Opera The Monument: a powerful drama without much emotion

8 February 2020, 18:00
Opera The Monument: a powerful drama without much emotion

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 theme of the opera is an internal ethical dialogue and the tragic fate of a sculptor and artist. Švec was compulsorily participating in the design contest for the memorial of Josif Stalin and won it unintentionally. He committed suicide shortly before the monument was unveiled. The opera chronologically depicts events from the announcement of the 1949 megalomaniac competition until the tearing down of the monument in 1962; everything is arranged in one act and eleven scenes.

monument_01_foto_Marek Olbrzymek

David Radok conceives the historical substance rather realistically and his grasp is more traditional, devoid of experiments with the form of narration or time manipulation. The librettist aims to carefully depict the moods and atmosphere of the 1950s and more broadly of any totalitarian society. The libretto does not contain a single personal name and the direction aims towards a super-realistic depiction. In addition to certain realism, Radok's direction contains even surrealistic moments, evoked by everyday reality brought ad absurdum. In the close neighbourhood of both great and small histories, very oppressive in The Monument in every way, the ever-repeated banalities are unduly accentuated. And nowadays may even sound superficial. The eye of an imaginary camera covers all the events on the stage as equal, and so the audience was equally exposed to the jingle of dishes alongside fatal political repression. Positively unusual is the length of the opera, which consists of only eighty minutes divided into eleven scenes. However, it would be wrong to assume a swift progress in this case. Certain rigidity of the action, images and scene was evident all the time. The backdrops (separating the space between "inside" and "outside") were sophisticated and often took place in complete silence. An empty scene free of any movement or presence of characters was no exception. Although the story depicted one of the most shattering times in the history of the country and an unmistakable inner drama of the artist, the stage remained devoid of remarkable emotions. The director thus avoided inappropriate pathos in his depiction of historical facts (death of the sculptor), and at times succeeded in achieving monumentality in the opposite way (the song  "Bude zima bude mráz" ["It Will be Cold, It Will Be Freezing"] instead of an inner confession). Impressive is the work with a hint – instead of a 15-meter statue on the stage, there is J.V. Stalin's thumb, and after a devastating explosion there is a mere index smoke from the collapsing monument.     

monument_02_foto_Marek Olbrzymek

The music of Marko Ivanović was betting on atmosphere and soundness, already in the first minutes there were mood-setting suggestive uproars and noises. Adhering to the intent of David Radok, the music did not refer to any particular period and concentrated on communicating the appropriate moods. These, however, alternated with high frequency. The resulting impression was fragmented in places, which was also contributed to by the blending of replicas of characters and choruses. A certain minimalism in the instrumentation was obvious – almost never the instrument groups sounded at the same time, on the contrary, the solos of the wind and percussion sections were numerous. All this had a great impact on the resulting impression - the opera experience was unusually intimate and unpretentious on the vast stage of Janáček Theatre. The singing role was divided among thirteen solo characters, most of their expression  was recitatively syllabic, and due to the short duration of the opera, the title roles of Svatopluk Sem and Markéta Cukrová did not get as much space as their briefly performed flawless performance deserved. Roman Hoza and Ondřej Koplík showed themselves on the stage for a slightly longer time – a positive fact is that even here the libretto did not adapt to external conditions. Although roles were tailored to the ensemble, the authenticity of the characters was the main and successfully achieved goal. One of the strongest musical aspects of the work consisted in the choruses, several times a capella, in which the Children's Choir Brno repeatedly excelled. The crowd of sculptors was old vocal polyphony (fourth picture), Latin singing in the church (eighth picture) created an atmosphere functionally contrasting with the rest of the opera.                   

Although the opera depicts the inner struggle of the main character, there is no real conflict reached in the story. Even without extensive inner monologues, it is clear at any moment what position each character takes and where it is heading to. The performance thus remained the announced description of the atmosphere of the era, the setting of which is not doubtable particularly due to costumes, hints in the libretto and rhetoric of the characters. The performance is dominated by low contrast and gray tones with occasional red accents. Although the processing of the facts has been done in a high-flying and authentic manner in all respects, it does not, in my opinion, bring any new insight into the issue that is commonly depicted in gray with a dose of absurdity. The resulting message was both predictable and unambiguous (the spectators were given very little space for their own interpretation), and hence in accordance with its formal eleven-fold variation.

The Monument

Premiere on 7th February 2020 at Janáček Theatre

author: Marko Ivanović

conductor: Marko Ivanović

stage design: David Radok

costumes: Zuzana Ježková

lighting design: Přemysl Janda

choirmasters: Pavel Koňárek, Michal Vajda and Valeria Maťašová

Sculptor: Svatopluk Sem (guest)

Wife: Markéta Cukrová (guest)

Colleague: Roman Hoza

Minister of Culture: Ondřej Koplík

Secretary: David Nykl

Wife of the 1st Secretary: Martina Mádlová

Lover: Tereza Kyzlinková

Singer: Andrea Široká

Secret Man 1: Igor Loškár

Secret Man 2: Petr Levíček

Deputy Minister: Pavel Valenta

Deputy Minister: Petr Karas

Sculptor: Martin Novotný

photo by Marek Olbrzymek



No comment added yet..

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.  more

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.  more

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.  more

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.  more

If a band releases a new album after ten years and calls it Dej si čas [Take Your Time], it sounds like a pleasant self-irony. But what is ten years against delays of other bands, whose fans had to wait for new albums for eighteen (AG Flek) or even thirty years (Progres 2). For Mošny, it was said that the new album started to emerge a few years ago, but the group wanted to include some brand new songs, which they needed to rehearse and finish.  more

That evening was not only festive, with an extraordinary list of performers, but especially from many points of view valuable and significant. The bright and shiny ballet gala show of the ensemble of the National Theatre Brno showed many important things at the Janáček Theatre yesterday. On the one hand, the gala concert celebrated the respectable one hundred years' anniversary of the ballet ensemble in Brno, and on the other hand also presented the city as a respected focal point of dance art, where the greatest stars of these days do not hesitate to arrive. And in this first-league competition, the domestic ensemble was successful in its match with the European best and brightest. If you add to this the truly storming and crowded auditorium of the Janáček Opera, meaning more than a thousand satisfied spectators, the above-mentioned artistic gains are accomplished.  more

Several years ago, a miracle happened to Jura Hradil. This devotee of the electronic nu jazz alternative came to the hilly Carpathian landscape somewhere on the border between Moravia and Slovakia and heard a song, firstly one, then two, then hundreds. It wasn't a blurry echo of old times, but the bright tone of a Horňácko song.  more

Originally, it was supposed to be the third part of the YM project, in which the individual members of the group Květy make records of their solo albums of different genres, and their colleagues from the band accompany them. After Lorenzovi hoši [Lorenzo´s Boys] by Martin Kyšperský in country style and after the electronic Japonec [The Japanese Guy] by Aleš Pilgr, Ondřej Kyas´s Solárium [The Sunbed] was hard to classify concerning its genre category. As a solo record, with only an episode contribution by Aleš Pilgr and without any playing participation of Martin Kyšperský.  more

The small Ponava music club has been renowned in Brno last several years for its very high quality music production. Here and there, its diverse programme also features folklore projects. On Thursday, a duo of the well-known multi-instrumentalist Marian Friedl and the Lachian vocalist Sabrina Pasičnyk performed on this stage.  more

While trumpeter Jiří Kotača is known to the Brno jazz audience mainly as the bandmaster of the progressive big band Cotatcha Orchestra, on his first CD he presents himself with a different formation. He had met the Swedish guitarist Alf Carlsson during his studies in the Netherlands, and then they met up again and founded their band during Alf's tourist trip to the Czech Republic. Then they invited two very talented Slovak players to a joint trip for music, drummer Kristián Kuruc and double bass player Peter Korman, who is a member of Kotača's big band. This international formation plays Kotača's and Carlsson's original compositions and gets more or less inspired by Moravian, Slovak and above all Scandinavian folklore. The album was given the name Journeys, because journeys – to music, to knowledge and to the heart of souls – are what the life of not only this band revolves around.  more

With the return to the Janáček Theatre after three years and with the first foreshadowing of the upcoming celebrations of the 250th anniversary of Ludwig van Beethoven's birth, the Brno Philharmonic entered the new year with its traditional, already the 65th New Year concert in history. For this occasion, it chose a programme truly magnificent and appropriate, crowned by the European-famous Ode to Joy. The whole gala evening took place under the baton of Chief Conductor Dennis Russell Davies.  more

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


Carnival festivity in the locality nicknamed  "the Bronx of Brno" will take place for the second time this year. The aim of the event is to involve the local community and use the public space for meetings. This year's subheading is A Matter of the Heart.  more

The 11th Beatfest in Brno has a subtitle “A Trip to the Nineteen-eighties”. Laura a její tygři, Folk Team, Krausberry, Miloš Makovský, Futurum and Krabat will appear at KC Semilasso this year.  more

Today, 15 February 2020, Zdenka Kareninová, a long-standing soloist of the Janáček Opera in Brno, has died in her age of almost 90 years.  more

TIC Brno is looking for a colleague for a new position of Marketing Manager for the projects Brno – City of Music and Janáček Brno.  more

Representatives of the Slovak reggae and ska scene Polemic and Medial Banana are preparing a joint birthday concert in the Fléda club. The Brno concert is one of only two performances in the Czech Republic. The interconnection of these two bands started with their anthem Staré časy [Old Times], which they presented together at the Uprising festival. The concert will also feature new songs from the upcoming albums of the two formations.   more

The Vox Iuvenalis choir of the Brno University of Technology announces an audition for new members. Positions are to be filled in all voice groups.   more

The Balladine Dance School in Brno will open a summer semester of dance courses for children and adults in February.  more

Yesterday, the 19th season of the JazzFestBrno international music festival presented its complete programme of the main part of the festival. Already published names such as Lizz Wright, Joshua Redman Quartet and Pat Metheny have now been expanded by French trumpeter Erik Truffaz, American pianist Jason Moran or British saxophonist Nubya Garcia, who will perform in Czech premiére in Brno. This year's season promises a total of 23 concerts during 16 music evenings. The festival runs from 15 March to 9 June 2020.  more

The Brno band Plum Dumplings is preparing to release their new album Jiný místo [Another place] in the Kabinet Múz. As a guest, Kittchen will appear.  more

The management of the Brno Philharmonic has announced a tender for orchestral practice in several instrument groups. The orchestral academy is prepared for the seasons 2020/2021 and 2021/2022, members of this academy will have the opportunity to perform in subscription chamber concerts of the Brno Philharmonic. The audition will take place in April 2020.  more