NODO 2020

A DESIRE NAMED OPERA 

Composers, librettists, singers, actors, choirs, dancers, orchestra, conductors, production and technical teams from the whole world, light and space. All that and a series of zeros in the budget of the opera festival. This year already for the fifth time at the following venues in Ostrava: Antonín Dvořák Theatre, Jiří Myron Theatre, Brick House of Mine Hlubina and for the first time at Pavilon G located of the Černá louka Exhibition Grounds – eight performances in five days, that is NODO / New Opera Days Ostrava, June 26-30, 2020.

The only opera festival in the Czech Republic which is continuously devoted to the contemporary genre of opera from its classical to experimental form grew out of the will of Jiří Nekvasil, the director of the National Moravian-Silesian Theatre, to start a partnership between the major theatre institution and a small association Ostrava Center for New Music, represented by its artistic director Petr Kotík. The first NODO festival was launched 8 years ago with the performance of Europera by John Cage and since then, more than 20 productions were presented in Ostrava in Czech or world premieres. NODO still thrives on this exclusive uniqueness today. But also on the strong will, energy, ideas, professional effort of all people involved and their as well as the audience’s desire. Desire for contemporary opera, opera, which unveils the strong themes of our hardships as well as joys by means of original music language.

Ostravská banda will present itself again as the opera orchestra and Canticum Ostrava under the guidance of Jurij Galatenko will become the opera choir. The soloists and production teams will converge on Ostrava from Japan, USA and Europe. Apart from composers from Italy, Canada, USA and the UK, two representatives of the Czech music scene will present their chamber music-theatre works for the first time: Michal Rataj and Marek Keprt. All productions will be developed right on the spot in Ostrava in the course of June and in terms of diversity of the program, this year’s NODO is a clear winner. 

The Polish production team led by director Pia Partum will again bedazzle Ostrava with the opera of one of the greatest stars of the music world today, Salvatore Sciarrino, and his Superflumina (2010) will offer a tormenting probe into the abyss of human loneliness. The setting of Sciarrino’s musical theatre, which is based on the lyrical novel of Elizabeth Smart, is a large train station. A site of collective flux and roaming, of crowds and loneliness at the same time. A site of amplified noise and the gathering place for homeless people. The protagonist is a woman, most likely homeless, who got lost and suffered through a painful night: She speaks in riddles, no one wants to hear her out and no one understands her. Sciarrino’s muse, mezzosoprano Anna Radziejewska, who excelled two years ago at NODO in Sciarrino’s Luci mie traditrici, will take up the major role. As the most difficult opera of this year’s festival, Superflumina will be performed two times (on Friday 26 and Saturday June 27 at Pavilon G of the Černá Louka Exhibition Grounds).

A music-theatre performance Aphasia Studies (2020) for mezzosoprano, violoncello, female vocal quartet, live electronics and an actress is the work of Michal Rataj and Katharina Schmitt. In it, they explore the spatial and performative aspects of contemporary music theatre. They are also concerned with the study of voice as a fundamental element of identity. In his book Children’s Speech and Aphasia Austrian linguist and founder of logopaedics, Emil Fröschels, describes the relationship between the development of linguistic skills among children, speech impediments and psychology. Besides other topics, he focuses mainly on the research of speech loss or aphasia. Inspired by Fröschels’ book, librettist and director Katharina Schmitt and composer Michal Rataj explore language, speech and voice. While doing so, the question “Who speaks?” is just as important for them as the question “Who cannot speak?,” meaning “Who cannot be heard.” (Sunday, June 28, Brick House, the Lower Vítkovice area)

Losses, rebirths and transcendence are the focus of the new piece The Long Arc of Time (2020) of composer from New York and professor at Columbia University Miya Masaoka. In her new experimental opera, which is based on the rhythms of Buddhist chants, she collaborates with leading Japanese musicians, singers and dancers. The American and Japanese teams will unite in Ostrava, where a great Japanese Star, Noh actor, singer and dancer Kazuma Ymanaka, among others, will make an appearance. (Sunday, 28 June, Brick House, the Lower Vítkovice area)

Composer and pianist Marek Keprt hailing from Olomouc wrote his opera HIBIKI, HIBIKI, vzhmoť! (2019-20) specifically for this year’s NODO festival and it will be his opera debut. Judging merely from the titles of his compositions, it becomes clear that his pieces revolve around ambiguity, poetic and ambiguous anagrams and reach almost all the way to tongue-twisters. According to the composer, the “plot” will feature three main plotlines: 1. Degustation sounds (smacking of lips, smelling, swallowing etc.), 2. Text commenting on the musical or gesticulative elements (contrary to classical opera) 3. Multimedia-mosaic rendering of proverbs and commands (for example “buy a pig in a poke”). That’s all we can give away. The production team from Prague will be led by Petr Odo Macháček. (Monday, June 29, Antonín Dvořák Theatre)

Ana Sokolović is a Serbian composer who lives and teaches in Montreal. Her one-act opera Wedding (in Serbian Svadba, 2011) for six female voices, which has enjoyed tremendous success at festivals around the world, is somewhat of a confrontation with Igor Stravinski’s Les Noces. Through this piece, Sokolović returns home to a Serbian village and revives the traditions of wedding preparations: Milica is getting married tomorrow and she’s preparing for the wedding with her five girlfriends. All of them sing, dance, laugh and cry, hoping that the mundane life will soon turn into something amazingly exceptional. The opera will be performed in Serbian with Czech subtitles by Ostrava singers headed by Markéra Schaffartzik under Jurij Galatenko’s musical guidance, Jiří Nekvasil in tandem with David Bazika will be entrusted with direction and scenography (Monday, June 29, Antonín Dvořák Theatre)

The antipole of the echoes of the Balkans traditions will be represented by rough expressivity of musician, writer, activitst Camae Ayewy from Philadelphia, who is notorious as a perfomer bearing the moniker Moor Mother. Her truth and rage usually turn to a categorical and uncompromising protest against injustice. A totally new figure, a female Afro-American artist who has not yet appeared in Ostrava. We discovered her unyielding, raw and up-to-date form of expression featuring texts about the intolerance of the system and historical trauma at the Big Ears Festival in Knoxville, where she performed next to Roscoe Mitchell with the legendary Art Ensemble of Chicago. Supporting her literary-music performance rooted in punk rock and rap as well as radical electronic noise sets will be her colleague from the Black Quantum Futurism ensemble. (Tuesday, June 30, Jiří Myron Theatre)

NODO 2020 will be concluded by a successful, playful piece The Garden teeming with humor and overstatement in all circumstances. It was inspired by Dante’s Divine Comedy and was commissioned from British composer Richard Ayres, who lives and works in the Netherlands, by the Asko/Schönberg ensemble and London Sinfonietta. His latest work suitable for theatrical rendering is similar in character to his opera No. 42 (In the Alps), which was presented at NODO 2016 to wide public acclaim. The Garden is a darkly comic, cyclical tale of an unsatisfied man seeking meaning in his life. From his garden, he wants to reach the core of the world to find the underworld, and then he searches for the way to heaven in order to find himself again in his garden. “Are we as an audience watching the reality, or observing a dream and fantasy world? Is the man in fact awake, asleep or even dead? This I want to keep ambiguous,” says Richard Ayres. We are preparing the world premiere of the composition in the staging of Jiří Nekvasil and David Bazika. (Tuesday, June 30, Jiří Myron Theatre).

The composer and in fact the artist in general needs the support of his or her surroundings as well as insightful, critical commentary from those who watch his or her work being performed. In the collaborative projects between the Ostrava Center for New Music and the National Moravian-Silesian Theatre, we are constantly trying to build such an environment. It is precisely what we need to create the prerequisites for the emergence of an extraordinary work of art. We are hopeful that you will become a part of this environment at NODO 2020.

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

Renáta Spisarová
executive director, Ostrava Center for New Music

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