A modern opera means an opera that speaks to a modern, i.e. contemporary viewer. It uses modern stage means for its expression. It can have thousand forms and it could be written anytime. Although these operas vary from music and visual points of view, they must have one thing in common. Their final testimony needs to make sense.
Two different varieties of a modern opera were shown in the National Theatre Brno at its chamber scene – in the Reduta Theatre. Reduta has functioned as a theatre since the 1650s and it is the oldest theatre building in Central Europe.
One of these varieties is the staging of a mono-opera called The Diary of Anne Frank (1968) by Russian composer Grigory Frid (*1915) that originated as a co-production of the National Theatre Brno and Staatstheater am Gärtnerplatz Mnichov. It premiered in Brno on 27th January 2010 with director Heinz Lukas-Kindermann and David Švec's music arrangements. The excerpts from a famous diary of a young girl who was a victim of Jewish genocide during the Second World War mediate her thoughts and feelings and they narrate stories from the life of Anna and her family who are (un)voluntarily imprisoned at a hiding place that was supposed to protect them from Gestapo. The Brno staging stands on two bases: Daniel Dvořák's stage design and Tereza Merklová's performance in the only role of Anne Frank. The set shows a huge window Anna is imprisoned behind. A window cross typical for village houses can also be a symbol of suffering as well as warning. On the other hand, it can be a ribbon for Anna's birthday present because everything begins with a present – a diary. Soprano singer Tereza Merklová had a very demanding task: to play and sing for one hour alone on the stage. Grigory Frid's music is quite demanding for a listener as well; therefore a singer has to help a viewer to perceive what is going on. Tereza Merklová has the advantage in her girly appearance that supports austere or naive gestures so it is not difficult to believe that she plays Anna who is only fifteen years old. Merklová is able to express all Anna's moods from the first falling in love to adult thoughts about her destiny. It is all supported by masterful certainty in singing which is admirable with such a demanding role. The staging is very emotive and it can touch the soul.
Haydn's Lo Speziale directed by Tomáš Studený takes place in another music period, aesthetic level and mood. The National Theatre in Brno organized a public competition for young directors for the best concept – and Studený was the winner. The premiere took place on 9th April 2010 and young director Ondrej Olos lead the music arrangement. Studený moved the plot of the Italian comedy with Carlo Goldoni's libretto to the present and Griletta became a Czech pharmacy student who goes to her father's colleague for a residency to Italy. She does not understand Italian much so there is sometimes a mess caused by a language barrier. A viewer is not in a better situation than Griletta because the performance does not have Czech subtitles. We can see only newspaper headlines on the subtitle device; pharmacist Sempronio reads these newspapers all the time. But as a viewer finds out later, the headlines often wittily and aptly describe what is happening on the stage. The rotating scene is divided by the huge unit of Ibuprofen, there is a pharmacy on the one side and Sempronio's flat on the other side. The main advantage of the staging is actor's action and interplay. Individual scenes are carefully built, they are not boring and they are funny. One of the best ones is hallucination of Volpino, "the dealer of medicines" who is high and imagines how he goes for a walk with Griletta and how they are assaulted. A slowed-down gun-battle with Volpino's aria is one of the climaxes of the staging. Tomáš Studený and young singers demonstrated how to create a witty and limber opera comedy that does not only copy common procedures and does not stuck with opera clichés. A real modern opera.
Jun 30, 2010 12:00 AM