Staged in the Czech original with Czech and English subtitles.
This new production of Janáček´s Destiny, which will ceremonially open the Janáček Brno 2020 festival, marks the return of one of opera’s best directors, Robert Carsen. This creator of productions valued for their drama, poetry and artistic refinement has returned to Janáček´s opera work to expand it with a sixth production created specifically for the Janáček Opera at National Theatre Brno. Right from the first notes, the orchestral waltz from the overture of Destiny takes us amongst the members of noble spa-going society; simple natural prose was replaced here by the language favoured by decadent poets, as Janáček was inspired to produce this opera by a twenty-eight-year-old woman named Kamila Urválková, whom the composer met in August 1903 at his favourite spa, Luhačovice. Kamila told Janáček about her romance with the composer Čelanský, who expressed his disappointment with their relationship in the opera Kamila. Janáček was so enchanted by Kamila that he decided to create a “brand new, modern opera” in which her name would be cleared. He didn’t call Destiny an opera, however, but rather three episodes from a novel. This ‘book’ takes theatregoers to a completely different environment than those featured in his previous operas – after Jenůfa, Janáček´s fourth opera Destiny represents a musical and dramaturgical venture into another area entirely.
Synopsis of the Opera
Seventeen years ago the composer Živný had an aff air with Míla. Míla’s mother disapproved of Živný and separated the lovers by arranging for her daughter to marry a richer man. The plan came to nothing because Míla was already pregnant with Živný’s child, but Živný believed that Míla left him for a richer man. He has poured out his bitter feelings into the composition of an opera…
Fifteen years ago
Živný and Míla meet again in the same spa. They are surrounded by guests from all walks of life, among them three men who are attracted to Míla: Dr. Suda, Lhotský and Konečný. Živný comes to realise that he has accused Míla unfairly of leaving him and begs for forgiveness, off ering to take her and their child back. Míla’s mother is horrifi ed to learn that her daughter has returned to the composer.
Eleven years ago
Míla and Živný are now married and living with their little son Doubek. Živný has been unable to fi nish his opera, but the bitter dramatization of the past has driven a wedge between husband and wife. At the piano Živný repeatedly plays and sings the “Fate” motif which Míla’s deranged mother is heard repeating from her room. Míla begs her husband to abandon the work aft er little Doubek tells her that she does not know what love is. When Míla’s mother attacks Živný, accusing him of trying to steal her money and jewellery, Míla tries to restrain her. To Živný’s horror, both mother and daughter fall to their death.
The present, eleven years later
In the music conservatory where Živný teaches, students are sight-reading the storm scene from their professor’s strange unfinished opera, due to receive its premiere that night. Two students, Verva and Hrázda, sing solo scenes from the work. Verva believes that Lenský, the composer in the opera, must be Živný himself. To the embarrassment of the real Doubek, now also a student at the conservatory, Verva sings the scene where Doubek tells his mother that she does not know what love is. As the students continue to mock Živný’s work, the composer appears. He describes Lenský as a lonely composer whose music did not meet with success until he fell in love with Míla. But it was too late: their love was doomed to fail and die. The stormy emotion of reliving events from his own life overwhelms Živný. He collapses when recounting Míla’s death and imagines the sound of his dying wife’s voice. Verva suggests that this could be a possible ending to the opera, but Živný rejects the idea, insisting that the fate of the fi nal scene must remain in God’s hands.
/ Robert Carsen /