Thurs, June 23, 2011: Opera-What’s Up?

Summer Solstice Series!

Opus Osm continues our week-long Solstice Series of “backgrounder” articles. If you’ve ever wondered the who, why, what, or why not about opera, here are the answers to your questions. Zuzana Sklenková is on hand to anticipate everything you’ve always wanted to know about this glorious but confusing art form.

Part 4 Some Opera Highlights for the New 2011-12 Season

A “premiere” is, strictly speaking, the first-ever showing of a given piece. But the Czech language uses the word premiere (premiéra) quite excessively, so visiting theatre websites, you might get the impression that Czech is a very backward nation, as there is a “premiere” of Mozart and Smetana every half year. However, by premiere, Czechs mean a new production for their theatre or company, a new version of the old classic.

The new opera season mixes the usual classic jewels with new, surprising productions, and there are even a couple of premieres in store for the next year.

The Janáček Theatre, part of the National Theatre in Brno

The National Theatre in Prague will open the season with Dvořák’s The Jacobin on October 8 and 9. The chief conductor, Tomáš Netopil, is in charge of the musical preparation and Jiří Heřman will direct the show. The story about an emigrant who returns to his hometown to reconcile with his family and past is listed among the more successful of Dvořák’s operatic accomplishments.

A fantasy land will be the setting of the new opera Čarokraj (Magicland) by Marko Ivanovic, loosely based on a popular book by English writer Gerald Durrell, The Talking Parcel. The opera is directed by the highly creative twin Forman brothers, and will definitely find its audience among the young and the old. The new family opera will premiere at Prague’s National Theatre at the end of January 2012.

Or if you appreciate Dvořák’s gloom in Rusalka more, jump on a train to Brno’s National Theatre, where the story of the water nymph will be launched in February of 2012. Dutch choreographer Karine Guizzo, a collaborator of Czech choreographer Jiří Kylián, will participate in the staging of the opera. So we can expect a new, fresh remaking of the classic.

In April 2012 Prague’s National Theatre will present the Czech premiere of the opera Gloriana, by the major British modernist composer Benjamin Britten. Although this opera was written for the occasion of the coronation of Elizabeth II, its story revolves around a different one, Elizabeth I, and her relationship to the Earl of Essex.

The interior of the historical Theatre of the Estates

In exactly one year’s time we can look forward to the Czech premiere of a new adaptation of Mozart’s Prague opus, Don Giovanni. Or rather it could be said that Don Giovanni is making a comeback in a grand style to the Estates Theatre – the place where the opera originally premiered and was conducted by Maestro Mozart himself. This time the opera will be directed by English director David Pountney, who has successfully produced operas of many Czech composers, e.g. Bedřich Smetana and Bohuslav Martinů.

These are just a few of the highlights you can look forward to in the new season.

The regular repertoire and even a few bonus performances await you in opera houses in the major cities across the Czech Republic. — oo

– Zuzana Sklenková

Tomorrow: Opera Etiquette for Newbies

Photo Credits: All except Janáček Theatre: Miroslav Setnička

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