A concert from the "Barbara Maria Willi presents…" series will take place online. Josef Špaček will appear as a guest artist
The Brno – City of Music portal in cooperation with the "Barbara Maria Willi presents ..." cycle will offer you the livestreaming of a concert from the Convent of the Merciful Brethren. Violin virtuoso and one of today’s most sought-after Czech artists, Josef Špaček, will appear as a guest performer. Together with Barbara Maria Willi, they will perform compositions by Bach, Biber and Corelli.
The Faculty of Music of the Janáček Academy of Performing Arts will be led for the next four years by Professor Barbara Maria Willi, Ph.D. At its meeting yesterday, the academic senate of the faculty decided on it in a secret vote. Professor Willi applied for this management position at the JAMU Faculty of Music with Associate Professor MgA. Vít Spilka.
This year's Janáček Brno festival of opera and music had to adapt to a complicated situation in the context of the pandemic. Despite that, the festival was a great success. The organisers managed to do as much as they could to keep its programme, which touched on the artistic turmoil at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries and the search for new approaches in the musical expression of operatic and instrumental works.
The church concert of the Ensemble Opera Diversa was originally supposed to present Ondřej Kyas' oratorio Stabat Mater; due to the current situation, however, the production of this work will be replaced by a purely instrumental performance of other compositions. The new programme will feature MacMillan's Seraph, a concerto for trumpet and strings with Vít Otáhal as the soloist, and Arvo Pärt's Festina lente with Dominika Kvardová playing the harp. The concert will be complemented by instrumental works by Ondřej Kyas and Ľuboš Bernáth with the Czech premiere of a rarely performed piece - Summa by Arvo Pärt. The concert will be conducted by Gabriela Tardonová.
The Janáček Brno 2020 International Festival promptly replaced yesterday's Hungarian performance of the opera Salome by Richard Strauss. Instead of the guest appearance, the National Theatre Brno offered a concert programme under the simple name Orchestra of the Janáček Opera. After a long time, the audience could see the musicians who normally remain hidden inside the orchestra pit. In addition to the orchestra, which was conducted by Robert Kružík, the violinist Josef Špaček and the pianist Miroslav Sekera also appeared. The programme clearly consisted only of the works by Leoš Janáček, and since the originally planned performances can no longer be staged in the ever-tightening quarantine environment, the evening at the Janáček Theatre meant a farewell to the festival as such. The last live concert of the Janáček Brno 2020 festival is today's performance of the Brno Philharmonic in the Basilica of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary in Old Brno.
Sunday afternoon was marked by another concert of the Janáček Brno 2020 festival. Chamber music performed by the Josef Suk Piano Quartet was given space in the Mozart Hall of Reduta. This ensemble (young both in the year of its founding and its age composition) prepared a truly beautiful and diverse programme for its visit to Brno, and presented it to the audience with adequate commitment.
Despite the unpredictability of the coronavirus situation, the Janáček Brno 2020 festival opened yesterday at the Janáček Theatre in Brno. The gala opening of the festival featured a premiere of the opera Destiny by Leoš Janáček directed by Robert Carsen, one of today's praised opera directors. In fact, Brno audiences had the opportunity to get acquainted with his directing visions of Janáček's operas already in the past; Carsen's concepts for The Makropulos Affair and Katya Kabanova rank among the best that have appeared on the stage of the National Theatre in Brno in recent years. However, the production of Destiny at this year's Janáček's festival is even more exceptional, as this time the director created it directly for the Brno opera house. The costumes were designed by Annemarie Woods, while the stage design was created by Radu Boruzescu. Philip Sheffield (old Živný) and Enrico Casari (young Živný) played the roles of the composer Živný; his fateful love Míla Válková was portrayed by Alžběta Poláčková and her mother by Natascha Petrinsky. Peter Račko performed the role of Dr. Suda, Jan Šťáva was the painter Lhotský and Lukáš Bařák gave his voice to the character of Konečný. The music production is the work of Marko Ivanović, who also conducted the premiere yesterday.Destiny is often described as a problematic opera with a confused story and an imperfect libretto.
For the end of this summer, the National Theatre Brno prepared a children's opera, written by the composer Evžen Zámečník under the title Ferdy the Ant (original Czech title: Ferda Mravenec), based on the story by Ondřej Sekora. The stories of an optimistic ant who "can do anything and knows everything" and doesn’t turn his nose up at “work of all kinds", however, are actually not appearing at the Janáček Theatre for first time. Zámečník's work in eight scenes won the hearts of the Brno audiences between the years 1977 and 1986 with astounding success; it helped bring a number of children to opera – the most refined form of musical theatre. Today, these already adult musicians, actors, directors, lighting technicians and many others have decided to pay tribute to the composer, who also carried out a lot of "work of all kinds" for Brno's musical life.
Cultural life has endeavoured to move into a sterile and "life-safe" social networking environment in an unequal struggle against the viral phantasm and government lockdown regulations. In the darkest months, music institutions competed with one another in staging recordings of memorable concerts, and major opera houses broadcast to the world those of their performances that gained the most success from spectators.
The Brno Contemporary Orchestra, conducted by Pavel Šnajdr, concluded its ninth season with a concert called Con certo: With Certainty or with the Devil?, held in the hall of the Convent of the Merciful Brethren. The programme featured works by authors already established in the world of contemporary classical music: Alexej Fried, Olga Neuwirth and György Ligeti, whose violin concerto was performed by the violin virtuoso Milan Paľa.
Although cultural life has suffered significantly in the last two months, people's desire for an artistic experience has not faded. On the contrary – art and its role in our lives are perhaps needed even more than before. Hence, although concert halls are empty and listeners are forced to visit them only through recordings of their favourite concerts, a number of well-made music media created (not only) in the beginning of the year helps to bridge over this unfortunate period.
Cultivated music, art music, serious music … shifting from one of these messy labels to another usually has one aim: to avoid the problematic “classical music”. Today this misleading term covers everything that was heard in medieval churches, in the course of Baroque festivities, in the age of bourgeois revolutions and at experimental concerts that saw shoes being thrown at the performers. Brno happily recalls visits here by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Franz Liszt and Bedřich Smetana, short as they were. But it also remembers the Hollywood film music celebrity Erich Wolfgang Korngold, who spent his earliest years in Brno. Brno might appear to be a city of brief sojourns, were it not for Leoš Janáček, who made it his home and in the course of the past forty years has become one of the world’s most frequently performed composers. But the musical history of the city mirrored the turbulent political changes in the nineteenth century and drew on the enormous energy released by the creation of a free Czechoslovakia in 1918: never since then has its progressive character vanished completely.
“Every theatre is a madhouse, but opera is the ward for the incurable,” claimed Franz von Dingelstedt, the first director of the Court Opera House in Vienna. And he was right, for once someone’s fallen in love with opera, that’s it. Opera’s a stepchild of the Renaissance, with a Baroque wet nurse: it was on the cusp between these two great eras that the idea of purely sung theatre saw the light of day. Step by step, composers taught the art of singing to classical gods and brave women, Christian heroes and pagan enchantresses, a Seville barber, a Babylonian king and the Czech Mařenka and Jeník. But it was only here in Brno, thanks to Leoš Janáček, that truly psychological musical drama was born, drama that sees into a person’s heart. Today the Brno opera company has its home in a theatre named after Janáček, mounts a major festival devoted to the city’s most famous composer every two years, and has set its sights very high. “The more opera is dead, the more it flourishes,” pronounced the philosopher Slavoj Žižek when speaking of this fanatically loved but just as fanatically rejected genre. By this measure, opera in Brno these days must have been dead at least a dozen times.
To write a guide to music in Brno in the past and present means digging deep into one’s own recollections and those of others as well as into sources with varying degrees of reliability, and as far as possible not believing anything automatically but always asking “Did this really happen just like that?” And in doing so, to be very, very suspicious of one’s own memory. Two basic questions that cropped up in connection with almost every sentence were “What is it about this band or that event that makes them special? Would someone who’s never been to Brno and has no ties with the city find it interesting?”