is the friend of the title character and the confidant of the king, Rodrigo, Marquis of Posa. Linda Ballová took the part of the young queen and madly infatuated Elisabeth of Valois; the figure of the vengeful Princess Eboli, who secretly loves the king’s son was played by Veronika Hajnová-Fialová. The intimidating inquisitor was played by Ondrej Mráz. Also appearing were Andrea Široká, Martina Mádlová, Zdeněk Nečas and David Szendiuch.

The historical works of the great authors only rarely depict actual historical developments, and rather than provide a precise picture of the past such literature offers romantic inspiration from ancient wars, political intrigues and the doomed love of the great lords. Even today as the result of the rich imagination of sensation-seeking burgesses and the literary talent of Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin the composer Antonio Salieri is seen by many as having murdered Mozart. In the same way the play Don Carlos by the writer Friedrich Schiller rather borrows from real history and subordinates the characters to romantic literary logic and deformation. A large part of his play was inspired by the novel Dom Carlos: Nouvelle Historique by the French abbot César Vichard de Saint‑Réal. Schiller’s vision however fortunately did not – as is so often the case in similar interpretations of history – did not depict the characters as all black or white. In the same way that we can mourn the doomed love of Don Carlos and Elisabeth of Valois, in the same way we can also have sympathy for the behaviour of the lonely and fearful King Philip II. Schiller’s drama despite its at times schematic approach gives space for a certain moral greyness even in its heroes. Verdi’s music in close harmony with the libretto builds these emotional and expressive bridges also for the singers themselves, who working with the director can accentuate in the given roles otherwise unusual character attributes. I would say that in this respect the opera company of the National Theatre in Brno is in safe hands.

Those taking the main roles (with the exception of Veronika Hajnová-Fialová) are visiting artists. The title role was being performed by the Italian tenor Luciano Mastro, who tried to give the emotional tension of the character the most significant features. Mastro’s aggressiveness, impetuosity and youthful indiscretion were unbelievable and were based on a purely eponymous character type. In the first act, the singer had perceptible intonation uncertainty and variable voice colouring in the higher notes, but in the following acts, however, the audible "stress" in demanding passages disappeared. Linda Ballová, a soprano, as Elisabeth of Valois, brilliantly portrayed the contradictory tendencies and feelings of the character, from the initial happiness through sudden dismay to the final reconciliation, apathy and exhausted resignation. Not just as a singer but also as an actor she breathed life and credibility into an otherwise rather passive and static character. The introductory scene however suffered slightly from overdone vibrato, which occasionally created completely the wrong mood – her shaky “Oh, let us speak of it!” suggesting sudden fright rather than joy and ardour.

The baritone Jiří Brückler as the Marquis Rodrigo gave a successful and intonation-wise steady performance, the only significant awkwardness was in the duet with Carlos, where the leaders knelt side by side and promised loyalty in friendship. The royal stately aura of Federico Sacchi was as strong as its unfortunate awakening sadness from loneliness and helplessness. It was here that Sacchi showed the full range of his acting skills. Princess Eboli as played by Veronika Hajnová-Fialová began somewhat unfortunately with an overly dark colouring to her voice and an insensitive use of sudden dynamic changes, which can be effective, came across as too abrupt and crude. In the following arias however her performance improved markedly and in the closing scenes with sorrow and regret it was strong and confident, even though their heroine lay at the king’s feet. The choir was good most of the time, although at the very beginning rhythmically fragmented and out of step with the brass section and orchestra. The fault however was mainly with the placing of the singers off the stage, removing them from direct contact with both the music and the conductor. This is however rather an issue of the direction, which was at the very least questionable.

At the start of the introductory scene there was a major title saying Fontainebleau against a blue background. That was all. Here the introductory encounter between Carlos and Elisabeth took place, and here also the future queen discovered that in place of Carlos she was to marry his father King Philip Filipa II. In this dumbed down and artistically unimaginative way the audience was informed that they were somewhere in the vicinity of the French city of Fontainebleau. Although the original libretto refers to the forest, here we can perhaps rely on our imagination along. Is the blue traffic sign showing the start of the city? Or still more bizarre – is each character a tree? Of course not, this is too ad hoc, too purposeless. Most likely seems to be a lack of meaning other than just communication, and this seems rather weak when it comes to my idea of artistic opera production. From letters will then erupt on the scene strange creatures in flowery dresses with round glasses apparently showing happy French people. It would perhaps be more comprehensible if they fought their way on to the stage with baguettes. At the start of the introductory scene there was a major title saying Fontainebleau against a blue background. That was all. Here the introductory encounter between Carlos and Elisabeth took place, and here also the future queen discovered that in place of Carlos she was to marry his father King Philip Filipa II. In this dumbed down and artistically unimaginative way the audience was informed that they were somewhere in the vicinity of the French city of Fontainebleau. Although the original libretto refers to the forest, here we can perhaps rely on our imagination along. Is the blue traffic sign showing the start of the city? Or still more bizarre – is each character a tree? Of course not, this is too ad hoc, too purposeless. Most likely seems to be a lack of meaning other than just communication, and this seems rather weak when it comes to my idea of artistic opera production. From letters will then erupt on the scene strange creatures in flowery dresses with round glasses apparently showing happy French people. It would perhaps be more comprehensible if they fought their way on to the stage with baguettes.

The second act improves the impression with the effective use of ancient colonnades and imaginative lighting effects, which, in combination with a turntable creates an impressive sense of endless corridors and aisles between columns. The second part of the third act, however, cuts off the initial impression at the knees - Glaser builds on the minimalist aesthetic, but it's minimalism stripped to the bone and then gnawing at the stage sets. All the action is static and could easily take place on a concert stage. Although the characters discuss whether the rebellious Carlos should be punished or shown mercy, little is shown in their emotions and gestures. The static quality of the stage is further underlined by its absolute emptiness, since the only thing there is a white staircase. Conversely there is excellent work with the space in the fourth act, where the king, high above the stage, laments the loneliness of his fate. In the second scene the inquisitor appears – a figure on the king has already warned about in advance and which within the performance should induce constant fear, caution and concern. But not in this Brno production, where the inquisitor’s power is manifested only with his entrance. I do not say that the correct approach would be naturalistic representation of war and devastation by the Inquisition in Spain and that the bizarre gothic version shown at the National Theatre in Prague in 2013 was a grasp of its production. Not at all! Only I consider that the chosen aesthetics – however modern ¬ should be compact and illuminate the director’s interpretation of the work. The fourth and fifth acts, however, can be described as successful in Brno and were finally emotionally engaged. The successful scene in which Rodrigo chases Princess Eboli on a rotating stage, was one of the most sophisticated and visually engaging parts production.

Under the baton of Jaroslav Kyzlink the orchestra gave a quality and rhythmically and intonation-wise solid performance. Praise should go to the solo instruments, primarily led by the cello with that heartfelt and expressively rich playing complementing the action on stage. Occasional mistakes, however, came from the wind section, where there were at times late entries and uncertain tones. Generally, however, it was a good interpretation that placed great emphasis on the naturally flowing melodies of Verdi's opera.          

The Brno production is built primarily on the singers’ performances which managed to eclipse the in places inconsistent direction. Not that I am not a supporter of the concept of minimalist operas, but in this case there was a qualitative imbalance in the directorial concept. While some stage design solutions managed with fewer resources to creatively grasp the situation, in many cases they were static, unimaginative and involved internally incoherent visual-musical communication. There's no doubt that the opera will find many supporters, for whom the approach works. For myself, I would add that there are more than enough similarly staged operas.

composer: Giuseppe Verdi
libretto: Joseph Méry, Camille du Locle
musical production: Jaroslav Kyzlink
conductor: Jaroslav Kyzlink, Ondrej Olos
director: Martin Glaser
staging: Pavel Borák
costumes: Markéta Sládečková
lighting: Martin Špetlík
choirmaster: Pavel Koňárek
dramaturge: Patricie Částková
assistant directors: Vojtěch Orenič, Natálie Gregorová

Philip II: Jiří Sulženko, Federico Sacchi
Don Carlos: Luciano Mastro (guest), Philippe Do
Rodrigo, Marquis of Posa: Jiří Brückler (guest), Svatopluk Sem (guest)
Grand Inquisitor: Martin Gurbal' (guest), Ondrej Mráz (guest)
Elisabeth of Valois: Linda Ballová, Charlotta Larsson
Princess Eboli: Veronika Hajnová-Fialová, Michaela Šebestová
Thibault, Page to Elisabeth: Andrea Široká, Eva Štěrbová (guest)
Count of Lerma: Martin Pavlíček, Zdeněk Nečas
Old Monk: David Nykl, David Szendiuch
Voice from Heaven: Daniela Straková-Šedrlová, Martina Mádlová
Royal Herald: Martin Pavlíček, Zdeněk Nečas

2 February 2019, Janáček Theatre

Petr Neubert photo



No comment added yet..

The Olomouc Baroque Festival has begun. In the local Jesuit Convent the seventh year of the festival opened with the modern premiere of the serenata Il tribunale di Giove by the Austrian composer Karl Ditters von Dittersdorf. The work was first performed at the birthday celebrations for the Prussian King Frederick the Great on 27 January 1775 and after a repeat in Wroclaw in 1777 it fell into oblivion. The Ensemble Damian decided to reverse this unfortunate fate, and led by the ensemble’s artistic director and director Tomáš Hanzlík they attempted to revive the work. Appearing in the solo roles were Leandro Lafont (Fate and Apollo), Kristýna Vylíčilová (the Genius of Europe and Minerva), Lucie Kaňková (Time and Fortune), Monika Jägerová (Jupiter) and Jakub Rousek (Mars). The costumes and backdrops were designed by the director Hanzlík.  more

The Slunce [Sun] Festival in Strážnice will be held for the twentieth time this year. Especially lovers of folk music and classical big beat have  marked the dates of 12th and 13th July in their calendars. We talked to the director of the Slunce Festival Pavel Kopřiva about the history of the festival, its top moments and hardships, as well as what this year's festival season will be like.  more

The end of the first school-holiday week was carried in the spirit of celebrations. The 7th of July in fact falls on the birthday of Alena Veselá, a prominent Brno organist and a professor at the Janáček Academy of Music and Performing Arts (JAMU), who celebrated an impressive age of 96 years on that day. The concert, organised particularly for this jubilee, was also the final event of the 39th Brno Organ Festival and as a celebration of the birthday of its founder (and now patron of the whole show), it already has a strong position in the festival programme.  more

We live in a free democratic society, in which the role of the state is to create the environment and conditions for the development of creativity and creative potential, being aware that today's living art creates cultural heritage for the future.  more

Last weekend, the 74th Strážnice International Folklore Festival 2019 as well as the 37th Strážnice Children's Folklore Festival were held in the South Moravian Mecca of folklore. The biggest folklore festival in the Czech Republic enjoys great interest and it wasn't  any different this year either, despite tropical temperatures, with tens of thousands of people coming back to Strážnice again.  more

On the 100th anniversary of the birth of poet Jiří Orten, the company ProArt prepared a multi-genre project called Ohnice – Where the Wind Is Dancing in the former Brno penitentiary on Cejl Street. The poetic production with verses of the young poet, which reflected his hard and short life, was premiered on 25 June.  more

The twenty-fourth season  of the Concentus Moraviae international music festival came to an end after almost a month of rich musical experiences. Musical works, thematically labelled as the Concert of Nations, guided the festival visitors around thirteen picturesque Moravian towns and gave them a taste of key musical works of (not only) European nations. All this was moreover served in the interpretation of more than twenty world-famous ensembles. With the conscious transnational, cross-border concept overreaching the Czech border, the festival organizers chose the Golden Hall of the renowned Musikverein Concert House as a suitable venue for the closing evening. The extraordinary finals of the 24th season opened thus a series of Concerts of Czech-Austrian Partnership and at the same time announced  the celebration of the festival's quarter of a century to be celebrated next year. In accordance with this symbolic overture of the concert, the main star of the festival was the patron of the festival and famous singer Magdalena Kožená, accompanied by the no less famous Collegium 1704 orchestra led by Václav Luks.  more

One of the biggest promises of the 24th Concentus Moraviae international festival was yesterday’s concert of the legendary Borodin Quartet, whose unique sound is the result not only of hard work but also collaboration with the composer Dmitri Shostakovich. This personal and interpretive trail still influences the group and is passed on to each new member. The programme took place in the library of the castle in Náměšť nad Oslavou , where in the 18th and 19th centuries it was the residence music-loving Haugwitz family. The music of Sergei Prokofiev, Joseph Haydn and Dmitri Shostakovich could be heard by the audience in a venue that was more than merely dignified.  more

In the summer months Špilberk Castle’s courtyard often resounds to the sound of music. Until September it is possible to combine a tour of the castle with a cultural experience. The organizers have tried to prepare a programme across genres that has something for everyone. Yesterday it was the turn of folk music. Despite the adverse weather the stage was dominated by the Military Art Ensemble Ondráš.  more

The last premiere of the Brno opera season for the first time ever and rather unusually combined two works. The Janáček Theatre presented the surrealist opera Three Fragments of Juliette by Bohuslav Martinů along with the small opera work The Human Voice by Francis Poulenc. The composed evening, with direction and stage design by David Radok, brought together two almost absurd worlds. And this connection was indeed remarkable dramaturgically, visually but also interpretatively.  more

The Polish ensemble Szymanowski Quartet at the Concentus Moraviae Festival presented works by their compatriots Karol Szymanowski, Stanisław Moniuszko and Gražyna Bacewicz in the Church of Sts. Peter and Paul in Řeznovice yesterday. The concert was part of worldwide celebrations of the two-hundredth anniversary of birth of Stanisław Moniuszko, which is considered by many to be the founder of Polish national music. The evening was held under the auspices of the Ambassador of the Republic of Poland to the Czech Republic, HE Barbara Ćwioro.  more

Visitors to concerts meet quite often with quartet compositions written by masters of European music. Haydn's string quartets are perennial stars in the repertoire of a number of ensembles and attention is also paid to works of contemporary European composers. Only exceptionally, however, can listeners take a peek into the musical cuisine of Asian or South American nations. Cuarteto Q-Arte decided to fill this blank space and dedicated itself to the works of Latin American authors. The programme, which they presented yesterday at the chateau in Slavkov u Brna (Austerlitz), consisted of works by Silvestre Revueltas, Alberto  Ginastera and Astor Piazzolla. All these three composers combine elements of domestic culture with European training and influences or impulses of different genres.  more

Why be one of the many average bands when we can be a unique band? The ten-year history of the Brno group Kupodivu could be squeezed into this motto. In 2009, saxophonist Jaroslav Pilný and keyboard player Petr Šašinka first talked about forming a band. In 2019, the band Kupodivu [Surprisingly Enough] is releasing its first full-length album. Exactly in the middle of this ten-year period, in 2014, an important change took place when the original folk band was transformed into an interesting shape with keyboards, saxophone and bass, but without a guitar. The line-up, which resembles rather jazz bands in recent years, has scored at a lot of folk festivals in recent years. Kupodivu won the Porta award for authors, the Rada Notování [Council of Notation] award, won the Moravský vrabec [Moravian Sparrow], and won second place at the Mohelnický dostavník [Mohelnice  Stagecoach]. At all these venues they performed music that rather than campfires fits into city clubs, and by far not only folk ones. The album Živočišné pudy [Animal Instincts] summarizes the band's work so far in a dignified way, underlined by the quality sound from the Zlín Studio V.  more

The Jerusalem Quartet is one of the world's leading quartet performers for many years and is currently one of the most cited chamber music ensembles. At the Concentus Moraviae festival, violinists Alexander Pavlovsky, Sergei Bresler, violist Ori Kam and cellist Kyril Zlotnikov performed in the Great Chateau of Mikulov Castle with a programme stretching in time from Joseph Haydn up to Béla Bartók. The concert was held under the auspices of the Israeli Ambassador to the Czech Republic, HE Daniel Meron.  more

Man does not live by classical music alone, as the Epoque Quartet, consisting of violinists David Pokorný, Vladimír Klánský, violist Vladimír Kroupa and cellist Vít Petrášek has been convincing us for twenty years already. For their Saturday concert, staged as part of the Concentus Moraviae festival, which took place in the foyer of the Pasáž theatre in Třebíč, the musicians also invited bass clarinettist Petr Valášek, pianist Karel Košárek and percussionist Oleg Sokolov. The programme of the evening consisted entirely of works by contemporary authors flirting in their compositions not only with musical minimalism, but also with jazz and other popular genres.  more


Znojmo Music Festival enters its 15th season this year. The programme includes concerts, opera performances, gastronomy and a programme for children. The opening concert, performed by the patron of the festival Pavel Šporcl and the PKF - Prague Philharmonia under the baton of Derek Gleeson, is dedicated to the reminder of the fall of the Iron Curtain. The culmination of the festival is the premiere of the scenic oratorio Saul by G. F. Handel. The title roles will be performed by Andreas Scholl and Adam Plachetka. The show will be directed by Tomáš Pilař.  more

The 165th anniversary of the birth of Leoš Janáček falls on today, Wednesday 3 July 2019. Janáček is one of our opera composers most frequently played abroad. TIC Brno dedicated a tram to him for his birthday this year, with the main characters from his operas graphically rendered by Brno artist Vendulka Chalánková. Janáček also has his own website, an educational trail, a memorial and an opera festival.  more

The Multi-genre festival Vaňkovka Fest this year offers concerts, an open-air cinema and stand-up performances. The month-long festival at the Galerie Vaňkovka in Brno will play host to Aneta Langerová, Dan Bárta, Lukáš Pavlásek, Ben Cristovao, Michal Pavlíček & Trio and many more.  more

The autumn program of the Fléda music club in Brno contains big names of the music world. The August visit of Jon Hopkins', who will appear at the Brno Marathon of Music festival is already at its imaginary beginning. The autumn season officially opens with a September dance party featuring GusGus from Iceland. This will be followed by concerts of Hooverphonic with a new singer, Jan Blomqvist & Band with their complete Disconnected project or the Berlin legend DJ Hell with his Zukunftmusic composition. Rockers De Staat will bring their novelty titled The Bubble Gum, Movits! their most hip-hop record so far – the double album V, Kadebostany in turn will bring their album Monumental. Last but not least, Vitalic with Rebeka Warrior will also be featured presenting their KCompromat project.  more

The album collects folklore tunes and songs from the Moravian meadows. After several years of work on the Anthology of Moravian Folk Music, the Indies Scope label decided to continue with a new series of folklore recordings called Malovaná truhla  [Painted Chest]. One of them is the album Kosecké písně [Mowers' Songs]. The album features Kubíci dulcimer music band from Horňácko, Women's Choir of Hrubá Vrbka, Chotár male choir from Horňácko and others.  more

This festival will enliven the streets in the centre of Brno throughout the summer. The programme promises a total of 53 events such as concerts, workshops, theatre performances, dance rooms or sporting events.  more

Traditionally, the beginning of the summer holidays is accompanied by the festival Boskovice – for the Jewish Quarter. This year's 27th edition will be launched by the Les Bubbey Mayse quartet from France, inspired by Klezmer and traditional Yiddish songs. The musical program also features concerts of bands such as Neurobeat, Khoiba, Kittchen & Aid Kid with Tomáš Neuwerth or Panenské plameny.  more

The upcoming production of Kde tančí vítr  [Where the Wind Is Dancing] is based on Orten's collection Ohnice. The author of the project is the Brno choreographer and director Martin Dvořák. The central character of a poet will be performed by young actor Daniel Krejčík.  more

Brno Philharmonic announces a selection procedure for the position of advance sales administrator. Starting from 1 August 2019.  more

The Kamenka Open multi-genre festival will revive the meadow in the Kamenná kolonie neighbourhood in Brno for the tenth time already. This year's guests include Funky Pappa, Jamiroquai Tribute Band and Pleasure Portable. Theatres will be represented by the Hysterie Theatre, Koráb Theatre or the Bez Pravidel Theatre.    more