The Devil and Kate
Performed in the original Czech with Czech and English subtitles.
Premiere: 10th December 2016, Mahen Theatre
Who will go to hell?
What is the most important place in a castle? The kitchen! Cakes smell exquisite in Mokrá Lhota, and somebody has already opened a beer cask. No wonder that all people come and meet and, after all, why can’t the feast take place right there? Everybody is dancing, only Kate is sitting next to the stove. And nobody is giving her attention. The smell has attracted a young gamekeeper. He is Marbuel, a devil sent by Lucifer to fetch the evil steward and princess. However, angry Kate attracts him so much! What if he first entertains him self for a while and asked Kate for a dance?
Dvořák’s opera about the fearless shepherd Jirka, the talkative and avid dancer Kate, who longs for a marriage, and the deceived devil Marbuel is based on a folk fairy‑tale of the same name from the collection of Božena Němcová. Adolf Wenig created a comical libretto; his devils are no dark demons and merciless rulers of hell but the true devils of Czech fairy tales – a bit funny creatures who clumsily try to terrify people, who are easily duped by the cheeky Kate. Dvořák wrote a part of the opera at the castle in Lužany and the local legend about Kate who started to dance with a devil and fell into hell with the whole pub was surely a good inspiration, as was the local village band. After all, it is Kate’s lust for dancing that is to be blamed for everything and therefore the opera is interwoven with waltzes and polkas and even the devils dance in hell.
Devils have always been and are everywhere. They never went away – it is only that we grew up and lost the ability to see them. But children can see them …
Where isthe most important place in the castle? The kitchen obviously! And the one in MokráLhotajust now has a wonderful aroma of cakes and someone has just come upon a keg of beer. It’s no surprise that all the castle servants as well as people from the village are slowly gatheringhere. In the end why can’t the feast and dance be here – all they have to do is move some pots out of the way and there is more than enough space. The shepherd Jirkahas brought some cheeses and is rushing off back to the sheepfold – he has plenty of work and the Chamberlain is merciless. The others try to persuade him to stay, butJirkaonly mischievously turns in a circle of girls and at that moment Kate appears. They all tease him that it is he who Kate wants to dance with, but Jirka objects. Even more so since the energetic Kate would dance anyone to death, and when she opens her mouth it is like a dam breaking. As a farewell Jirkasings a song and heads home with the music.
Everyone joins the dance leaving only Kate sitting on the bench. Once more no one notices her … Suddenly a handsome hunter appears and asks after the Chamberlain and the Princess. No-one knows him and he is a bit suspect, but the Chamberlain and the Princess have been really ill-treating their people, and they have even expressed the wish that the devil take them. This can easily happen since the hunter is actually the devilMarbuel, sent by Lucifer to check whether the Chamberlain and the Princess are now ready for hell. Marbuelknows what he was sent to find out but he isn’t ready to go back yet. He spots the lonely Kate. What if he has some fun before he goes? He asks Kate to dance and they take a pleasant spin. The delighted Kate would like to dance with him until death. And why not – all she has to do is go to his castle. Kate does not hesitate long, and by the time her mum, along with the others, has lifted a fallen cauldron, Kate and Marbuelare gone. In the meantime Jirka also returns, the Chamberlain having dismissed him from service for bringing the musicians with him. Everyone is horrified – after all it was a devil who took Kate, but Jirka is not giving up. He will follow them and bring Kate back!
The road to hell is actually short – you just have to jump under the castle kitchen and you’re there. Here things are also run by the head cook – Lucifer – only he is cooking something other than sirloin. Lucifer impatiently waits for the return of Marbuel. He finally comes pounding on the gates, but the woman he brings is not the Princess. Marbuel’s joke with Kate has not really paid off. She sticks to him like a tick and won’t let go at any price. Then Jirka also appears in the hellish kitchen. The sight of Kate pullingMarbuel by his ears is hilarious, but he did promise her mum that he would bring her back. He advises Lucifer to distract her with a golden chain, which works. Marbuel, although freed is not yet out of the woods and must get Kate out of hell and return to the world to admonish the Chamberlain and fetch the Princess. He agrees with Jirka that he will provide the dance-loving Kate with music and that Jirka will then dance her out through the gates of hell. As a reward he is allowed to protect the Chamberlain from Marbueland demand a bag of gold from him in return, sincegold from hell turns into leaves back in the world. But when Marbuelcomes for the Princess Jirka must not even for think about stopping him. In the meantime Kate has made all hell scrub and clean, but she is happy to accept his offer for a bit of fun. The inhabitants of hell win andKáčais happy to take a turn, but not withMarbuel, as the bonny hunter has changed into a devil and can’t be trusted. Jirkaoffers and Kate doesn’t hesitate, after all she has always liked him. One turn, another and they are already outside the gates.
The Princess has not led a good life and knows that she will be punished for it, even if now she is sorry for it all. It has already been prophesied that she will be carried off by a devil, and she waits for that moment in horror. Everywhere she looks in the empty castle, from which music and laughter have fled, she sees devils lurking in the shadows. Her last hope is Jirka, who has saved the Chamberlain. He does appear at the castle, but before he will try to save the Princess he wants a guarantee that she has truly reformed and will keep her word. The Princess has the abolition of serfdom proclaimed and Jirkabegins to prepare for the arrival of Marbuela. He has an accomplice with him, Kate, whose hellish gold has changed into leaves and who now wants to get even with the devil. Jirkahides her under the table where the Princess awaits the devil with a prepared dinner. Marbuel appears but Jirka interrupts him. Marbuelwarns him that he knows he mustn’t save the Princess. Only Jirkais there to tell him that Kate is waiting and wants to catch him again. At that moment the irate Kate emerges from under the table and all that is left of Marbuel is a puff of smoke. Everyone celebrates, Jirkais made a minister and Kate gets a cottage. And maybe she will even find someone to share it with her…
Apparently devils don’t exist, but he who really wants to can see them and can have plenty of fun with them. But even that however must end, the bus is already here and with it ends the school trip.