Composers, librettists, singers, actors, choirs, dancers, orchestra, conductors, production and technical teams, 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 Hlubina Coal Mine and for the first time also in the Compress Hall in the same area – five performances in three days, that is NODO / New Opera Days Ostrava, August 28-30, 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. Little did we know about what was coming and what would change the whole world for a few months. We feel that even - or especially - in times like these, it is essential to let music (and art in general) speak and not allow it to disappear from our lives.
Since the very beginning of the pandemic, we are in touch with the co-organizer of the NODO festival, National Moravian-Silesian Theatre. Together we decided to postpone the festival in order to make sure that it will be possible to organize such event. Some of the performances had to be cancelled with hope that in the next two years, we will be able again to invite artists from Japan and USA to come to the Czech Republic. However, we managed to add one opera that wasn't at the program before: a Czech premiere of Man in the Space Suit by a Slovak composer Miro Tóth. We sincerely hope that borders with our "neighbours" will be open in August.
The new festival program will present five unique productions: Marek Keprt's opera and a music-theatre piece by Michal Rataj & Katharina Schmitt will receive their world premieres. For the first time in the Czech Republic, a vocal opera by Ana Sokolović and a monodrama by Richard Ayres will take place, not to mention a multi-genre opera by Miro Tóth.
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. (Friday, August 28, 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 (Friday, August 28, Antonín Dvořák Theatre)
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.” (Saturday, August 28, Brick House, the Lower Vítkovice area)
The opera Man in a Spacesuit is a loose adaptation of the story of an American astronaut with Czechoslovakian roots. A multi-genre performance which combines elements of the classical opera theatre with its multimedia branches is described by the author as "extinct" genre of dramatic opera. This opera covers a very present problem of a global catastrophy that hit the Earth and caused its destruction. What can a person find on the long-abandoned planet, after many years spent on the Moon? The composer and librettist is Miroslav Tóth. (Saturday, August 28, Compress Hall, the Lower Vítkovice area)
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. (Sunday, August 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!
executive director, Ostrava Center for New Music