This summer, the ensemble of the Janáček Opera at the National Theatre Brno is again putting on traditional open-air performances in the courtyard of Špilberk Castle. For the first time their summertime schedule shall include performances at the open-air stage of the Amphitheatre in Mikulov. Well-known works are planned, such as Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, Bizet’s Carmen, Verdi’s La traviata and a new production of Puccini’s La bohème.
The theatre (NTB) has released details of the 2021/2022 season, which includes premieres of five operas and three ballets. Janáček Opera has dubbed the upcoming season “Follow the voice of the heart…”, and in keeping with this, Peter Grimes by Benjamin Britten is scheduled, directed by David Radok. The long-awaited, The Greek Passion by Bohuslav Martinů under the direction of Jiří Heřman, and Mozart’s The Magic Flute directed by Miroslav Krobot are included, too. NTB’s ballet celebrates the 250th anniversary of Ludwig van Beethoven’s birth by presenting a piece entitled Beethoven with Mário Radačovský as the choreographer. After more than thirty years, Cinderella, a ballet by Sergei Prokofiev, returns to the stage of the Janáček Theatre as a brand-new production choreographed by Markéta Pimek Habalová. The new season reflects the sentiment of the heading “Honouring the Greats”.
The Janáček Opera gave a guest performance with success as part of year 45 of the prestigious international Hong Kong Arts Festival with Janáček’s Makropulos Affair earlier in 2017. This time, the Brno opera ensemble is returning to the Hong Kong festival’s stage. Due to the pandemic situation, the festival management decided that foreign ensembles would be participating online – through recordings and live streams.
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.
Director, librettist and stage designer David Radok and composer, but also chief conductor of the opera ensemble Marko Ivanović created the authorial work for the opera ensemble of the National Theatre Brno. The opera The Monument, which was premiered yesterday, tells the story of sculptor Otakar Švec (1892–1955), whose design in 1955 was a portent of Stalin's monument at Letná. The title roles in the Janáček Theatre were performed by: Stanislav Sem (Sculptor), Markéta Cukrová (Wife), Roman Hoza (Colleague) and Ondřej Koplík (Minister of Culture). The solo parts were complemented by the Opera Choir, the Czech Academic Choir and the Brno Children's Choir. The Janáček Opera Orchestra was directed by the author of the music Marko Ivanović.
The National Theatre Brno started its new season yesterday by staging The Tales of Hoffmann, an opéra fantastique by French composer Jacques Offenbach with French libretto written by poet Jules Barbier. Directing was undertaken by the recognized artistic tandem SKUTR, consisting of Martin Kukučka and Lukáš Trpišovský. The title role was presented by Luciano Mastro, his faithful companion Nicklausse (and also the figure of the Muse at the end of the show) was performed by Markéta Cukrová. The roles of Hoffmann's sweethearts Olympia, Antonia, Giulietta and Stella have were performed by Martina Masaryková, Pavla Vykopalová, Daniela Straková-Šedrlová and Andrea Široká. The character of Hoffmann's eternal rival (Lindorf/Coppélius/Miracle/ Dappertutto) was interpreted by Ondrej Mráz. The orchestra was led by Ondrej Olos, the choir by Klára Složilová Roztočilová.
Yesterday evening at the piazzetta of the Janáček Theatre was marked by a concert to commence the 2019/2020 season of the National Theatre Brno (NdB). Promotion of the event ensured the most important thing for this music evening – hundreds of spectators who filled up the whole place. We should not forget the really wide age range, which is so much needed for future culture, especially at its lower limit (still in strollers).