Thursday, August 11, 2011:History Lessons

Choreographer Jan Kodet describes his deep interest in history, and its connection to a new Czech premiere

History Lessons — for a Dancer

“In my family, history is important. History is in my blood; my mom taught history. I appreciate the knowledge from history – you can learn a lot from it.”

It’s a good thing that the National Theatre’s Jan Kodet likes history so much.

It’s his job to create the choreography for Gloriana, an opera about Queen Elizabeth I.

As you may remember from your own history lessons, she lived from 1533 to 1603.

Currently ballet master and choreographer for the National Theatre Ballet, Mr Kodet has twice won best choreography awards for entire seasons, danced in a number of foreign theatres, and teaches in dance workshops and at AMU (Academy of Performing Arts).

“But [for Gloriana] I have to study the history of dance,” Mr Kodet tells Opus Osm, “because Elizabeth loved the gavotte, and I don’t know much about this dance.”

Benjamin Britten’s opera was commissioned to celebrate the coronation of another Elizabeth (the Second) in June 1953. Act II features the Courtly Dances scene, which opens on a slow, dignified pavane, and later a La Volta, in which the ladies are tossed wildly into the air by their partners. A traditional Morris Dance rounds out the scene.

Gloriana was never well-received during Britten’s lifetime. Critics had expected an opera about this historic queen to portray her as dignified, powerful, and clever. Instead, the scenario focuses on the intrigue and gossip of the Court. Additionally, the opera ends with the spoken word rather than with music.

A scene from CamouflAGE -- definitely not the gavotte ...

Mr Kodet is known for his fresh, contemporary choreography for CamouflAGE (also scheduled at the Kolowrat Theatre this fall), so it will be a treat to see how he combines Gloriana‘s 17th-century setting, Britten’s perspective, Mr Kodet’s own love of history, and his unique choreographic style in the National Theatre Opera’s fourth Czech premiere.

The opera will open with premiere performances on March 3 and 4. – oo

– Mary Matz

Photo Credits: Top: Miroslav Setnička; bottom, the National Theatre

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