New Opera Days Ostrava / NODO 2018

June 24, 2018
18:30 | Jiří Myron Theater
Alois Hába: THY KINGDOM COME (1937-1942) / world premiere

Sixth-tone opera in three acts and seven tableaux for mixed choir and orchestra, including vocal solos by 26 different characters, with a subtitle The Unemployed (op. 50)

Music: Alois Hába
Libretto: Alois Hába, edited by Ferdinand Pujman

Conductor: Bruno Ferrandis
Director: Jiří Nekvasil
Stage design: David Bazika
Costumes: Marta Roszkopfová

Michaela Šrůmová, soprano (Plain-spoken girl)
Kamila Mazalová, mezzo-soprano (Tania)
Marek Olbrzymek, tenor (Intellectual, Author, Lucifer)
Juraj Nociár, tenor (1st confidant)
Josef Moravec, tenor (Clerk, Secretary)
Vojtěch Šembera, baritone (Lay Preacher, Christ)
Josef Škarka, baritone (2nd confidant, Ariman)
David Nykl, bass (Director)
Canticum OstravaJurij Galatenko (choirmaster)
Ostravská banda
ONO / Ostrava New Orchestra

World premiere, 100 min

In Czech language with English subtitles

Act 1
Tea break at a factory. The workers are discussing their situation, complaining that the pressure to be efficient is turning them into mindless machines. – In the director’s office, the director and his secretary are debating the workers’ morale. Workers’ representatives arrive, only to be informed that declining demand necessitates decreased production and consequent layoffs. The workers object that they have a right to work. The director warns them that, in case of revolt, he will resort to violence.

Act 2
Allegorical scene: a dialogue between Christ, Ariman and Lucifer. Ariman and Lucifer are begging Christ to relieve them of their roles. Christ answers that the right time is yet to come. First, men need to discover their true nature, liberate themselves and choose the Christian path, eliminating the need for Lucifer and Ariman. –An intellectual meets workers and unemployed at the outskirts of town. It would be beneficial for everyone to unite. An old folk scholar reminds the congregation of the love of Christ. – In front of a flophouse, workers are commenting on window displays overflowing with goods. A policeman disperses them.

Act 3
The factory director, his secretary and a workers’ representative debate how to prevent a revolt. The representative asks for the workers to be provided with food and somewhere to stay and to be granted freedom of assembly. Material benefits will be enough to pacify them. – The workers meet in the factory’s courtyard, demanding work and wages. No revolt breaks out, however. The Author comes asking what destiny he should choose for his characters, suggesting various possibilities. The workers reject them all. The folk scholar quotes the Bible. The choir rejoices in a vision of Christ and His kingdom.

The compositional career of Alois Hába (1893–1973) began in Vienna, where he resided beginning in 1914. He studied composition with the radical modernist Franz Schreker, whom he followed from Vienna to Berlin in the late 1920’s. While in Vienna, Hába become part of a circle of followers of Arnold Schönberg, whose concerts he regularly attended. He also met and struck up a lifelongfriendship with Hanns Eisler, who studied under Schoenberg in Vienna. Hába and Eisler shared interests in atonal and dodecaphonic principles in music, as well as in leftist politics. Hába joined the communist party during this time. Hába’s philosophical ties and world views extended beyond his radical leftist beliefs. He was also closely associated with Rudolf Steiner’s Anthroposophical movement, and was – to an extent – a devout Christian.

Hába was one of the first microtonal composers and theorists. In 1922, he published Harmonic Essentials of the Quarter-tone System (Harmonické základy čtvrttónové soustavy), an important treaty on microtonality (in Czech, published by Hudební matice). The next year, Hába met Ferrucio Busoni, who introduced Hába to a microtonal sixth-tone system,and encouraged him to continue to focus on microtonality. Hába gained worldwide recognition after a performance of his quarter-tone String Quartet No. 3at the festival in Donaueschingen in 1923. By 1931, after theMunich premiere of his quarter-tone opera Mother(Matka), Hába was one of the best-known avant-garde composers of his generation. In the early 1930’s, as the Nazi’s came to power in Germany, Hába moved from Berlin back to Prague. When Josef Suk became the director of the Prague Conservatory in 1933, Hába was made a full professor and established the Department of Quarter-tone and Sixth-tone Music there.

With the help of the Czechoslovakian government, Hába designed and commissioned microtonalpianos and wind instruments. During the 1920’s and 1930’s, the German piano firm August Förster manufactured three microtonal pianos and a sixth-tone harmonium (patterned after a design by Busoni) for Hába. 

The sixth-tone harmonium features prominently in Hába’s third opera Thy Kingdom Come(Přijď království tvé) and the original instrument commissioned by Hába will be heard at the premiere performance of the opera at NODO 2018.Thy Kingdom Comeis composed in the sixth-tone system, and its libretto was co-created by Hába and Ferdinand Pujman, a major Czech literary and theater personality. Hába began composing Thy Kingdom Comein 1939, and the score was completed in 1942.  Staging the opera was out of the question at that time because of the war, and although Hába considered this opera to be the pinnacle of his artistic career, it was never produced during his lifetime. With the revival of Alois Hába’s Thy Kingdom Comecomes the opportunity to witness a document of an outstanding, progressive era of music in the Czech Republic.

June 26, 2018
19:00 | Antonín Dvořák Theatre
Salvatore Sciarrino: LUCI MIE TRADITRICI (1998) / czech premiere

Two-act opera (Oh My Betraying Eyes)

Music and libretto: Salvatore Sciarrino

Conductor: Lilianna Krych
Director: Pia Partum
Stage design: Magdalena Maciejewska
Video: Marek Zamojski
Choreography: Agnieszka Dmochowska–Sławiec

Anna Radziejewska, soprano (Countess Malaspina)
Jan Jakub Monowid, countertenor (The Guest, The Voice Behind the Scene)
Andrzej Lenart, baritone (The Servant)
Artur Janda, baritone / bass (Count Malaspina)

Ostravská banda

Czech premiere, 75 min

In Italian language with Czech and English subtitles

Luci mie traditrici is based on the famous and sad story of one of the first renaissance composers Carlo Gesualdo, the Prince of Venosa. Betrayed by his first wife, he killed her and her lover. Sciarrino refers to this story ambiguously, but the general plot is similar. The heroes sing sotto voce, suppressing their feelings. Voices die in the silence... are they still singing? Or rather speaking? Between scenes, the composer quotes a renaissance elegy about love and beauty. This is an unspoken commentary. The meanings, the atmosphere, and dramatic developments are underlined by the music more suggestively than by words. It is the music that makes the tragedy of conflicting passions felt on a sensual level. Although this modern opera is steeped in the past, it is powerful and resonant today.

Pia Partum

Salvatore Sciarrino (1947) started composing when he was twelve as a self-taught person and held his first public concert in 1962. He found his original musical language — based on an enriched palette of instrumental sounds, extreme dynamic changes, mostly very soft sounds at the edge of silence with suggestive repetitions of several simple characteristic elements — very early. He has written many compositions, and for many years he has been among the biggest “stars” of contemporary music. In addition to authoring most of his operas’ librettos, he has written a rich production of articles, essays, and texts of various genres, some of which have been chosen and collected in Carte da suono (2001). Particularly important is his interdisciplinary book about musical form, Le figure della musicaDa Beethoven a oggi (1998). Ostrava Days and NODO / New Opera Days Ostrava have presented numerous compositions by Sciarrino, including his operas Infinito nero and La porta della legge.

June 27, 2018
18:30 | Hlubina Coal Mine
Daniel Lo: A WOMAN SUCH AS MYSELF (2017-2018) / world premiere

Chamber one-act opera

Music: Daniel Lo
Libretto: Suyin Mak, based on a short story by Xi Xi (real name Zhang Yan, *1938)

Conductor: Petr Kotík
Director, stage design: Miřenka ČechováPetr Boháč
Video: Barbora Johansson Pivoňková
Assistant Director: Ran Jiao
Lighting Design: Karel Šimek
Video Production: Nina Bumbálková

Thanks to: Elpida

Kamala Sankaram, soprano (Woman)
Vojtěch Šembera, baritone (Man)
Eliška Zajícová, mezzosoprano (Aunt)
Ostravská banda

World premiere, 60 min

In English language with Czech subtitles

A Woman Such as Myself is a chamber opera based on the short story A Girl Like Me written by Xixi, one of the best-known contemporary Chinese writers in the 21st century. The story touches on such soul-searching themes as the vulnerability of love; courage and cowardice; the meaning of work; destiny and choice. These are themes that transcend both time and culture.  The protagonist in the story A Girl Like Me is a make-up lady working in a funeral parlour. The story unfolds in a kind of extended monologue. It opens with the protagonist sitting in a café, waiting for her boyfriend called Summer. As she waits, she recalls how she has learnt the craft from her aunt, how her friends have left her out of fear because of her occupation, and how she has come to build a relationship with Summer who mistook her as a make-up lady for brides. The story ends just as Summer steps into the café with a large bouquet. She has promised to take him to her workplace that day.
The story is unfolded in a succession of the protagonist’s interior monologue, held loosely together by associative links. A free-flowing structure is adopted by the opera, with a view to reflecting the special character of this narrative mode.

Daniel Ting-cheung Lo (1986) completed a PhD in Composition at the University of York, UK, in 2017 under the supervision of Professor William Brooks, supported by the Hong Kong Jockey Club Music and Dance Fund. Previously, he studied composition with Dr Hing-yan Chan at the University of Hong Kong where he graduated with first class honours in 2009 and earned an MPhil (Music Composition) in 2012. His latest orchestral work, Efflorescence – Quasi-Concerto for Orchestra, was premiered by the Hong Kong Sinfonietta in their 2016-17 season opening concert. As a student-resident, he has already participated on Ostrava Days Institute three times; last year, the festival featured the world premiere of his YouHuang (II).

June 27, 2018
20:30 | Hlubina Coal Mine
Julius Eastman: MACLE (1971-1972) / czech premiere

Composition for voices

Music: Julius Eastman

S.E.M. Ensemble

Czech premiere, 17 min

Julius Eastman composed Macle in the last months of 1971 for the S.E.M. Ensemble’s first European tour in January and February of 1972. The piece was written for the four original members of the Ensemble: Jan Williams, Roberto Laneri, Petr Kotik and Eastman himself. Although all of us, except for Julius, were instrumentalists, Macle is an entirely vocal composition and calls for a performance in which everyone sings, talks, screams, whispers etc. The three of us had never performed as vocalists, but I do not recall a single problem in rehearsing and performing the piece. Among some memorable performances of Macle, I distinctly remember one at the Akademie der Kunste in Berlin, running through the large auditorium to the amazement of the audience. I am grateful to Jeffrey Gavett and Chris McIntyre who resurrected this piece out of obscurity, and enabled me to restore the work, as close as I can remember, to its original shape.

Petr Kotik, January 22, 2018

Even in the relatively liberal environment of the NYC music scene, composer, pianist and singer Julius Eastman (1940-1990) cut a rebellious, radical figure: an Afro-American in generally white circles, and an openly gay man at that… His take on Song Books by John Cage managed to provoke unprecedented anger in the singularly level-headed composer. After the performance, Cage allegedly banged the piano with his fist, punctuating his protestations that „the freedom in my music does not mean the freedom to be irresponsible”.
Eastman’s own compositions drew on the minimalism of Terry Riley, La Monte Young or Steve Reich, but also on the music of Morton Feldman or Petr Kotík. At the same time, he kept absorbing further impulses from popular music or jazz, which he actively played.
Eastman seemed to be dogged by bad luck. Despite an impressive number of concerts, he never saw his music released on records during his lifetime. Since 1983, a combination of factors including drugs and alcohol increasingly aggravated his situation, ultimately driving the once-successful musician to homelessness. He broke off contact with most of his music colleagues; when he died in 1990, none of them knew, and it took eight months for a newspaper obituary to be published. The majority of Eastman’s scores and recordings also disappeared during the last years of his life and only began to be re-discovered and published in the new millennium.

Matěj Kratochvíl

June 28, 2018
18:30 | Antonín Dvořák Theatre
Rudolf Komorous: THE MUTE CANARY (2017-2018) / world premiere

Chamber one-act opera

Music: Rudolf Komorous
Libretto: Georges Ribemont-Dessaignes, translated by Christopher Butterfield

Conductor: Owen Underhill
Directors: Jan HorákMichal Pěchouček
Stage design: Michal Pěchouček
Costumes: Tereza Hrzánová

Anne Grimm, soprano (Barate)
Alexander Dobson, baritone (Riquet)
Daniel Cabena, countertenor (Ochre)

Ostravská banda

World premiere, 45 min

In English language with Czech subtitles

In co-production with Turning Point Ensemble

I have always admired French modernity, especially the Dadaists and Surrealists. I am fascinated by their general attitude toward art and the world, and their search for and definition of new values ​​through creative experiments, greatly diverging from the often-limiting freedoms of science. For me, one of the most important Dadaists was Georges Ribemont-Dessaignes. When I was in Prague, I received the translation of one of his plays, which was staged at the Liberated Theater. It fascinated me. After my arrival in Canada, I asked my friend and then-pupil Christopher Butterfield if he would translate the play into English for me so I could stage it. He was excited about this French author and eventually translated and released three of his plays in the United States. I did not know the play The Mute Canary, which was part of that release, but I immediately realized that it fits into my concept of chamber opera: there are few characters and its not too long. Renáta Spisarová supported me in my determination to write an opera on this motif. She immediately showed interest in putting on the opera in Ostrava. Despite all of my health complications, I am doing everything I can to get the job done as soon as possible.

Rudolf Komorous, January 23, 2018

Rudolf Komorous (1931) is a Czech composer living in Canada since 1969. He studied bassoon with Karel Pivoňka at the Prague Conservatoire and composition with Pavel Bořkovec at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague. In the 50s and 60s, his interest in the Czech avant-garde brought him among Šmidrové, a small circle of painters, sculptors, and writers influenced by dada and surrealism. In 1961, he co-founded Musica viva pragensis and played bassoon in the ensemble until 1968. He taught bassoon and chamber music techniques at Beijings Central Conservatory of Music (1959–1961) and Macalester College in Saint Paul, Minnesota (1970–1971), went on to teach at the University of Victoria, British Columbia (1971–1989), and was the director of School for the Contemporary Arts at Simon Fraser University, British Columbia, from 1989 to 1994. His oeuvre comprises many orchestral works (including 5 symphonies) as well as compositions for solo instruments, vocalists, and chamber ensembles. Outside of Ostrava Days, organized by Ostrava Center for New Music, Komorous music is only sporadically performed in the Czech Republic.

June 28, 2018
20:30 | Antonín Dvořák Theatre
John Cage: SONG BOOKS (1970) / czech premiere

Set of open works; version for 10 voices and electronics

Music: John Cage 
Texts: Henry David Thoreau, Norman O. Brown, Erik Satie, Marcel Duchamp, Buckminster Fuller, Merce Cunningham, Marshall McLuhan, among others

Directors: Jiří Nekvasil a David Bazika

S.E.M. Ensemble
Ostravská banda

Czech premiere, 90 min

In English language

Song Books (1970) is a voluminous collection of solo compositions following in the vein of two earlier vocal solos by Cage. The first book includes solos 3 to 58, the second book goes from 59 to 92 and the third one contains performance instructions. The solos fall into four categories: 1) for voice, 2) for voice and electronics, 3) theatrical action, 4) actions with electronics. Any subset of the individual solos may be chosen and their performance may overlap without restriction. Some are nothing more than short tunes or pieces of action, but e.g. Solo for Voice 58 (18 microtonal ragas) takes up whole evening and some solos permit the use of instruments The electronic aspect is not determined. Despite great freedom offered by the multifarious types of notation and instructions used, the solos are very tricky to perform, since they require a passionate, but also highly restrained, selfless approach. Song Books may be considered a work of musical surrealism, but one devoid of any psychoanalytical aspects.

The influence of American composer John Cage (1912–1992) has not been limited to music: his stimuli have found broad appeal across diverse areas of art (dance, theater, poetry, visual art or film). His work is notable for its radical split with European musical tradition and the conception of art prevalent in his era. Around 1950, after his initial experimental search for new sounds, he came to a distinctive conception of music, striving to bridge the abyss between art and life. He put emphasis on the role of attention in the perception of art, pointing out that silence, too, is always filled with sounds (which normally remain unnoticed). Another stimulus had been provided by D.T. Suzuki’s lectures on Zen Buddhism, mainly the teaching on plurality of centers (“every being is the center of the Universe”), which became the basis of Cage’s new conception of musical time and coordination (from that point in Cage’s work on, each musician is treated as an independent individuality).

Jaroslav Šťastný




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