Wednesday, January 11,2011: Language of Enchantia

Out of the murky depths of Enchantia, a singing mermaid emerges.

The Language of Enchantia

First it was a children’s book (English writer Gerald Durrell, 1974), then it was an animated cartoon (1978), then came the Czech translation and illustration (Adolf Born, 1983).

And finally this week it’s an opera on the National Theatre stage (premieres Sat and Sun; directed by Petr Forman).

It’s Čarokraj (English Enchantia), a fantasy combining elements of natural science, classic children’s themes of courage and adventure and monsters, and of course, some of the finest music and singing in light opera form.

Characters include the evil Chief Cockatrice (based on a classic medieval dragon with two scaly legs and the head of a rooster); the Chief Werewolf, the talking book, a parrot, mermaids, and more.

It promises to be a delightful treat for both the ears and the eyes, for audiences of all ages.

But, just as with any opera, it pays to know the plot of the story before you go. Čarokraj is a loose adaptation of the original story, about a talking, singing package that washes up on the beach. The parcel warns the children who find it that the land of Mythologia is being taken over by the evil Cockatrice and its gang; they’re enslaving all the animals. Will the children help save the kingdom and its creatures? You’ll have to go to a performance to find out.

The English translation of the title Čarokraj, as well as the names of some of its creatures, presented a challenge when dramaturg Ondřej Hučín, librettists Ivan Arsenjev, Petr Forman, and Radek Malý set to work with music director Marko Ivanovič. “We talked about the title a long time,” Mr Forman is quoted as saying. “We looked for parallels from a world that exists with one that doesn’t exist, yet would still be original.” Here’s what else they came up with:

Velebobule, Junket Berry (sorry, this word doesn’t exist in American English, either!)
Hlavní Bazilišek, Chief Cockatrice
Papouš, a Parrot
Penelopka, Penelope, a girl
Zpívající Kniha, the Talking-Singing Book
Zabák, Frog
Mořské Panny, Mermaids
Hlavní Vlkodlak, the Chief Werewolf
Mytologická Zvířata, Mythological Animals
Bludičky, Will-o-the-Wisps
Lasičky, Weasels

Čarokraj, or Enchantia, premieres this Saturday at 7 pm; and Sunday at 2 and 5 pm. Further performances are at 2 and 5 pm Jan 28 and 29 and Feb 11; and at 11 am Feb 12, with additional performances in spring. — oo

– Mary Matz

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Photo Credits: Miroslav Setnička

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