Monday, February 6, 2012: Enchanting Opera
At first they wouldn’t let any of us into the National Theater through the front door. The front door is for sissies apparently, which we certainly were not. So we stood outside in the cold on the piazza in groups led by pretty young women wearing funny hats and holding sign posts.
Then the Frogmen came. They yelled at us through loudspeakers in languages that can only be described as Czech, Germanish, and Frog. We were herded like cattle into a side entrance and taken into the bowels of the opera house.
The twisting path through the halls contained strange creatures and yet more Frogmen promising us safe passage in return for compliance with their demands – mainly not to feed the monsters; the machinery beneath the stage was home to terrifying werewolves. Then we entered long pale tunnels whose floor was slowly rotating beneath our feet as we walked … and we were on stage!We made our way off the stage surrounded by a mystical landscape and strange creatures. The opera house had fairies, phoenixes, strange chicken-like creatures, and musicians interspersed on the various tiers of the balconies and galleries, singing and providing strange facts about the inhabitants of their realm. We found our seats.
What happened next was incredible beyond belief. And somewhat illogical: Mean Cockatrices stole a huge singing book and some girl’s violin, in an attempt to make themselves rulers of that strange world.
And so began a tale of good versus evil, as the girl, a Frogman, and one of those chicken-things (which was actually called “Parrot”) set off on a magical journey to foil the evil creatures of Enchantia.
The many small children present at this family-oriented opera were delighted. The story is simple enough to follow, the music engaging with no terribly long and difficult arias, and the set and costume design are innovative and captivating. At 90 minutes with no intermission, it is about as long as a typical movie, and definitely holds its own with just the right mix of suspense and humor.
There are, of course, more that a few logical inconsistencies: the Weasels act more like meerkats, Frog celebrates his princeliness to the sound of an electric guitar and a drum set wheeled onto the stage, and the mermaids lose their beauty as punishment for helping the heroine. In other words, Čarokraj makes about as much sense as any opera does.
And those were some sexy fish. — oo
The next performances of Čarokraj are scheduled for Feb 11 and 12 at The National Theatre.
— Frank Trollman and Hana Škrdlová
Photo Credits: Frank Trollman