Return to Dráteník, the first original Czech opera

21 August 2022, 15:30
Return to Dráteník, the first original Czech opera

On 18 and 19 August, the tenth anniversary edition of the Olomouc Baroque Music Festival included a unique dramaturgical treat in its program – one of the most historically important Czech operas which, however, does not appear much on the stages of opera houses or music halls. This is Dráteník (The Tinker), the first original Czech opera composed by František Škroup to a libretto by Josef Krasoslav Chmelenský. It was directed by Kateřina Křivánková, with costumes and set by Sylva Marková and music by Marek Čermák, and performed by the Volantes Orchestra, the festival’s resident ensemble. Singing roles were taken up by Matúš Šimko (Dráteník/Škroup), Lenka Cafourková Ďuricová (Růžena), Vincenc Ignác Novotný (Vojtěch), Zuzana Badárová (Liduška), Aleš Janiga (Květenský), Jiří Miroslav Procházka (Lána), and Martin Vodrážka (Kůl). The purely dramatic roles of Chmelenský – the aforementioned author of the libretto – and Hranatý the guard were played by Martin Mihál. The reviewer visited the premiere performance.

Although the great 200th anniversary of the first performance of Dráteník will be in 2026, the latest production at Olomouc’s Dům u parku also commemorated another anniversary. This year it is exactly 160 years since František Škroup, the author of the music, died in Rotterdam. Since the first opera performed in Czech (in a translation by Simeon Karel Macháček) was the singspiel Rodina švýcarská (The Swiss Family) by composer Joseph Weigl from 1823 – which, coincidentally, was staged by Škroup – Czech patriots felt the desire for their own opera with an original Czech libretto. One suitable candidate was the poet Josef Krasoslav Chmelenský, who translated foreign opera texts into Czech. Ultimately, Chmelenský and Škroup began work on the first Czech song opera which they completed at the end of 1825.

A singspiel essentially combines musical numbers expressing the characters’ feelings and beliefs with spoken text that further advances the plot. From today’s perspective, the language of the period would probably strike many listeners as not only difficult to understand but even (with some exaggeration) foreign. The director Kateřina Křivánková has thus conceived the entire performance as a theatre within a theatre and has provided it with her own lines in many places. Both Chmelenský (Martin Mihál) and Škroup (Matúš Šimko) became characters who prepare the performance of Dráteník, but they lack the singer of the title role. Škroup decides to play the Tinker himself, and Chmelenský takes on the role of Hranatý the guard. It is this model of theatre on theatre that frees the director to retell the singspiel according to her own rules, without having to interfere more with the form and context of the work. Sylva Marková’s costumes and set design also suited the concept, sticking to a more historicizing line and not trying to unnecessarily update it beyond the directorial setting.

Here one should rather focus on the characters of Škroup and Chmelenský; while Škroup is rather calm and soft-spoken in the production, Chmelenský is a true eccentric poet full of ideals and enthusiasm. Martin Mihál, who played the character of the librettist, gave a fantastic performance in every respect. Not only did he manage to work excellently with the comic aspect of his character, but he also deserves considerable praise for his diction and staging of the extremely difficult text, which he delivered without the slightest hesitation. The other roles played by the singers (both Chmelenský and Hranatý the guard were purely dramatic characters) were also convincing, but they were not subject to the same demands for acting nuance as Mihál.

The singing cast was excellently chosen as well. The character of Květenský, who wants to marry off his daughter Růžena, was performed with firm paternal authority by Aleš Janiga. Particularly successful interpretively was his aria Každé zboží chová se snáze než holčina mladá, in which Janiga’s powerful but pleasantly soft and colorfully balanced baritone stood out throughout the vocal range. Mr. Lán – the father of the groom, who eventually turns out to be Vojtěch, whom Růžena secretly loves, to everyone’s delight – was the singer Jiří Miroslav Procházka. Despite his relatively small representation in the work, he also gave a very good singing and acting performance. His energetic bass in combination with his delightful grip on the drunken Mr. Lán was an ideal contrast to the serious Květensky. The character of Růžena was played by Lenka Cafourková Ďuricová, who generously used her flair for subtle lyricism. The singer’s hilarious and purposeful work with expression, tone color, and dynamics created a fragile heroine who nevertheless abounds with inner strength. Her beloved Vojtěch, conducted by Vincenzo Ignác Novotny, is an active element here. This was also evident in Novotny’s grasp of the character: more pronounced dynamic leaps, sharper changes in vocal timbre, and a kind of hard-to-describe flamboyance in his acting. Leaving aside the humorous interludes where Chmelenský speaks in his interpretation, he makes a suitable counterpoint to Růžena. The pair of serfs (the maid Liduška and the servant Kůl) performed by Zuzana Badárová and Martin Vodrážka were also well chosen. While Kůl seemed cunning and adamant and a little uncouth, Liduška was cheerful and mischievous and helped Růžena in her youthful love for Vojtěch. Vodrážka sang in ensembles where he did not have such an opportunity to excel, yet it was obvious that he was expressively balanced and intonationally precise. In terms of vocal numbers, Škroup was more generous to Liduška, as he composed a duet for her with Růžena Mne on miluje – radosti blahá! It was here that the different, but exceptionally compatible colors of the voices of both singers stood out – the light and delightfully mischievous Badárová, with her bright and fresh timbre, perfectly complemented the sweet and lyrical singing of Cafourka Ďuricová. However, the composer gave the most beautiful aria to the character of Dráteník, played by Matúš Šimko. The velvety soft color of his voice was a perfect match for the tender and poetic arias in which he remembers his father and his dear Hanička, whom he intends to marry when he returns home. Šimko’s staging flawlessly captured the simplicity and good-heartedness of Dráteník, as well as the purity of his feelings. His interpretation was tender and gentle, but not in the least pathetic.

The orchestra provided solid support to the singers and, apart from occasional minor flaws in the intonation of the brass instruments, the overall performance boasted a very high standard. Moreover, conductor Marek Čermák had a very sophisticated concept of dynamic and tempo changes, which at selected points gave the music lightness and emotionality. Special attention should be paid to the close connection between the conductor (and therefore the orchestra) and the singers. The solo performance by concertmaster Daniel Rumler was also extremely well done, while his work with tone, phrasing, vibrato, and dynamics in the lyrical aria was absolutely exemplary and perfectly accentuated its fragility. Věra Kousalíková’s cello solo was also successful, but – perhaps due to the heat in the hall, which may have affected the intonation – it lacked a satisfying conclusion. Nevertheless, it was an otherwise high-quality and interpretively thoughtful staging, which appropriately enhanced the tone of the aria itself.

Although Dráteník is regarded by many as a historical landmark on the road to Czech opera in the style of Smetana, its Olomouc performance proved that it is a fully-fledged musical-dramatic work. Thus, while at the time of the creation of The Bartered Bride Škroup’s singspiel might have appeared as a conceptually and formally outdated work, from the point of view of today’s listener it is a melodically extremely rich opera with a distinctive charm and lightness. After all, it is no news that only time can reveal the true value of things. While the Czech patriots were urgently (and somewhat on their knees) trying to find a prototype of Czech opera in the singspiel or the French opéra-comique, they created a completely unique and musically varied work that is certainly worth recognition. One can only hope that the great 200th anniversary of the premiere of Dráteník will bring interest in Škroup’s work to other orchestras and festivals.

Dráteník (The Tinker): Matúš Šimko

Růžena: Lenka Cafourková Ďuricová

Vojtěch: Vincenc Ignác Novotný

Liduška: Zuzana Badárová

Květenský: Aleš Janiga

Lána: Jiří Miroslav Procházka

Kůl: Martin Vodrážka

Hranatý/Chmelenský: Martin Mihál

Volantes Orchestra

Marek Čermák – musical direction

Kateřina Křivánková – direction

Sylva Marková – costumes, set

Dům u parku, Olomouc

18 August 2022, 19:30

Panda photo



No comment added yet..

Drama, philosophy, and an interestingly outlined psychology of works was offered up by the most recent big concert of the Brno Philharmonic at the Janáček Theatre. The listener-friendly programme, aptly titled Ancient Nordic Tales, was staged and performed with the orchestra by Danish conductor Michael Schønwandt (*1953), currently chief conductor of the Orchestra of the National Opera Montpellier. His fondness for promoting contemporary composers is reflected in the dramaturgy itself. In addition to well-known works by Edvard Grieg and Jean Sibelius, the audience had the opportunity to get acquainted with Danish composer Hans Abrahamsen (*1952). American soprano Nicole Chevalier also introduced her works to the audience.  more

Martin Kyšperský and Aleš Pilgr recently celebrated twenty years of cooperation in the Květy (Flowers) group. While the bandmates and instruments around them have changed over the two decades, the two have remained a constant force in one of Brno's most essential bands of the century. This constant force, however, has been a dynamic one, as the two protagonists alternate between different instruments and approaches. Martin switches from the guitar to other instruments, and Aleš has gone from being a drummer to a double bassist and will be a drummer again from 2023. This context is then also important for understanding the new album Duo, which Kyšperský and Pilgr recorded as, well, a duo.  more

The latest addition to the concert series organized by the Brno-based Ensemble Opera Diversa is a chamber recital by violinist Milan Paľa and pianist Katarína Paľová entitled “Repentance”. The program, which took place on Sunday 30 October at Villa Stiassni, presented works by composers Valentin Bibik and the recently deceased Roman Berger, whose Adagio No. 2 "Repentance" (Pokánie) inspired the title of the evening.  more

Lidověk is the first solo album by Matěj Metoděj Štrunc, a young actor, singer and musician originally from Brno, frontman of the band Ateliér, and son of dulcimer player Dalibor and violinist Katerina Štrunc from the bands Cimbal Classic and Javory. The apple really did not fall far from the tree, but at the same time it came closer to other trees and colored itself with original colors.  more

The Brazilian singer-songwriter with (not only) Japanese roots Luiz Murá first appeared in Moravia five years ago, when he performed at the Folk Holidays in Náměšt' with his then international band Miramundo. This summer he came to Brno. Not as a musician, but as an organizer of club concerts in Barcelona, where he has been living for the last few years. As an official foreign delegate he participated in the two-day Central European Jazz Showcase at the Husa na provázku theatre. During his stay in Brno, we asked the likeable world traveler, who is still first and foremost a musician, a few questions. Not least because Luiz's previous stay in Moravia was reflected in his latest solo album.  more

The Latvian instrumental band Very Cool People recently released an album with the long title 50 Years of Influence + 30 Years of Cool Equals 13 Years of Music Hooliganism. In a few days they will come to Brno to present it – they’ll play on 17th September in Music Lab club. And besides the songs from the aforementioned album, you’ll also get to hear the complete new songs from the yet-to-be-released projects. The band, led by guitarist Elvijs Grafcovs, who answers our questions, has plenty of them.  more

“We did it as a session, sitting opposite each other, so that the viewer would have the experience of coming to a rehearsal,” says singer Dan Bárta, describing how his current album, In One Breath (Jedním dechem), was recorded together with the jazz Robert Balzar Trio and Hungarian trumpeter Kornél Fekete-Kovács. The jazziest album in Dan Bárta’s rich discography was released on the Brno label Bivak Records and was recorded in the Brno studio of Czech Television.  more

After a covid break, the streets of Brno were once again filled with costumes from various parts of Moravia as well as other European countries. On the first day of September, the International Folklore Festival Brno began. Like the vast majority of festivals and regular events that could not take place in the last two years, the IFF also had a break due to government measures. And that is why this year’s festival chose the telling subtitle “We Live”. This time BROLN provided the opening concert in the courtyard of the New Town Hall, and there were two special reasons for this.  more

At the penultimate concert of its tenth year jubilee staged in the Fresco Room of the Comenium Elementary School, the Olomouc Baroque Festival presented an evening with the Musica Florea ensemble. The musicians, conducted by cellist Marek Štryncl, performed a selection of compositions by forgotten classical and early romantic composers Karl Kohaut, Jan Ladislav Dusík and Johann Nepomuk Hummel. The choice of composers was not random – this year it is 210 years since Dusík’s death and 185 years since Hummel’s death. Performing with the ensemble’s core members – violinist Magdalena Malá and Simona Tydlitátová, violist Lýdie Cillerová, cellist Marek Štryncl and bass player Ondřej Štajnochra – was Petra Matějová on the fortepiano.  more

The album Zavrzlama by Bosnian band Divanhana is so far in continuous sequence, the second best world recording of 2022 according to the panel of radio publicists of World Music Charts Europe. Divanhana will perform as part of the Lednice-Valtice Music Festival on 26 August in Hlohovec and a day later in Břeclav – Charvátská Nová Ves. The band’s pianist, Neven Tunjíč, is here to answer our questions.  more

On 18 and 19 August, the tenth anniversary edition of the Olomouc Baroque Music Festival included a unique dramaturgical treat in its program – one of the most historically important Czech operas which, however, does not appear much on the stages of opera houses or music halls. This is Dráteník (The Tinker), the first original Czech opera composed by František Škroup to a libretto by Josef Krasoslav Chmelenský. It was directed by Kateřina Křivánková, with costumes and set by Sylva Marková and music by Marek Čermák, and performed by the Volantes Orchestra, the festival’s resident ensemble. Singing roles were taken up by Matúš Šimko (Dráteník/Škroup), Lenka Cafourková Ďuricová (Růžena), Vincenc Ignác Novotný (Vojtěch), Zuzana Badárová (Liduška), Aleš Janiga (Květenský), Jiří Miroslav Procházka (Lána), and Martin Vodrážka (Kůl). The purely dramatic roles of Chmelenský – the aforementioned author of the libretto – and Hranatý the guard were played by Martin Mihál. The reviewer visited the premiere performance.  more

For the seventh time, the multi-genre music festival Brno Music Marathon proved that with precise organization and a little luck, an astonishing amount of music can be packed into one long weekend. From Thursday to Sunday (11-14 August), selected music halls, squares, courtyards, and city streets were filled with the artistic creations of countless bands, ensembles, and specific musical groups of all genres and styles. Lovers of rock, world music, jazz, artistic music, folklore, and improvised music were in for a treat. However, this year’s edition differed from the previous one in one crucial respect: 2022 introduced the first ever artist in residence of the festival, the violinist, flautist, and pianist Anna Fusekmore

For the sixth time, the Music Marathon has stirred up the streets, squares, and many spaces in Brno with all sorts of musical genres. These are not necessarily just concert venues, however. The Hausopera ensemble, for example, took their opera The Eternal Miss Pale to the Zeman Café on Friday 12 August. In three weekend performances there, they will complete their “Trilogy for the City”, a custom-made project for Brno that recalls its pros, cons, and above all some of its functionalist buildings.  more

As part of the Ibérica Festival, Catalan singer-songwriter Magalí Sare performed with guitarist Sebastià Gris from Mallorca on 17 June 2022 in Brno. The following interview was conducted immediately after the concert.  more

Just like every year, the Znojmo Music Festival brought its visitors an opera of its own production. For this year's 18th edition, subtitled Returning Home and Our Guardian Angels, the organizers prepared a stage performance of Joseph Haydn's oratorio The Return of Tobias. The Old Testament story about a tested marriage and a blind father was performed by the Czech Ensemble Baroque under the baton of Roman Válek and directed by Tomáš Ondřej Pilař at the premiere on 15 July 2022 (this performance was visited by this author) in the riding hall of the Louka Monastery – the reprise and last performances will take place on the following two days. Shira Patchornik (Sarah), Lucie Kaňková (d'Azaria), Dagmar Šašková (Anna), Theodore Browne (Tobias), and Adam Plachetka (Tobit) performed the solo roles. Costumes were designed by Ivana Ševčíková Miklošková, choreography by Martin Šinták, and lighting design by Tomáš Příkrýmore


For the first time in the Czech Republic, the world-famous countertenor Andreas Scholl will perform as a conductor. The acclaimed expert on the music of Johann Sebastian Bach will perform two Bach cantatas with the Czech Ensemble Baroque in Brno Cathedral this evening, opening the eleventh season of the “Bacha na Mozarta!” series.  more

Singer and musician Lenka Dusilová will perform live for the first time ever with the big band Cotatcha Orchestra. Their joint concert will take place at the Husa na provázku Theater. The nine-time winner of the Anděl Award and the sixteen-member ensemble led by trumpeter Jiří Kotača will present both original novelties written for their joint project and some compositions from their award-winning album Bigbandová elektronikamore

Today’s premiere of Bolero is the work of three creators – Dan Datca, Mario Radačovský, and Johan Inger. The three different movement manuscripts deal with human relationships, fundamental questions of human existence, and questions about one’s own identity. With this title, the Brno National Theater Ballet continues to present contemporary ballet repertoire and original works, now in the form of one-act ballets, unlike last season.  more

Over two nights, more than sixty concerts by artists from dozens of countries will take place in thirteen clubs in Brno. Clubs such as Alterna, ArtBar Druhý Pád, Fléda, Kabinet múz, Kafara, Metro Music Bar, Music Lab, Ponava, Rusty Nail, Sibiř, Sono Music Club, Stará Pekárna, and Vegalité, united in BACH – Brno Association of Club Music, have joined the first edition of the Batch club night.  more

The management of the National Theater Brno is creating the new position of theater lecturer/lecturer. Applications for the selection procedure must be sent by the end of the month.  more

The ReConnect conference for music managers, booking agents, representatives of the club scene, and other music professionals, organized by the Music Managers Forum Czech Republic association and the SoundCzech pro-export office, starts tomorrow in Brno.  more

The Brno Philharmonic has been on an extraordinary guest tour since yesterday. For three consecutive nights it will appear on one of Europe’s most prestigious stages, playing in Salzburg, at the Great Festival House.  more

The band Poletíme? returns to the Brno club Fléda on the occasion of recording a new album. The album BEST OF DO GRAMOFONU (Best of, for the turntable) will map the greatest hits in the fifteen years of the band’s existence. Fans will get a unique chance to be part of the live recording in two concert days.  more

Matěj Metoděj Štrunc will christen his first solo album Lidověk in Kabinet Múz. The guest of the evening will be Czech-Polish singer-songwriter Beata Bocek.  more

Marie Steinerová, a soloist of the Brno National Theatre and a key performer of the title roles in Leoš Janáček’s operas, would have turned 100 years old today, 10 January 2023. The Brno National Theatre will dedicate a performance of Puccini’s Tosca to the singer on 10 February 2023 at the Janáček Theatre. A portrait of the artist will also be on display in the first order foyer of the Janáček Theatre from today.  more