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..

Two sold-out concerts launched on Saturday filled-up the hall of the Koruna cinema in Břeclav, where the Národopisný soubor Břeclavan [Břeclavan Ethnographic Ensemble] celebrated its 65th anniversary and joined thus the series of jubilee folklore ensembles this year. The afternoon concert had to be eventually added because of the huge audience acclaim, which only confirms that in South Moravia folklore is still widely known and enjoys unremitting popularity.  more

The Prophet and the Wind is a multi-genre performance by flute player Martina Komínková. She created it in Italy and after its Italian premiere it will be presented in Brno for the first time. The Czech premiere will take place at Brno's Divadlo na Orlí Theatre on Sunday 3 November. The evening show starting at 7:00 pm is already sold out, but you can still buy tickets for the afternoon performance scheduled at 2:00 pm.  more

In the premises of the neo-Gothic Czech Brethren Evangelical Church of J. A. Comenius, on the fifth evening of the Moravian Autumn festival, a performance of sacred music for choir and organ took place. In addition to the choir of the same name, Martinů Voices was also dominated by the organist Linda Sítková and a four-member ensemble of French horns. All this under the direction of choirmaster Lukáš Vasilek.  more

The third event of this year's Moravian Autumn festival was transferred to a theatre stage. The event was made happen by Terén, which is a platform acting as a third stage of the Centre of Experimental Theatre, right after the Goose on a String and HaDivadlo theatres. And it was on this particular stage of the Goose on a String where the world premiere of a stage production of Oedipus by André Gide took place yesterday. Composer Bohuslav Martinů stands behind its equally important incidental music.  more

The jubilee 50th Moravian Autumn music festival started yesterday at Bobycentrum in Brno with a concert performance of the minimalist opera Einstein on the Beach by composer Philip Glass and director Robert Wilson. The concert version was created by collaboration of visual artist Germaine Kruip, Suzanne Vega and Ictus Ensemble and Collegium Vocale Gent. Although only the music remained from the previously stage show, the length of the concert itself was comparable with the opera work. Hence, the evening lasted almost four hours.  more

Doctor Fligg talked to us about one of the most talented composers and musicians of the first half of the twentieth century – Gideon Klein. He is at the same time one of the organizers of the project Gido‘s coming home, which commemorates a flat one hundred years from the composer’s birth.  more

The National Theatre Brno started its new season yesterday by staging The Tales of Hoffmann, an opéra fantastique by French composer Jacques Offenbach with French libretto written by poet Jules Barbier. Directing was undertaken by the recognized artistic tandem SKUTR, consisting of Martin Kukučka and Lukáš Trpišovský. The title role was presented by Luciano Mastro, his faithful companion Nicklausse (and also the figure of the Muse at the end of the show) was performed by Markéta Cukrová. The roles of Hoffmann's sweethearts Olympia, Antonia, Giulietta and Stella have were performed by Martina Masaryková, Pavla Vykopalová, Daniela Straková-Šedrlová and Andrea Široká. The character of Hoffmann's eternal rival (Lindorf/Coppélius/Miracle/ Dappertutto) was interpreted by Ondrej Mráz. The orchestra was led by Ondrej Olos, the choir by Klára Složilová Roztočilová.  more

The Brno Philharmonic launched its 64th season yesterday, which is also the second season of its current Chief Conductor and Artistic Director Dennis Russell Davies. Beside him, the leading Russian pianist Elisabeth Leonskaja also stood on the stage of the Brno Stadium. Brahms' Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Bartók's Piano Concerto No. 3 in E major and the Czech premiere of the composition DA.MA.SHI.E by the Japanese composer Joe Hisaishi's, connected with animated films of director Hayao Miyazaki, were chosen for the ceremonial start.  more

The fourteenth season of the Subscription Concert Cycle was launched yesterday evening by the Czech Philharmonic Choir of Brno with captivating music. A jubilant, almost festive programme was played in the Besední dům, following a performance at the St. Wenceslas Music Festival in Ostrava the previous evening. However, there were faithful and long-time spectators in Brno without whom the entire cycle would lose its meaning.  more

Yesterday evening at the piazzetta of the Janáček Theatre was marked by a concert to commence the 2019/2020 season of the National Theatre Brno (NdB). Promotion of the event ensured the most important thing for this music evening – hundreds of spectators who filled up the whole place. We should not forget the really wide age range, which is so much needed for future culture, especially at its lower limit (still in strollers).     more

Only rarely one single song is the main topic for an interview. In the case of the cellist Josef Klíč, the concert master of the National Theatre in Brno, this was offered. It does not happen every day that a  Czech composer and his song reach the finals of a worldwide competition. However, there were more reasons for our talk – memories of the late Jaroslav Erik Frič, Josef's contract at the Janáček Theatre and the upcoming new album.  more

For the opening concert of the 20th anniversary season of the Špilberk Festival yesterday, the Brno Philharmonic chose a dramaturgy consisting of proven as well as lesser-known pieces. The subtitle Romantic Carnival immersed all evening in the carnival spirit associated with celebrations before the carnival opening. The aim of the programme was to characterize the period of merriment, celebrations and masks by compositions that tell with their mood about this period of the year. The almost full-up castle courtyard had the opportunity to enjoy an unpretentious and appealing programme, which also with its lower temperature more easily approached that cold carnival period.       more

As a UNESCO-listed city of music, Brno has had four festival days full of music and dance. Tens of concerts and performances with hundreds of performers took place at twenty-two music venues. Music in the streets sounded on every corner, but most attention this year was attracted by four rooms by the artist Kateřina Šedá, in which artists of different genres and nationalities took turns. Another attraction was the performances of the British Motionhouse and No Fit State Circus, who repeatedly enchanted the Náměstí Svobody Square with their acrobatic pieces and breathtaking performances. Two large stages were also set up – Dominik Stage on Dominikánské Square and Django Stage on Malinovského Square, on which appeared artists such as Jana Kirschner, Monika Bagárová, minus123minutes or Jan P. Muchow & The Antagonists. Traditionally, the festival was accompanied by the sound of barrel organs whose players met in Brno as part of their 10th international meeting. This year, singer and multi-instrumentalist Tinatin Tsereteli (Hannover) and violinist Nicola Manzan (Bologna) as artists from UNESCO partner cities of music also premiered at the Brno Music Marathon. The atmosphere of the festival is captured in the video below.  more

Folkové prázdniny [Folk Holidays] in Náměšť nad Oslavou is a festival standing out with its dramaturgy, structure and atmosphere. Every season has its own theme, every evening has its own theme, and even some individual performances have their own themes. The long-time programme director Michal Schmidt managed this year to excellently balance Czech premiéres and truly extraordinary projects with reappearances and sure bets. This year's theme of Folkové prázdniny was About the Soul; however, this week-long event has its soul every year.  more

The group Nebeztebe (a pun containing both "Not without You" and "Heaven from You) literally shone in the Brno scene a few years ago. The five-member line-up, with its marked rhythms, seemingly above styles, celebrated victory at Porta and headed for the giant multi-genre festivals. Under bandleader Štěpán Hulc seemingly the band went to sleep and only returned this year with a brand new, three-member line-up. The new Nebeztebe is made up of guitar, violin and mandolin and has not given up on taking a multi-genre approach. Once more they are giving concerts and are coming out with the concept album Zásobování duše (which might be translated as Supplying the Soul).  more


Brno's ÚstaF-voiceband.cz is the only ensemble of its kind in the Czech Republic. It devotes itself to the interpretation of poetry on theatre stages. Today, Friday 8 November, it will present the premiere of its performance In an Old Photo, which will also be one of the first theatrical pieces in the newly created Brno field of performing arts called Terrain. The premiere deals with the work of Pernambuco by Ivan Wernisch.  more

The Czech Culture Year was launched in October 2018 by the Ball at the Leipzig Opera and culminated with a guest appearance at the Leipzig Book Fair in March 2019. It will also finish at the Leipzig Opera, featuring the National Theatre Brno with its production of Jenufa by Leoš Janáček.  more

The JazzFestBrno International Festival introduced the first names of performers for its upcoming 19th season. The festival will begin on 15 March 2020 with a concert by Joshua Redman Quartet. Also featured will be twenty-time Grammy winner Pat Metheny, singer Lizz Wright with a philharmonic, and bass player Avishai Cohen. After many years, and for the first time in Brno, he will perform in a trio with which he recorded his groundbreaking album Gently Disturbed in 2008. Joshua Redman, Bill Frisell and Chris Potter will also appear at the festival.  more

Today, on Saturday 2  November 2019, the opening concert of the 6th VOX IMAGINIS concert cycle will take place. All concerts of this series are prepared in cooperation with the Moravian Gallery in Brno. They promise themed evenings that combine chamber music, literary texts and fine art. Today's concert will take place at the Governor's Palace, bearing the subtitle "Musical Friendship". People will hear String Quartet in D minor by Antonín Dvořák and the Clarinet Quintet in B minor by Johannes Brahms, performed by Graffe Quartet and Canadian clarinettist James Campbell. Texts and letters of Johannes Brahms and Antonín Dvořák will be recited by actor Saša Rašilov.  more

The opening of the seventh season of the Jazz & World Music cycle, which consists of six evenings this year, is approaching. It will introduce musicians from Europe and overseas. At the beginning of the subscription series, Dan Tepfer will perform his Natural Machines programme and will play on a Yamaha disklavier. Other concerts will feature Efe Turumtay & Nikola Zarić, Lucienne Renaudin Vary & Robert Balzar Trio and Airelle Besson & Lionel Suarez.  more

Tonight, Scala University Cinema hosts a documentary river-movie premiere that captures the story of the group Dunaj. The screenplay and direction of the documentary was undertaken by David Butula. The film was screened at the Jihlava International Documentary Film Festival, and now it is about to be featured in a cinema for the first time.  more

Divergent Connections Orchestra is preparing a concert performance on the occasion of the 101st anniversary of the foundation of Czechoslovakia. Events with the subtitle 101 Beers – 101 Paintings & 30 Freedom Rums? will take place in the House of the Lords of Lipá. Both songs will be presented only once.   more

The Symphony Orchestra of the Primary Art School of the City of Brno was founded in 1994 on the initiative of headmasters of primary art schools in Brno. Since 2003, the band has been called Young Brno Symphony Orchestra. This year the orchestra celebrates 25 years of its existence with a concert in the Hall of the Convent of Merciful Brothers.  more

Yesterday, 28 October 2019, musician Jitka Šuranská died aged 41 years.  more

The mystical cantata Musikalische Exequien by Heinrich Schütz, the greatest composer of the era before Bach, will be performed by the Czech Ensemble Baroque. This work will be confronted with another two-chorus motet at the concert, but this time written by an almost unknown author, Johannes Schimrack (or Ján Šimrák in Slovak). The concert will take place in the Church of St. Michael.  more