Fourteen takes on the music theatre festival Opera

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The festival of music theatre OPERA returns to the beginning of the calendar year after the last edition that took place in autumn. The opera companies from the Czech Republic and Slovakia will present their best productions from January 4 to March 2, 2020, in Prague. 

Productions from the traditional opera houses will be accompanied by those which were created independently from the conventional opera network. Most performances will take place on the National Theatre stages, yet the festival will also branch out in other theatre and non-theatre spaces. The music theatre festival Opera was founded in 1993 with the goal to offer the companies and audiences a comparison and remind them that opera theatre deserves attention and support, and to show that outstanding theatre productions are done in both big centers and small regional theatres. The showcase has been based on productions of opera companies from Czech, Moravian, and Silesian theatres founded by the state or municipalities. It is their festival in the first place; thus the decision what production they present depends solely on the theatre management: it is up to them to boast with what is typical for them and what they consider to be most important from their recent production from dramaturgic and production point of view. The year 2015 saw the participation of opera companies from Slovakia for the first time. The festival reminds the viewers of the fact that opera companies from the Czech Republic and Slovakia still belong to one joint theatre context even after the dissolution of Czechoslovakia, and there are significant relations between Czech and Slovak theatre. The proofs may be both Slovak productions that will be staged at the 14th edition of the festival: Falstaff from Košice, directed by Jiří Menzel (with Jiří Přibyl in the leading role) and La Gioconda from Banská Bystrica, directed by Dominik Beneš. And the opposite point of view: Czech productions feature many Slovak performers.

The festival also offers projects which were created independently from the traditional opera network. The conventional participants are Ensemble Opera Diversa (with the works by Pavel Drábek – Ondřej Kyas in the past years and Olga Sommerová – Lenka Nota with a work inspired by Božena Němcová’s life this year), Ensemble Damian (after last year’s successful performance of the Baroque opera La Semele, the company will now offer a reconstruction inspired by Monteverdi’s opera L´Arianna), and Opera Povera (with a mono-opera for mezzo-soprano and saxophone). Opera Studio Praha will perform with their project Časoplet, which was created on the occasion of 100 years of Czechoslovakia (the last year’s performance was Anne, to View the Sky without Fear), with two new participating companies focused on site-specific projects: Hausopera and Run OpeRun. The 14th edition of the festival includes 17 productions: opera classic, less popular pieces, and new performances; it offers opera works from Mozart to nowadays – new works will be provided by alternative companies (Ensemble Opera Diversa, Hausopera, Opera Studio Praha), and Jan Jirásek composed the opera Broučci for the J. K. Tyl Theatre in Pilsen. The audience will have the opportunity to see half-forgotten works, such as two one-act operas by the composer and piano virtuoso Sergei Rachmaninov, which were staged by the team Martin Doubravský – Linda Keprtová (the past editions staged productions of Foerster’s Eva and Massenet’s Thaïs, acknowledged by both professionals and non-professionals). The programme also presents two operas by Janáček, and a substantially higher number of German and Italian classic operas than in the past years: Ludwig van Beethoven, Carl Maria von Weber, Giuseppe Verdi, Giacomo Puccini. The offer is manifold as far as dramaturgy is concerned: the festival will offer various points of view on how to stage an opera on a wide range from conservative solutions to concepts that significantly oppose the tradition. Even in the “brick-and-mortar” theatres, these are productions of directors of younger and middle-age generations – the emerging ones or those already acknowledged (productions by Jiří Heřman or Tomáš Ondřej Pilař). Outstanding festival performances will be awarded Libuškas, the festival’s honorable awards. Professionals (critics’ jury) and audiences (in the survey) will choose the best production of the festival and appreciate outstanding singing and acting performances. The director of the festival will hand one award as well.