Hurvínek sold a bride in the Reduta theatre and taught children what opera is all about

26 November 2023, 16:00
Hurvínek sold a bride in the Reduta theatre and taught children what opera is all about

The last opera première of the National Theatre Brno this year was Hurvínek Sells the Bride, which was co-produced with the Spejbl and Hurvínek Theatre. The première continued the thematic focus associated with the Year of Czech Music and took place on 24 November in the large hall of the Reduta Theatre.

The dramaturgy and the script, which combines the well-known puppet characters of Spejbl, Hurvínek, Mánička and Žeryk with Bedřich Smetana's The Bartered Bride , was written by Patricie Částková and directed by Hana Mikolášková. This original concept was conceived as a humorous but at the same time attractive and educational introduction of opera to an audience of children. The first to appear on stage were the four aforementioned puppets led by Martin Trecha (puppeteer of Spejbl, voice of Spejbl and Hurvínek), David Janošek (Hurvínek’s puppeteer), Jana Mudráková (Mánička’s puppeteer and voice) and Jan Levy (Žeryk’s puppeteer and voice). The puppeteers were followed by a quartet of musicians consisting of Barbara Tolarová (violin), Jindřich Konvalinka (double bass), Zdeněk Kužela (clarinet) and Ondrej Olos (conductor and pianist). After that, characters  that were taken directly from Smetana's opera appeared on stage. Pavla Vykopalová was introduced as Mařenka, Tomáš Kořínek took on the double role of Jeník/Vašek, Jan Šťáva played Kecal, Eva Esterková played the second double role as the Innkeeper/Esmeralda and David Janošek occasionally put down his puppet to show himself to the audience as the Ringmaster.

The set and costumes, also designed by David Janošek, were simple, but for the needs of the production they were more than sufficient. Apart from the screens at the back of the stage and a few other props, the most interesting were the folding houses (the pub and the Krušin house), with their size being adapted to the puppets. Their use was an excellent choice, as it only added to the comical nature of the situations when these spaces were occupied by live actors as well as puppets. The costumes were based on Moravian folklore, which suited the concept perfectly.

The dialogue and script by Patricia Částková with direction by Hana Mikolášková also functioned well. Within the first few movements it was clear that this performance would be accompanied by lots of laughter from the audience. Witty dialogues (and Žeryk's barking), humour stemming from the collocation of familiar words and the typical vocal expression of the puppeteers were combined with the most famous musical pieces from The Bartered Bride. The puppets on stage first portrayed the opera-goers, but almost immediately interacted with the members of the NdB opera company, the singers and the musicians, and thus influenced the plot itself. The funny scenes were joined by educational ones, when the puppets described to the children how opera and everything connected with it works. In addition, at the point where the Ringmaster and Esmeralda appeared on stage, several volunteers were able to join the protagonists on stage and dance with them. The entire audience was then drawn into the production at its very end, when the actors handed out notes with the final chorus of A Good Thing Was Done and the entire audience was able to sing along to the well known verse.

The singing performances of all the actors were of a high standard. Pavla Vykopalová, who also plays Mařenka in the original production of The Bartered Bride at the NdB, did not falter in a single aria and the audience was able to enjoy her beautiful and well-controlled voice. The same goes for Tomáš Kořínek, who did a great job with both the role of the romantic Jeník and the overly sensitive Vašek. There was not a single hesitation in the performance of Eva Esterková, who played the Innkeeper and Esmeralda. As could be expected, Jan Šťáva performed well and the role of Kecal suited him in the same way as in the original opera. The acting of all the singers was excellent, especially the performance of the last named singer. The clarity of the singing was above standard, which was very important, given the absence of subtitles (compared to the traditional version of The Bartered Bride).

hurvinek_prodava_nevestu_2023_Foto_Marek Olbrzymek_02

Great admiration also goes to the puppeteers who, in addition to excellent puppet "dubbing", were able to sing very well, even though they adapted their voices to the puppet roles. It is not very likely that the audience will hear Hurvínek or Mánička sing opera anywhere else. The reduced orchestra under Ondrej Olos played with a unity and had an excellent dynamic range. And despite the fact that it was a considerable reduction of orchestral sound, the most important of Smetana's music was performed very well and the four instruments used were absolutely sufficient for the needs of the production. It is also worth mentioning the perfect printed programme, also prepared by Patricia Částková, in which the visitors could find, besides the standard cast, briefly described principles of opera, the orchestra and conducting, the plot of The Bartered Bride, notes for the final chorus, but also, especially for younger children, activities, a connect-the-dots and pages to colour. In this way Patricie Částková guaranteed fun for the children even after the performance was over.

The production Hurvínek Sells the Bride, created in a collaboration between the National Theatre Brno and the Spejbl and Hurvínek Theatre, represents a very original fusion of two, at least at first glance, different worlds. In this performance, everything worked as it should. Primarily intended for children, the work certainly offers  youngsters a very entertaining spectacle full of jokes and interesting facts from the world of opera. It is a shining example of how this beautiful performing art should be brought closer to the youngest of audiences. However, the humour combined with excellent musical performances will without doubt appeal to adult audiences as well. Without any exaggeration, this production can be described as perfect.

Bedřich Smetana/Patricie Částková: Hurvínek Sells the Bride

Director: Hana Mikolášková


Mařenka: Pavla Vykopalová

Jeník/Vašek: Tomáš Kořínek

Kecal: Jan Šťáva

Esmeralda/Innkeeper: Eva Esterková 

Ringmaster: David Janošek

Spejbl: puppeteer and voice of Martin Trecha

Hurvínek: Martin Trecha voice, David Janošek puppeteer

Mánička: puppeteer and voice of Jana Mudráková

Žeryk: puppeteer and voice of Jan Levý

Conducting and piano: Ondrej Olos

Violin: Barbara Tolarová

Double bass: Jindřich Konvalinka

Clarinet: Zdeněk Kužela

Photo / Marek Olbrzymek



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