The Queen of Spades and the Return of the Countess to Brno

19 February 2018, 1:00
The Queen of Spades and the Return of the Countess to Brno

After more than fifty years The Queen of Spades by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky is returning to the repertoire of the national Theatre Brno. The premiere on 17 February in the Mahen Theatre of the production by Martin Glaser also involves one more return for music theatre – after more than sixty years Soňa Červená will once more being treading the boards in Brno.

Perhaps even greater attention, and not just in the media, than the new production itself, resulted from the information that the role of the Countess, or one of her alter egos, will be played by the legendary Červená. Martin Glaser as director made of the role an acting triangle: on the stage there also appeared the Countess’ past (Veronika Hajnová-Fialoavá), the Countess’ present (Jitka Zerhauová) and the Countess’ future, who links Heřman with death (Soňa Červená). It is her who slips Heřman the revolver, for her to die, and gives it to him later so that he can also take his own life. And surprisingly this interpretation and the exhausting of a single part organically fitted into the telling of his story without any suspicion of self-indulgence.

Martin Glaser and Pavel Borák (sets) placed the production within the walls of a mental institution. High walls and padded mattresses circle the stage of the Mahen Theatre and for the performance they are only decorated by the projections and the glow of light bulbs. A simple and practical solution, just like the costumes by Markéta Sládečková. The creator of the costumes essentially kept to the classical style of the period, but of course without much in the way of decoration. Except perhaps for the intermezzo scenes that parody baroque theatre in overly flamboyant costumes and gestures, cardboard cherubs and kittens. A little out of place were the chorus’ costumes in the ballroom scene with their plethora of geometric shapes that casually referred to suits of cards. 

The grey walls remind Heřman on his hospital bed of his surrender to a destructive desire for the unattainable. Playing the game with the three fateful cards brings a certain win. Although with his part his role was loud and dramatically exposed, Eduard Martynyuk did not give his character even a hint of exaggerated pathos. One would expect that from the start he would show his full strength, but Mertynyuk has at his disposal a broad voice of such great power and clear tonal colouring that he could afford to give a balanced expression of the maximum intensity of Russia's naturalism from beginning to end over a more than three-hour-long evening. As Heřman, in a state on the edge of madness, he was on stage almost throughout the production. And even in scenes where he was in the background he remained theatrically present and convincing, with an expression of lunacy, creeping along the walls, swaying on his bed, trembling hands constantly fiddling with the blanket. His love and also his means of getting the three cards, Lisa, was played by Natalya Romaniw. She dispelled the impression of a darkening voice in the first duet with Polina (Jana Hrochová), then excelled with the desired vocal brightness and gave the character tenderness, internal confusion and a deadly devastating sense of betrayal. Igor Loškár did wonderfully in the role of Prince Yeletzky at her side. He did not overdo his aria, giving it a great sense of resignation; in the ensemble scenes his pleasantly resonant voice governed the vocal colouring. On stage both in singing and also visually, Count Tomsky - Pavoľ Remenár excelled, his piercing baritone voice even breaking through the padded wings. Josef Škarka and Petr Levíček also put on a bravura performance – a comic duo of a couple of odd customers.

The Janáček Opera under Pavel Koňárek continues to set a high standard, with precise articulation, well thought out dynamics and clean harmonies. From the start the female chorus had to deal with an unfortunate absorbing half of their sound, but once it was positioned to the front of the stage however the sound carried, no longer being blocked. Particularly impressive was the acapella male chorus at the very end pleading for Heřman’s redemption. The musical production was the work of the conductor Robert Kružík. He kept the orchestra together at full strength without interruption, with deep emotionality and contrasts and without exception avoided drowning out the singers. His clear directions also kept the rhythm under control even in the difficult ensemble passages.

Perhaps also due to Glaser‘s functional metaphor, where in the triple role of the Countess in addition Jitka Zerhauová and Veronica Hajnová-Fialová also appeared, Soňa Červená was able to perform less than three weeks after leg surgery.  Although she did not have many sung parts, she did not need them to express herself. This lady entered on stage and was dramatically the strongest entity there. The longed for return to the Brno stage of Soňa Červené, who even at such a venerable age has not been stopped by a demanding operation, deserves appreciative admiration. As does the director’s novelties and the interpretive refinement of this new opera production in Brno.   

Composer: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, libretto: Modest Ilyich Tchaikovsky from a story by Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin, musical production, conductor: Robert Kružík, director: Martin Glaser, sets: Pavel Borák, costumes: Markéta Sládečková, lighting design: Martin Špetlík, movement cooperation: Martin Pacek, choirmaster: Pavel Koňárek, choirmistress for Brno Children’s Choir: Valerie Maťašová, video-projection: Martin Svobodník, Jan Fuksa, dramaturgy: Patricie Částková. Premiere 17 February

Comments

Reply

No comment added yet..

After reconstruction the building of Czech Radio Brno has a new studio. Studio VII was figuratively baptised with the concert Living Notes from the series of folk concerts On a Moravian Note on Czech Radio Brno and Zlin. The musical dedication was made by the Horňácko group of Petr Mička, whose bandmaster is also one of the radio station’s editors. As guests they introduced the very talented young singers Anička Mičková and Janíček Pavlík and the Horňácko folk legend Martin Hrbáč. You can see the whole more than hour-long programme on the Czech Radio YouTube channel.  more

To record an album of famous jazz standards translated into Czech and yet not only to not come up short, but even to come across naturally and as much as possible even originally, is extremely demanding. Darek Neumann, “a kind of Brno character” (as stated in the booklet of the album) has managed it. The fact that it successfully balanced on the very borders of sentiment and pure blues, is much down to the lyrics of Ester Kočičková.  more

The mandolin player Martin Krajíček plays in various genres of groups. He has his own acoustic trio, is a member of the Jitka Šuranská Trio, plays in the “Mexican” group Mariachi Espuelas and in Cimbal Classica, plays klezmer and also teaches the mandolin. Since last year he has also been the organiser of the Mandolin Festival in Boskovice. This year it will take place from 8 to 10 June.  more

The group D.N.A. Brno, winners of the final of Porta in 2011, after a gap of four years have brought out a new album. Alongside a new surname for the bass guitarist (but it is still the same Barbora who years ago cofounded the then children’s and girls’ group) there was an important change in the line-up. Ondra Bojanovský (son of Aleš Bojanovský of FT Prima) has become a new member, playing rhythmic instruments. This has made it possible for the former percussionist Lenka Ručková to move over to the piano. Otherwise they remain as they were: D.N.A. is a group of young people, mostly classically trained, who like folk as well as classical. On the musical side they play it masterfully – there can be no objections to their skill, which is made evident in individual songs. The actual repertoire already on the last album has grown up from the childhood years and the innovation is of course, in this respect, a bit more mature. The band has not surprised us with any a sudden shift. But the result is a bit more mature and confident. And what has also been added are serious but at the same time credible themes.  more

This year Miloš Štědroň is taking part as artist in residence at the festival Concentus Moraviae. This was a welcome pretext for an interview. It covered his musical beginnings, his path to a musical education, his artistic development and his famous teachers, his inclination to the legacy of the musical avant-garde as well as why he suddenly kept a certain distance from it, how he dedicated himself to faithful and successful cooperation with the Theatre Goose on a String as well as how he was affected by the political changes of the period, how he overcame their pressure, how he worked with today’s interviewer a banned playwright, how he wrote for the wonderful Due Boemi di Praga, how he taught music and the history of music and worked as a populariser, how he knowledgably interpreted ancient music, but also Leoš Janáček, how he worked as an editor, how he became a significant and famous cultural figure, and not just in Brno, and how all the tasks he set himself in his varied and rich creative life were and are being fulfilled, and the joy he has had from it all.  more

Brno songwriter Michal “cosmonaut” Šimíček has long been seen as a man who knows how to write poetic, often multi-layered lyrics and link them with interesting music. Even the first album of his band Nevermore & Kosmonaut was for me was like a conceptual project. Although the songs lacked direct continuity in small details, lyrics and music, it was as if they were related to each other. In terms of novelty however Bleděmodré město (Pale Blue City) takes the band much further. This time it is a thematically sandwiched whole, dedicated to the city of Brno, worked out down to the last detail. “This conceptual album is our response to the current trend, where it has become a habit to do a single with a video and listen to the songs piecemeal, without order,” explains Šimíček in the album booklet, and this booklet is an integral part of this project and “story”.  more

Yesterday’s premiere in the Mahen Theatre added to the repertoire of the National Theatre Brno (NdB) the opera Così fan tutte by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in an interesting production by Anna Petrželková. In this tale of the imprudent temptation of human feelings will be appearing the soprano Pavla Vykopalová as Fiordiligi, the mezzosoprano Václava Krejčí Housková as Dorabella and Andrea Široká as Despina. In the male roles Ondřej Koplík was on stage as Ferrando, Roman Hoza as Guglielmo and Jan Šťáva played Don Alfonso. Also taking part in the performance were the choir and orchestra of the Janáček Opera of the NdB.  more

Pavel Koudelka, former drummer with the bands Dunaj, Z kopce, Krutnava and Mňága a Žďorp, recently became a member of two new groups. One of them is the drumming duo Zesilovači with Pavel Fajt and the second is Kucharski. In this group he works with musicians known from the Třebíč group FruFru – the vocalist Václav Bartoš, guitarist Vladimír Dudek and bass guitarist Adam Kotrba – and with the keyboard player Víťa Košíček. Kucharski will be giving their first concert on Thursday 17 May in Brno at the Stará Pekárna.  more

There were concerts by big bands at the start and finish of the spring programme of this year’s Jazzfest Brno. And both were supreme musical experiences. The Christian McBride Big Band as one of the three concluding concerts for their European tour for the first time performed in Brno’s Sono Centre. And it was great: crossover, entertaining and light playing, at the same time full of virtuosity and inventive and creative playing. “When we play together it is one big party,” stated the double bass player and bandleader Christian McBride at the start – and both he and his colleagues certainly confirmed that.  more

After a gap of three years Rózinky (which could be translated as Raisins) from the South Moravian village of Kozojídky have recorded their second album. The girls attend elementary art school together and their teacher Kateřina Mičková, who put the group together, still writes songs for them. The girls also perform together on radio and television shows and have played at various festivals from Folk Holidays in Náměšť nad Oslavou to TrutnOff. The question of whether the group will still be viable once its members grow up and mature (and probably have other musical interests and tastes) still hangs in the air. A little doubt already hangs over the disc Cvrkot (which could be translated as Chirp), but not as a threat but rather as a reason for the greater diversity on the album.  more

It never ceases to amaze me when I see the volume of ideas from Martin Kyšperský and his band Květy. Only in 2017, all this happened: Martin received the Anděl prize for his solo album Vlakem (“By train”). With Květy, they played the role of a communist era organisation band brilliantly, singing his “normalisation” period hits in the series Svět pod hlavou (“World under your head”) (which received a well-earned Český lev award a year later). In their new line-up with Ondřej Kyas, Květy released the brilliant album Komik do půl osmé (“A comedian till half past seven”) (it’s sad that it didn’t get an Anděl, but I think the culprit for that is the reducing of genre prizes and a “bit” of chaos in the new category of Alternative). The book Průvodce po albech a historii kapely Květy (The guide to the albums and history of the band Květy) was released and with it also the album Spí vánoční pták (“The Christmas bird sleeps”). In the meantime, Květy started the YM project, in which all three members will present songs in individual unexpected genres. It was begun by once again by Martin Kyšperský with a programme of country songs – the public premiere took place with the guest artist Petr Uvira in a live broadcast of Radio Proglas in December 2017. For 2018, the electronic songs of Aleš Pilgr and hopefully also the folktronica of Ondřej Kyas are in preparation.  more

The temperament and emotion of Roma music are well known. In 2016 the recording studio Amaro records was set up with the same verve and positive energy. The entire voluntary project was set up with support and guarantees from the IQ Roma servis organisation. The guiding spirit and person responsible is Petra Borovičková, herself an excellent singer and member of several bands. The originator of the idea was Gejza Horváth, a top Roma musician who earlier ran courses for young Roma musicians. He saw huge potential in them.  more

The group Billy Barman from Slovakia ended its Czech-Slovak tour at Brno’s Fleda. This series of concerts was interesting not only its purely acoustic form but especially for bringing together five singers from SĹUK (the Slovak Folk Artists’ Collective). This fusion of pop music and folk was originally created for the Tatra Flowers festival. Its unprecedented success, however, made the musicians decide to expand their repertoire and perform not only in the Slovak Republic, but also for their Czech neighbours.  more

“I knew who I wanted to work with and that guided me when I was trying to set up a group with a pleasant sound,” said the French accordionist Vincent Peirani in 2015, shortly after the release of his key album Living Being. At that time he had already completed several interesting acoustic projects including an album with the saxophonist Emil Parisien and he has continued in this style. In 2016 he brought out an enjoyable CD of duets with the pianist Michael Wollny and not long ago he worked with the pianist Stefano Bollani and the Berlin Philharmonic on the album Mediterraneo, inspired by classical music. The Living Being project is however of a completely different character, embodying the accordionist’s conception of electric music on the borders between jazz, rock and other genres. And it was with this programme that Peirani and his group came to Brno’s Husa na provázku (Goose on a String) theatre.  more

On Saturday 14 April, Dělnický dům in Brno-Židenice hosted the traditional performance of the Javorník ensemble and its guests. The Olšava ensemble from Uherský Brod was their guest. The history of these double concerts dates back to 2003, and from that time thirteen folk ensembles have performed on the stage.  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