The first year of the international Jewish culture festival ŠTETL FEST 2022 begins on Friday. In its content and scope it will be the biggest Jewish culture festival in the Czech Republic. The festival’s programme will offer lectures, theatre performances, guided tours and several concerts. Some of those performing will be the Avishai Cohen Trio, Yale Strom & Hot Pstromi, Graffe String Quartet or Dominika Weiss Hošková. The festival will close with the Brundibár children’s opera performed by the Brno Philharmonic Orchestra and the Cantilena choir. The motto of the entire event is “Dignity in Diversity”.
The Znojmo Music Festival has more than thirty concerts and accompanying events on its program, and this year it takes place for the eighteenth time. This year’s edition, subtitled Guardian Angels and Homecomings, will take place at various locations in Znojmo and in its surroundings – in the countryside and in castles and churches. The festival will present the premiere of a stage production of Joseph Haydn’s oratorio The Return of Tobias in its own production. Adam Plachetka will perform the title role.
The next-to-last premiere of the 2021/22 season is Mozart's “The Magic Flute”. It will be directed by Miroslav Krobot. This unconventional presentation of the opera promises the audience a journey into space. The musical staging is led by Pavel Šnajdr. Title roles will be played by Jiří Sulženko, David Szendiuch, Petr Nekoranec, Daniel Matoušek, Martina Masaryková, Doubravka Součková, Jana Šrejma Kačírková, Andrea Široká, and others. Scenography by Andrej Ďurík.
The great choral opera – The Greek Passion by Bohuslav Martinů – returns to the stage of the Janáček Theatre. Members of Český akademický sbor (Czech Academic Choir) and Dětský sbor Brno (Brno Children’s Choir) will join the ranks of the Brno National Theratre´s Janáček Opera choir. The musical production is the work of conductor Robert Kružík. Directed by Jiří Heřman, for whom The Greek Passion is the third production of Martinů’s work, after The Miracles of Mary and The Epic of Gilgamesh, the piece will feature, in the main roles, soloists of the Brno National Theratre´s Janáček Opera as well as its regular guests Peter Berger (Manolios), Pavla Vykopalová (Katarina), Jan Šťáva (Grigoris), David Szendiuch (Fotis), Ondřej Koplík (Yannakos) and others.
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.
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.
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 Příkrý.
The work by the British composer Benjamin Britten forms an essential part of contemporary opera production. Worldwide, he is even the most frequently staged author born in the 20th century. Peter Grimes, with a libretto by Montagu Slater based on a poem by George Crabbe, became the opera that set the course for Britten's next musical-dramatic works. And it is with the title Peter Grimes that the Brno National Theatre has opened the opera part of the 2021/2022 season. The story of a rough and tumble fisherman, whose two young apprentices die soon after each other and who as a result sails out to sea, where he sinks his boat and himself with it, had its Czechoslovak premiere in Brno in June 1947. Almost 75 years after, the story of a fishing village, resentment, cruelty and gossip is now coming to life again in the Janáček Theatre, directed by David Radok and with a musical score by Marko Ivanović. The title role was played by tenor Joachim Bäckström and the widowed teacher Ellen Orford, who found affection in Grimes, was portrayed by soprano Jana Šrejma Kačírková. This is not the first time that these two have met on stage together – it was with Mark Ivanović and David Radok that they had previously joined forces for the play Juliette / Lidský hlas (Juliette/The Human Voice). Jana Hrochová (Auntie), Andrea Široká (Niece), Tereza Kyzlinková (Niece), Svatopluk Sem (Balstrode), Jitka Sapara-Fischerová (Mrs. Nabob Sedley), Jan Št'áva (Swallow), Vít Nosek (Bob Boles), Petr Levíček (Horace Adams), David Nykl (Hobson), Jiří Hájek (Ned Keene) and Ivo Šiler (Dr. Crabbe) were also featured, along with the others.
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.
“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?”
Due to the impact of extraordinary measures taken because of the Covid-19 pandemic on stakeholders of the cultural and creative industries in Brno, Brno leaders and the Department of Culture of the Brno City Municipality are working intensively on a set of precautions for minimizing the damages. At the same time, communication is conducted on all levels of public administration, predominantly in collaboration with the Institut umění – Divadelní ústav [Arts and Theatre Institute], which is mapping the situation on the nationwide level. Until 22 March 2020 you can help assess the current situation by means of an online survey (the link is provided below). Further steps will be taken according to the results of the survey.