A Village Only of Girls

An eerie, 400 year old legend premieres as a ballet Thursday and Friday at The National Theatre.

“The legend describes a village with almost only young girls, and no other people,” says Lukáš Trpišovský. “On the other hand,” he continues, “there are boys – enchanted boys – hidden in the woods.”

Mr Trpišovský is the co-director of the new ballet The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (Krabat, or Čarodějův Učeň). It’s based on an old Lusatian legend, the region now a part of Poland and Germany, just beyond the Czech town of Liberec.

The legend can be traced back to the era immediately following the Thirty Years War (1618-1648). Statistics confirm that almost half the boys never came back from the war, Mr Trpišovský says.

Read more about the setting and story. Click on “Re:Source” at the top of this page.

According to some sources, the legend’s main character, Krabat, is an orphan who is given to a vicarage, to be educated in German schools. He revolts and runs away to a mill, falling under the tutelage of dark powers.

Strong Symbols
The story has a strong reference to old archetypes, fairy tales, and stories, explains Petr Zuska, artistic director of the National Theatre. He hosted a public discussion Feb 22 with guests Mr Trpišovský and his co-director Martin Kukučka (the duo known as Škutr), with choreographer Jan Kodet, and composer Zbyněk Matějů.

Opus Osm

From left, P Zuska, J Kodet, L Trpišovský, M Kukučka, Z Matějů, pondering answers.

Mr Zuska says that the ballet also contains several symbols, such as the use of the number 12 (recalling the months of a year, the Apostles, etc.), and a mill wheel (symbol of a circle or cycle); and the tradition of casting a spell on humans to change them into birds. “This can be seen in other stories, too,” he points out, “such as the ballet Swan Lake.”

“In Slavic mythology, a person coming back to life as a bird is a symbol of death, especially after war,” says Mr Kukučka. “We can speculate whether the ravens in this ballet are real men, or only enchanted souls coming back to life again.”

A Ballet with Two Orchestras, but One Isn’t There
The libretto for this version of the story was created by Messrs Kodet, Trpišovský, and Kukučka, and the music “emerged spontaneously” from it, says its composer, Mr Matějů. Intriguingly, the audience’s ears will enjoy a small trick, as part of the music is performed live by a small orchestra, and part is recorded.

The composer explains, “I wanted to have a large orchestra, but I couldn’t because of the opera that is being performed now in the National Theatre. I wrote the music for one large orchestra, and then we chose some parts that could be recorded and combined with the live music.

“The recorded music is in surround-sound, as you know it from the cinema, and the live music is adapted to it, so the final impression is that you can’t distinguish the recorded parts from the live music.”

Dance, for Teens

Know Before You Go
The Municipal Library (Central branch, Mariánské Náměstí) has several books in Czech (one in German) telling the story of Krabat. You can also borrow a CD (spoken word, in Czech) and a DVD of the story.

Parents may wonder if Čarodějův Učeň is appropriate for families, especially for younger children. Choreographer Kodet explains, “Although the story includes darkness and elements of horror, the dance can soften it. We departed from the concept of ‘dance horror,’ and it’s rather more a dance-theatre story, although the dance material was made for an audience with a bit more life experience.

“I would be glad if it appealed mainly to teenagers, but I will also be happy if young children and older people like it,” Mr Kodet says.

But, he concludes, “My biggest wish is that people who see this performance will come to see dance again.”

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (Krabat, Čarodějův Učeň) is scheduled for performances at The National Theatre on Feb 28 and Mar 1, with matinee and evening performances set for Mar 3 and 17, Apr 13, and May 25. — oo

–Mary Matz

Photo Credits: Top, National Theatre Ballet; bottom, Mary Matz

Post a Comment

Your email is never shared.

%d bloggers like this: