Season 2015/2016

Leoš Janáček 
Jenůfa 

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Performed in the original Czech with Czech and English surtitles
Libretto: Leoš Janáček, based on a play by Gabriela Preissová

Conductor: Marko Ivanović
Director: Martin Glaser
Set designer: Pavel Borák
Costume designer: Markéta Sládečková - Oslzlá
Ensemble of the BNT Janáček Opera

Better a scarred face than a scarred soul.

Jenůfa is one of Janáček’s most famous works and is an integral part of the opera repertoire in Brno. It was inspired by Gabriela Preissová’s realist drama, which the composer himself reworked into an opera libretto. Despite having to cut much of the original text, he managed to increase the impact of this tragic story from the Moravian countryside. The extravagant and fickle Števa; the hot-tempered but essentially kind-hearted Laca; and principally the Kostelnička, whose attempts to maintain her standing and respect in the village community lead her to murder the child of her foster daughter, Jenůfa. Janáček managed to portray the individual characters in a concise and masterly fashion, which both chills us and elicits our compassion and understanding. The final form of the work was the result of a long and arduous inner journey, marked by the death of the composer’s daughter, Olga. Following its successful debut in Brno in 1904, Jenůfa had to wait twelve long years before Janáček’s efforts were rewarded with well-deserved success on other stages at home and abroad.
First night: 2nd October 2015

Bedřich Smetana 
The Kiss 

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Performed in the original Czech with Czech and English surtitles
Libretto: Eliška Krásnohorská

Conductor: Jakub Klecker
Director: Linda Keprtová
Set Designer: Eva Jiřikovská
Costume Designer: Marie Blažková
Ensemble of the BNT Janáček Opera

It‘s really just about a kiss 
Along with The Bartered Bride, Smetana’s The Kiss is one of his most frequently performed operas. Despite the fact that Smetana was deaf when he composed it and had experienced tragedy in his life, in The Kiss he created another poetic image of the Czech countryside filled with catchy melodies. The libretto about the stubborn Vendulka and Lukáš, whose love is almost destroyed by an argument about a prenuptial kiss, was written by the famous Czech poet Eliška Krásnohorská, based on a humorous short story of the same name by Karolína Světlá. Apparently, this was based on a true story from a village in Podještědí. To begin with, Smetana was unsure about the composition and doubted whether it contained enough dramatic ideas, but in the end he let himself be convinced. The 1876 premiere at the Provisional Theatre in Prague met with great success and it quickly travelled the world. It still has not lost any of its charm or truth – for isn’t it so often the little things which complicate our lives? Or was it more than just a kiss...?
First night: 4th December 2015

Thomas Adès  
Powder Her Face

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Performed in the original English with Czech surtitles
Libretto: Philip Hensher

Conductor:  Marko Ivanović
Director: Tomáš Studený
Set Designer:  Zuzana Přidalová
Costume Designer: Zuzana Přidalová
Ensemble of the BNT Janáček Opera

Scandal in real life and on stage.

At the age of only twenty-four, the British composer Thomas Adès was commissioned by the Cheltenham Music Festival to write his first opera, Powder Her Face. Thanks to its brilliantly diverse and mature score, in which we can find various influences, from cabaret and jazz to Weill, Stravinsky and Berg, it kick-started the composer’s international career and is still one of his most frequently performed works today. In colourful episodes, the opera presents the fascinating rise and fall of the notorious beauty Margaret Campbell, the Duchess of Argyll, whose sexual appetite and scandalous divorce in 1963 were the talk of high society in Great Britain. Although the opera’s premiere was received very positively, it also became notorious due to its frank detailing of the duchess’s sex life. The British radio station Classic FM even deliberated over the appropriateness of broadcasting an opera which musically depicted oral sex. Today, however, with over two hundred performances, it is considered a modern classic.
First night: 29th January 2016

Georges Bizet 
Carmen

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Performed in the original French with Czech and English surtitles
Libretto: Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy, based on the novella by P. Merimée

Conductor: Ondrej Olos
Director: Tomáš Pilař
Set designer: Aleš Valášek
Costume designer:  Aleš Valášek
Ensemble of the BNT Janáček Opera

Freedom in love or death

Because of his foolish passion for a wild gypsy girl, he deserted from the army and became a smuggler, a brigand and eventually a multiple murderer… Then in prison he related his tale to Don José, the main character of the novella by the French writer Prosper Merimée. And it was this slender book which became the basis for one of the most famous operas, which brought its author, the French composer Georges Bizet, worldwide renown, even though the vast majority of his work has long faded into obscurity. Bizet was immediately attracted by Merimée’s story: he loved the exotic themes, and even though he himself had never been in Spain, he was carried away by the atmosphere of the drama. In spite of the rich melodic inventiveness and excellent musical portrayal of the characters and setting, the premiere at Paris’s Comic Opera received an extremely restrained reception from the public and shortly afterwards the thirty-six-year-old composer died suddenly. Its real triumph did not come about until it was performed at Vienna’s Court Opera in October 1875, which put Carmen into the repertoire of all the major international opera houses.
First night: 18th March 2016

 

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Bohuslav Martinů 
Epic of Gilgamesh

Libretto: Bohuslav Martinů, based on the English translation by Reginald Campbell Thompson

Henry Purcell  
Dido and Aeneas

Libretto: Nahum Tate
Performed in the original English with Czech surtitles

Conductor: Marko Ivanović, Václav Luks
Director: Jiří Heřman
Set designer: Dragan Stojčevski
Costume designer: Alexandra Grusková
Ensemble of the BNT Janáček Opera

Man loves because he loves.

There are myths which cut across cultures and lose nothing of their relevance even with the passing centuries. Myths which deal with the fundamental questions of human existence, and those which recount great love stories. Among the earliest of them is the Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh, considered to be the oldest work of literature in world culture. It was this tale of the merciless ruler Uruk Gilgamesh, his friendship with the wild man Enkidu and their philosophical dialogue about life on earth and after death which became the inspiration for one of Martinů’s greatest works.

One the great love stories which has inspired countless works of art is the tragic love of the Carthaginian queen Dido for the Trojan hero Aeneas. The story, based on the fourth book of Virgil’s epic The Aeneid, became the template for more than a hundred operatic versions, some of which are among the groundbreaking works of the opera genre. One such work is the opera by the great composer of English baroque Henry Purcell, whose skill in capturing the most subtle nuances of human emotions in music breathed immortality into the unfortunate Dido.
First night: 13th May 2016