Performed in the original Czech with Czech surtitles
Premiere on 28th March 2014, Janáček Theatre
Polish Blood, written by the renowned Czech composer and conductor Oskar Nedbal, is one of the most famous and popular Czech operettas. Apart from several theatrical productions, it has also been adapted for film and television. Leo Stein wrote the libretto based on the short story The Squire’s Daughter by Alexander Pushkin. The operetta was first performed in Vienna on 25th October 1913 with the first Czech performance taking place just two months later on 26th December. From that time onwards, thanks to it being a quintessential work of the ‘silver age’ of Viennese operettas, Polish Blood has never left the stage. It is a story about the extravagant Polish count Boleslaw Baranski, the wealthy landowner in Russian Poland Jan Zaremba, and his daughter Helena who is in disguise as a peasant girl. A tale of mistaken identities, two women trying to woo one man, promises an evening full of entertainment. The charming musical numbers such as “Blondýnky něžné” (Sweet Blondes), “Jste kavalír, to vím” (You’re a Cavalier, I Know) and “Diplomat”, are known not only by operetta enthusiasts, but also by the greater public. Funny dialogues, a surprising plotline and above all beautiful melodies, makes it the quintessential Czech operetta.
The new staging of Polish Blood will be the work of a young team: the director, Tomáš Pilař, is already well-known to the Brno audience for his successful production of Papageno Plays the Magic Flute and other collaborations with the National Theatre Brno such as Operetta Gala and the DIVA Awards. Aleš Valášek, the set and costume designer, is one of the major talents of the young generation of artists in the Czech Republic.
Janáček Opera Ensemble and Orchestra of the National Theatre Brno
Amidst full entertainment at a ball in Warsaw, Bronio Popiel confides in his friend, renowned bonvivant Earl Boleslav Baraňski (aka Bolo) to be in love with ballerina Wanda Kwasiňskaja. He says she is the right one and the only one who really loves him. But when Wanda sees Bolo, she falls for him at once. Farmer Zaremba comes to the ball with his daughter Helena; he wants her to marry Bolo. He intends to give her such dowry that can save failing Bolo’s property. Bolo declares light-heartedly, however, that he would rather marry some housekeeper. Helena decides to take revenge and plots a plan to pretend she is a housekeeper.
Bolo with friends are cheerfully playing cards and drinking in his farmhouse. They will not even be distracted by Zaremba, who bought Bolo’s bills and came in to confiscate his property.
Helena comes to the farmhouse disguised as a housekeeper and prepares vigorously to defend Bolo’s property. She starts by expelling Bolo’s parasite friends. Bolo at first does not like her radical positions, but soon he begins to feel attracted to her.
Six months later, a harvest festival takes place at the farm. Bolo’s friends are amazed at how the farm is prospering. Popiel, this time in love with Helena, is looking forward to Helena’s revenge, which should culminate in Helena’s departure along with Popiel. Helena, however, confides in her father that she fell in love with Bolo. Bolo asks Helena to stay on the farm, but no longer as a housekeeper, but as his wife. Betrayed Wanda tells everyone what she has just found out about: the housekeeper is in fact Helena, who in turn confesses in front of everyone that it was all meant merely as a revenge to Bolo. But now he has become a completely different man and nothing remains to prevent their wedding.