Thy Kingdom Come

25.6.2018, 18:30, Jiří Myron Theater

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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), 1937–1942

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. 3 at 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 Come in 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 Come comes the opportunity to witness a document of an outstanding, progressive era of music in the Czech Republic.