The Diary of One Who Disappeared According to Muziektheater Transparant

1 December 2018, 16:00
The Diary of One Who Disappeared According to Muziektheater Transparant

Many diverse and qualitatively varied opera performances were heard at the festival Janáček Brno 2018. Every now and then a production appears that divides Brno audiences into two irreconcilable camps, one overjoyed by the innovativeness, many non-musical references and bold direction, while the others lament the illogical symbolism, departures from the libretto, seeing it even as a slap in the face of the composer. The song cycle The Diary of One Who Disappeared from the Belgian ensemble Muziektheater Transparant as directed by Ivo van Hove and with compositional annotations by Annelies Van Parys is controversial in the true sense of the word. The scenographer Jan Versweyveld, the costume designer An D’Huys and the dramaturge Krystian Lada also took part in this new stage form. The solo roles were taken by Ed Lyon, Marie Hamard and Hugo Koolschijn, accompanied on the piano by Lada Valešová and the choral academy De Munt/La Monnaie also took part in the production. The Diary of One Who Disappeared was performed yesterday in the hall of the Mahen Theatre.

Poems about the wild love of the Janik and the gypsy Zefka published by an unknown author in 1916 in the Lidový noviny newspaper enchanted Janáček and a year later he began to work on a song cycle which was also partially inspired by Janáček’s meeting with the attractive Kamila Stösslová, the composer’s femme fatale and prototype for many of his further works. Janáček completed the cycle at the end of 1920 and the first private performance of the work took place on 18 April 1921 in Brno’s Reduta Theatre. While it was originally written as a song cycle for the concert hall, it also found its way onto the theatre stage. The latest development in this area is the stage version by Muziektheater Transparant.

This production placed Janáček’s The Diary of One Who Disappeared into the environment of a modern apartment. Here not only the tale of Janik’s relationship with the young gypsy girl takes place, but also the added layer, expanding the libretto. This portrayal is not only of painful love and separation but also about dreaming, memories and human burnout. In the directorial vision of Ivo van Hove, aside from the figures of Zefka and Janik, there is also the added role combining the figures of the aged Janik and the composer Leoš Janáček. And this might be a bit much for some listeners. The actor reads out Janáček’s letters and also partly acts as a commentator on the events on stage – this makes everything seem even more unreal, even more ‘meta’. The figure of the actor remembers the unfulfilled love for the young gypsy and then recites letters written to Janáček’s secret love Kamila Stösslová. Essentially this is an interesting idea and a fresh directorial approach, but the result is strangely alien and cold. What did however work were the added musical passages by the composer Annelies Van Parys, who not only opted for alternative means of musical expression but also a completely different language for the lyrics. The composer thus elegantly avoided potential criticism that she might have received had she tried to supplement Janáček’s work with stylistically similar music. Despite a number of characteristic glissandi and sudden melodic leaps the music of Annelies Van Parys went quite well with that of Janáček. The many good ideas and the uncertain direction of the performance however influenced the overall tone to some extent negatively. An example is the successful but directorially poorly justified stage, based on the maximum realism. Even the kitchen equipment was fully functional, with Marie Hamard in the role of Zefka on the edge of the production making coffee which she then offered to the arriving actor. This realism was in conflict with the much more lyrical directorial conception and otherwise with the character of Janáček’s music overall. By itself, however, it is impressive and builds largely on work with light - some of the performances were lit only by lamps, while elsewhere the stage was lit by spotlights from all sides and elsewhere lit only by a photographic red lamp. Still, it was such a strange and unusual take on realism and dreaminess in opera direction that many viewers found it totally unacceptable.

The acting and singing represent the most important part of each stage performance. Here particularly worthy of praise was especially Ed Lyon in the role of Janik, his expressively full voice from moved between raw rage and the most gentle lyricism completely without changing the character of the singing. Aside from two extreme high notes at the end of this “opera” his performance was intonation-wise stable and in terms of language more or less comprehensible. The mezzosoprano Marie Hamard can boast of a fairly dark and of a dark and earthy tone, ideal in this role. However her Czech was far less comprehensible than that of Ed Lyon, but then neither of them can be compared with the flawless Czech which visitors to the Mahen Theatre could hear a few days before in The Makropulos Affair as performed by the Flemish Opera. The actor and reciter Hugo Koolschijn managed his role as a commentator without difficulty, but was present mainly as an observer and had no more significant action on stage.

Muziektheater Transparant grasped Janáček’s work in a distinctive manner, which certainly provoked a lively discussion among music lovers in Brno. It is essential to view this new production with an open mind and not to be afraid of musical and directorial experiments. In this way even in this, in parts controversial, “opera” much can be found that is of quality and successful. In the same way it is OK to be disappointed with the static and astringent conception, which is hardly evocative of sensual gypsy love.

Director: Ivo van Hove
Dramaturgy: Krystian Lada
Costumes: An D'huys
Stage: Jan Versweyveld

Cast
Mezzosoprano: Marie Hamard
Tenor: Ed Lyon
actor: Hugo Koolschijn
Piano: Lada Valešová
Choir: Members of the choral academy De Munt/La Monnai

Photo Marek Olbrzymek

Comments

Reply

No comment added yet..

Evenings of  the cycle named Music Stocktaking of the Brno-based orchestra Ensemble Opera Diversa regularly bring to light various half-forgotten works by Czech composers. This Tuesday's concert in the concert hall of the Convent of Merciful Brother [Konvent Milosrdných bratří] became a commemorative tribute to the anniversary of the tragic years 1939 and 1969. Violinist Milan Paľa and pianists Kristýna Znamenáčková and Lucie Pokorná performed alongside the orchestra. The performance was conducted by the permanent conductor of the orchestra Gabriela Tardonová.  more

Bára Zmeková is releasing her new album called LUNAVES these days. She will officially present it in Brno as well. The launch of the album will take place in the Kabinet múz on Tuesday 19 March.  more

The ensemble Šafrán from Moravian Slovakia is already a traditional organiser of the Brno “fašank“. This event, in the spirit of folk traditions, always takes place on Tuesday before Ash Wednesday and it marks the beginning of Christian fasting. Its roots go back to the pagan times, but it is now part of Christian feasts almost all over the world. Marches of masks in various regions of Moravia are called končiny, masopust, fašanek or, for example, šibřinky. Its  ensemble parallel in Brno tries to stick to the folk pattern. It begins with a parade in  Náměstí svobody Square. This year it continued through the Alfa Mall to the market building at the Cabbage Market. The end of the programme was performed by the ensemble Lučina, which showed the audience the so-called burial of a double bass. It is a custom consisting in a staged burial of this musical instrument, symbolising  the end of entertainment, calming down and preparing for Easter.  more

"In the past, old people used to be as old as we allegedly are today" sings Slávek Janoušek in his song Alzheimer and Parkinson. The songwriter, who celebrated his 65th birthday last September, found aging as an extremely powerful theme for his new album. Tohle je vzkaz [This Is a Message] is an album not only about incrementing years of age, but also about how we increasingly appreciate our families and our  roots as we “grow old“. Although we can find very strong moments in all Janoušek's albums, Tohle je vzkaz can be perceived as the third part of the trilogy of his most powerful recordings – Kdo  to zavinil [Whose Fault  Is It] (1988), Tancuj a zpívej [Dance and Sing] (1997) and Tohle je vzkaz [This Is a Message] (2018).  more

In the hall of Blahoslav House (the centre for the Evangelical Church of the Czech Brethren) yesterday evening there were performances of religious works from the late Renaissance and the early Baroque by the chamber choir Ensemble Versus and the period instruments ensemble Castello in Aria. Both bodies were conducted by the artistic director Vladimír Maňas. In yesterday’s programme there were both proven works and unknown ones by rarely performed European composers.  more

Yesterday Brno City Theatre gave the European premiere of the musical The Last Ship, written by the world-famous musician Sting. It is a mixture of his wonderful music drawn from British folk, a successfully and honestly told tale and also a strong acting performance, which should guarantee the production’s successful voyage to the audience.  more

The web portal Brno – Music Friendly City is celebrating its sixth birthday. As a symbolic present to our readers we are bringing you the first of our regular monthly contributions from the Brno dramatist, writer and screenwriter Milan Uhde. He will be sharing his memories and thoughts as well as descriptions of current events in the field of culture in Brno. His theme today is the Janáček Brno festival.  more

A concert organised for an exceptional event took place on Thursday at ZUŠ PhDr. Zbyňka Mrkose (a primary school specialising in music) in Brno’s Židenice district. The event was given the title Cimbálový kolaudační concert (A Cimbalom Commissioning Concert. What exactly was being commissioned? From the title it was evident the main star of the programme was a cimbalom. This big instrument with its velvet tones was not the centre of attention by accident. The item being commissioned was a new cimbalom for the musical inventory of the previously mentioned music school. The manufacturer of the instrument was the Brno company of Všianský. The actual maker Pavel Všianský, a famous musician, also personally took part, telling the participants something about the construction of this instrument.  more

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.  more

The Brno singer and artist Dáša Ubrová has sung with a group, performs with a big-band and is close to chanson, jazz and rock. Her album, named simply after her, is important to her and not only because it is her solo debut. It is the first time she has written all the lyrics herself. The music is mainly created by her “court co-workers” and album producers, the pianist Vojtěch Svatoš and the guitarist Pavel Šmíd.  more

Yesterday in Besední dům classical music lovers had their very first chance to hear the new chief conductor of the Brno Philharmonic Dennis Russell Davies also in the role of piano soloist. Under Davies’ baton there was a performance of the Symphony in D major, Op. 23 by the Vamberk native Jan Václav Hugo Voříšek and the premiere of the orchestral arrangement of the chamber work by Antonín Dvořák Bagatelles, Op. 47 created by the chief conductor himself. Davies took his place at the piano to play the Piano Concerto No. 24 in C minor by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The chief conductor will also be performing as soloist in two upcoming recitals, playing for example works by Steve Reich, John Adams and Philip Glass.  more

We can often hear the works of contemporary composers connected to Brno in the performances of local ensembles. But it is not usual for them to reach a wider audience, and in that fashion, a relatively inconspicuous recital dedicated to the works of Brno composers took place yesterday at the Brothers of Charity Convent. A much greater level of attention should be raised by the interpreter Milan Paľa. He had, in his own words “decided to do something for Moravian music” and create in the coming years several CD’s mapping the repertoire for violin or viola by composers connected to Moravia. The Cantus Moraviae project already has its first double CD, which was christened at yesterday’s concert.  more

A sold out Fléda Club. Shoulder to shoulder. And yet, in this huge crowd you meet six classmates from the grammar school you went to in the first half of the nineties and a colleague with whom you later studied journalism. The band Dunaj (“Danube”) has returned to the stage after twenty years and its hometown was of course one of their first important stops.  more

Usually, we associate concerts of classical music with the evening hours, formal attire and in some cases even a glass of wine. Last Saturday showed us that the morning hours are not any less good a time for a musical production. In the Crystal Room of the Old Town Hall, an hour before noon, a a performance of cello sonatas by Ludwig van Beethoven, Claude Debussy and Dmitri Shostakovich by the cellist Štěpán Filípek and the pianist Mark Pinzow took place. The concert was organised by the National Theatre Brno.  more

The Slovak group Kiero Grande, two Polish bands and the Brno musician Jan Fic with his solo project progressed from the competition Blues Aperitiv to the international festival Blues Alive in Šumperk. Jan, or Honza as he is informally called, who under the label Red Bird Instruments makes cigar box guitars and other instruments, is otherwise known as the frontman of The Weathermakers, playing their raw blues even at Porta. And in several festivals he appeared as leader of the mock country group The Honzíci. The interview that follows took place on the occasion of the release of the solo album Město (City), which Jan Fic together with the producer Martin Kyšperský officially presented on 17 December in Brno’s Stereo – Vinyl Culture Shop.  more

Editorial

Jakub Hrůša will become the fifth Chief Conductor and the musical director of the prominent German orchestra the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra Players – the Bavarian State Philharmonic Orchestra (Bamberger Symphoniker – Bayerische Staatsphilharmonie) in the 2016/2017 season. It was announced today during the morning ceremony, which was attended by Jakub Hrůša himself, by Bavaria’ Minister of Culture Dr. Ludwig Spaenle together with Marcus Rudolf Axt, Chief Executive.  more

The choir at VUT in Brno is seeking new vocal talent. The audition will take place next week.  more

The 21st edition of this competition is being organized by the Musical faculty of the Janáček Academy of Music and Performing Arts in Brno. The competition focusing on young artists playing the violin and on string quartets is being held in cooperation with the Leoš Janáček Foundation.  more

The club, which is starting its 25th concert season, has been reconstructed and is now reopening to jazz musicians from both the domestic and foreign scene. The season will introduce bands as well as individuals such as Ostrich Quartet, Ambrose Akinmusire, Robert Balzar Trio, Vilém Spilka Quartet or Nuf Said.  more

The current 17th year of the festival is divided into two parts. The first part, called Intake of Breath, will take place during October and it will be the celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Filigrán dance ensemble. The other part, called Exhalation, will introduce international guests and dance themed movies in November.  more

Old buildings are seemingly silent, but they resonate with memories and lives vanished long ago; this is where they get their distinctive atmosphere from. Watch the video recording of a concert in the former MEZ factory hall in Židenice.  more

The winner of the solo violin category is Amalia Hall from New Zealand while the winner of the string quartet category is a Slovak ensemble called the Mucha Quartet.  more

The new operetta Studio Brno presents the operetta The Cousin from Batavia by Eduard Künneke for the first time.  more

The Brno vocal group Megafon has recorded a debut album full of successful hits and authorial compositions.  more

The Makropulos Affair opera record directed by David Radok and with music production by Marek Ivanovič won two awards at the International Television Festival Golden Prague which took place last night. The recordings won the Foundation VIZE 97 prize and a prize in the category of Performing Arts. The premiere of the opera was on 21 November 2014 during the Janáček Brno festival.  more