NODO 2018

Dreaming of Opera?

Alois Hába, John Cage, Rudolf Komorous, Julius Eastman, Salvatore Sciarrino, Chaya Czernowin and Daniel Lo – seven composers, in order of birth, whose works feature in the program of this years NODO (June 24-28, 2018). Alois Hába would turn 125 this year, while Daniel Lo turns 32; the works of all seven composers, however, have a clear contemporary/avant-garde/experimental bent. As our audience has come to expect from our projects, NODO will feature an international array of musicians: soloists will come all the way from Paris, Warsaw or Vancouver to be accompanied not just by Ostravská Banda, our usual orchestra-in-residence, but also ONO/Ostrava New Orchestra. The creative duos we have invited to shape individual productions mostly come from the Czech Republic: Jiří Nekvasil and David Bazika (The National Moravian-Silesian Theater), Jan Horák and Michal Pěchouček (Studio Hrdinů), Miřenka Čechová and Petr Boháč (Spitfire Company); Sciarrinos opera will be “imported” in co-operation with Warsaw Chamber Opera and the Warsaw Autumn festival. NODO will close with Chaya Czernowins opera, the best new opera of 2017 according to German magazine Opernwelt. The five-day festival will take place at venues ranging from opera houses to industrial spaces and feature seven productions in total. A unique feature of the festival is that all productions are either Czech or world premieres, rehearsed and shaped in Ostrava itself directly before their single performance in the country. The co-operation of Ostrava Center for New Music and The National Moravian-Silesian Theater brings, for the fourth time, the opportunity to see dreams of new opera materialize and to experience the urgency with which musical drama of the 20th and especially the 21st century speaks to the present day.

Bringing a previously unproduced work by Alois Hába to life – why? The composers Christian-social anthroposophic opera Thy Kingdom Come (1937-1942) has never been heard by anyone; now is the time to confront it. Originally, Hábas third opera was to be called The Unemployed and the idea of its libretto was pre-determined by a single short note: “In order to triumph, Christ had to hide himself in sooty proletarians. The churches have laid Him in a grave.” The score calls for a mixed choir and an orchestra and includes vocal solos by 26 different characters. The operas confounding libretto, along with the works sixth-tone (!) character, meant that actually producing Thy Kingdom Come could only remain a fantasy. During the war, Hába kept to himself, “dreaming of opera” and “liberated music”, convinced that the year 1942 will prove decisive. We pin the same hopes on the year 2018. The world premiere will take place on June 25 as our contribution to this years celebrations of the hundredth anniversary of our republic.

The festival will kick off on June 24 with a piece for four vocalists, composed by an Afro-American composer with a fundamentally radical approach to just about everything. Once an outsider, Julius Eastman is now being re-discovered and hailed as genius. He was 49 when he died homeless. Although his Macle is not an opera, NODO will make an exception for this piece, which is under twenty minutes long and was composed in late 1971/early 1972 for the European tour of the S.E.M. Ensemble (when Petr Kotík established S.E.M. in Buffalo, he immediately invited Eastman to join). After this “overture”, the first evening of the festival will continue with a work by Daniel Lo (Hong Kong), who has been commissioned to write an opera after standing out as one of the most noteworthy talents of last years Ostrava Days Institute. The libretto of his chamber opera A Woman Such as Myself is based on a short story by Xi Xi, the best-known female Chinese writer of our century, and follows a girl with a peculiar job as corpse cosmetician.

For NODO, Salvatore Sciarrino is always a safe bet: we keep returning to this wonderful Italian composer to be awed time and time again. This time, the festival will feature a Polish production of his Luci mie traditrici (Oh My Betraying Eyes), directed by Pia Partum (June 26). A deeply modern opera set in a distant past, the work follows the story of the famous renaissance composer Carlo Gesualdo, the prince of Venosa, who punished his wifes infidelity with death.

When NODO made its debut in 2012, it opened with Europera 5 by John Cage. This year, once again, the festival returns to this important figure whose influence spans generations: a performance of Song Books (1970), in which he combined music and stage action, will take place on June 27. Song Books encompasses solo pieces numbered 3 through 92, which are either meant to be sung or call for particular actions. Some are acoustic, some involve further (electronic) treatment. The NODO version will span ninety minutes and feature ten soloists, singers and instrumentalists.

Rudolf Komorous, another NODO staple, has also become a household name in Ostrava, despite the fact that he has been isolated from Czech context for decades (after emigrating in 1969, he found a new home in Canada). In the 1950s and 60s, his interest in Czech avant-garde brought him into a close circle of Prague painters, sculptors and writers influenced by dada and surrealism and known as “Šmidrové”. His new opera The Mute Canary will premiere on June 27. The composer is currently writing it in the city of Victoria, near Vancouver, and allegedly conceives of the work as the final piece of his creative career which now spans over sixty years. Lets hope he is merely teasing us.

The festival will close on June 28 with a concert rendition of Chaya Czernowins Infinite Now. The work premiered at Vlaamse Opera; a run at National Theater Mannheim and a concert version at Philharmonie de Paris followed. NODO, with enthusiastic support from the composer herself, will bring this Paris version to Ostrava. Visitors can look forward to a whole battery of singers, actors, solo players and electronics and to seeing ONO, the festival grand orchestra, under Swiss conductor Titus Engel.

Dear fans of NODO, we are looking forward to seeing you in Ostrava!

Renáta Spisarová
executive director, Ostrava Center for New Music