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The seventh year of the successful international Janáček Brno festival will start in the autumn of 2020. In order to shorten your long waiting time, we have prepared a series of preview events and concerts this year.

As a forerunner of the seventh festival year, the very successful production of Janáček’s Jenůfa is coming back to the opera company repertoire after a two-year break, directed by Martin Glaser, with the music arrangement by Marko Ivanović.

National Theatre Brno is a part of Opera Vision and Jenůfa will be another project contribution from Brno, introducing the work of Janáček to audiences all over the world.

The series of three performances of Jenůfa will start on 2 October 2019 at the Opera Vision live stream.

At the birth of Janáček’s most famous opera, there was a realistic drama by Gabriela Preissová, which the composer himself adjusted to the form of an opera libretto. Although he had to shorten the drama text considerably, he managed to make the effect of the tragic story from rural Moravia even deeper. The extravagant and fickle Števa, fierce yet kind Laca and most of all the merciless Kostelnička whose effort to maintain her status and respect in the village community makes her kill the child of her foster daughter Jenůfa. Janáček has captured the individual characters in a masterful dramatic snapshot that makes us shudder and feel sympathy and understanding at the same time.

Buryjovka: Jitka Zerhauová
Laca Klemeň: Peter Berger j. h., Jaroslav Březina j. h.
Števa Buryja: Tomáš Juhás j. h., Aleš Voráček j. h.
Kostelnička: Veronika Hajnová Fialová, Szilvia Rálik j. h.
Jenůfa: Pavla Vykopalová, Maida Hundeling j. h.
Stárek: Ivan Kusnjer j. h.
Rychtář: Ladislav Mlejnek
Rychtářka: Jana Hrochová
Karolka: Eva Štěrbová j. h.
Pastuchyňa: Jitka Klečanská
Barena: Lenka Schallenberger j. h.
Jana: Martina Mádlová
Aunt: Ivona Špičková

Act 1
The beautiful Jenůfa waits, fearing that her beloved Števa has been taken off to join the army. She is expecting his child and his departure would jeopardise the forthcoming marriage. Števa’s stepbrother Laca also carries a fl ame for Jenůfa and asks her about Števa. The delighted Števa arrives with his friends and musicians at the mill – he had not been taken away and, together with the other recruits, celebrate their fortune with drink. Jenůfa’s strict guardian Kostelnička sees the riotous company with Števa in front of them all she announces that she would only give her consent for a marriage between Jenůfa and Števa after a probation year, during which Števa would not be allowed to drink. Laca convinces Jenůfa that Števa loves her only because of her beauty, and during the argument he cuts her face with a knife.

Act 2
In fear of disgrace Kostelnička hides Jenůfa in her home and claims to everybody that she has left for Vienna. In the meantime Jenůfa has given birth to a son. Whilst Jenůfa is sleeping, Kostelnička humbles herself before Števa and begs him to marry Jenůfa. For Števa, however, Jenůfa’s scarred face has rendered her ugly and besides, he is already engaged to the daughter of the Mayor. Laca arrives and asks Kostelnička to hand over Jenůfa to him. When Kostelnička gives away the secret to him that Jenůfa had given birth to Števa’s child, he is shocked. Seeing his doubts, Kostelnička in desperation lies that the child had died immediately aft er the birth. As soon as Laca leaves, Kostelnička drowns the child in an icy river and convinces Jenůfa that she had slept for several days in a fever and the little boy had died in the meantime. The devastated Jenůfa agrees to a marriage with Laco.

Act 3
During the preparations for the wedding between Jenůfa and Laca the news breaks out that a dead child had been found in the river. Jenůfa recognises her little boy’s bonnet and the suspicion of murder falls upon her. Kostelnička admits her crime in front of the assembled guests. Before the Mayor leads her off to court, Jenůfa forgives her, for she understands that she did it out of love for her. Jenůfa does not believe that Laca would still want her and sends him away. Laca however wants to stay by her side and promises that he would be with her even in the bad times. Jenůfa realises that she has found her true love „and God is pleased with it“.

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The newly restored Janáček’s Ehrbar piano will be introduced at the concert for the first time after it underwent a demanding and substantial restoration in the Vienna workshop of Gert Hecher.

The piano that was radically and not very well repaired in the 1970s thus returned to its original form from 1881 when the young Leoš Janáček got it as a wedding gift from Emilian Schulz, his father-in-law. The instrument represented the best piano builders in the second half of the 19th century were offering and it was a truly generous gift considering its price of 1,000 Guldens, which was Janáček’s yearly income as a professor at the teaching institute. Janáček was faithful to his instrument and although the piano was made in 1876 – therefore its mechanism came from Vienna, the composer never bought a new piano with the modern English mechanism. He composed most of his works with this instrument, including a small set of piano compositions. And during this evening we will listen to the trio of his most significant piano compositions that were created in the course of a short period between 1900 and 1912.

On an Overgrown Path, the piano cycle of poetic compositions, was created gradually in 1900, 1908 and 1911. Janáček wrote five compositions of the first part of the On an Overgrown Path cycle in 1900. They were published as short pieces for harmonium in the Slavic Melodies journal issued by Emil Kolář, a teacher from Ivančice. The cycle extension was prompted by Jan Branberger, who arranged publication with Bedřich Kočí, a Prague based publisher, in 1908. Due to the publishing interest in the existing compositions, Janáček went on composing more parts so that the cycle was extended to ten pieces that were given poetic names by the composer. However, the publication was cancelled and rejected by another publisher, Mojmír Urbánek, and eventually the whole cycle was published by Antonín Píša in 1911.
The next composition of the evening is 1. X. 1905 (From the Street on 1 October 1905). This was a spontaneous work written as a reaction to the tragedy that happened during demonstrations for a Czech university in Brno. After years of efforts to establish Czech university education in Brno, the government decided that the people of Brno themselves should make a decision on the Czech university. However, since Brno was mostly German, the German city representatives were worried about an increased influence of Czechs and convened the so-called Volkstag for 1 October 1905, with German associations and organizations from the surrounding areas called to Brno to demonstrate their opposition to the establishment of a Czech university in Brno. The Czech citizens of Brno called a big anti-German demonstration in response. Both groups were fighting in the streets, troopers and later the army were called, and František Pavlík, a young Czech worker, was killed during one of the interventions at the Beseda House. Under the impression of this tragic event, Janáček wrote From the Street on 1 October 1905, originally a three-movement composition. However, just before the Brno premiere on 27 January 1906 he burned the last movement and after another performance in Prague, he threw the whole autography in Vltava. Luckily, the pianist Ludmila Tučková, the first composition performer, kept the original copy that she only brought forward in 1924. Thanks to this the piano composition forgotten for many years by the composer and the people around him was preserved.
Janáček finished the In the Mists piano cycle in April 1912. Shortly before, in 1910, he moved to a new house in the garden of an organ school with his wife and the housekeeper and there, hiding from the world, with his confidence undermined and in melancholic humour, he composed his last extensive work for solo piano. He was working on it shortly after having heard the piano compositions of the French composer Claude Debussy, therefore it is no coincidence that his dreamy, melancholic work contains elements of musical impressionism. In the Mists won the first prize in the composer’s competition organized by the Art Friends Club that was to publish the winning work. However, Janáček left the opportunity for composition print publication to Jaroslav Kvapil, a student of his who came second in the competition. The cycle In the Mists was first performed by Marie Dvořáková in Kroměříž on 7 December 1913.

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Janáček in relation to the theatre building bearing his name.

In autumn 2019, the preparations for the seventh year of the Janáček Festival will be peaking; however, before it is introduced the Janáček Opera of the National Theatre Brno company has arranged an exclusive opportunity to get to know the work of Janáček in relation to the theatre building bearing his name. On 27 November 2019 there will be an Open House giving the visitors an opportunity to see our theatre through new eyes, from the foyer to the most secret backstage corners with musical and theatre surprises prepared by the Opera members.

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„Now I started writing something nice. Our life will be in it. I will call it “Love Letters”. I think it will sound lovely.“

The String Quartet No 2 for Two Violins, Viola, and Cello – “Intimate Letters” – was composed in January and February 1928, in the last year of the life of Leoš Janáček (1854-1928), shortly before the creation of Bartók’s String Quartet No. 4. The composition celebrates the composer’s muse and friend Kamila Stösslová. In one of the many letters he wrote about the beginning of his work on the composition: “Now I started writing something nice. Our life will be in it. I will call it “Love Letters”. I think it will sound lovely. We have had enough nice events! They will be fires in my soul that will burn the most beautiful melodies. … A special instrument will hold the whole. It is called viola d´amour – the viola of love.”

Janáček really wrote the viola part of the quartet for this ancient instrument that he had used before, for example in the score of Destiny or Katya Kabanova. However, he probably stopped insisting on viola d´amour during practice for the first performance in May 1928. Janáček also later changed the original title “Love Letters” to “Intimate Letters”. Janáček originally intended to entrust the Czech Quartet with the premiere of his composition, same as with the String Quartet No. 1 but the Czech Quartet was unable to start rehearsing until the summer holidays. However, Janáček was impatient, so the Brno Moravian Quartet started rehearsing in May. The composer’s idea was to introduce the work for the first time in Písek in South Bohemia where Mrs Kamila and her family lived. The plans were foiled by Janáček’s unexpected death in August 1928. The work was first performed for specialists and referents by the Moravian Quartet on 7 September 1928 in the Brno Beseda House hall. It was introduced to the public in the Brno Exhibition Theatre as a part of the Current Czechoslovak Culture Exhibition on 11 September 1928. In one of his letters to Mrs Kamila Janáček wrote: “You know, sometimes a feeling itself is so strong and powerful that notes hide from it, run away. Great love – weak composition. And I want: Great love – famous composition!” This prophecy of Janáček was definitely fulfilled.

Béla Bartók (1881-1945), a Hungarian composer, pianist and folklorist is one of the leading figures of 1920s avantgarde and a classic of music of the 20th century. He started his musical education in Bratislava, later he studied piano and composition at the Music Academy in Budapest. From an early age he studied folk music intensively, initially he concentrated mostly on Hungarian, later also on Romanian, Bulgarian, Slovak and other music, which was later a significant impulse for the development and essence of his own work. As a virtuoso pianist he performed frequently in the European metropolises as well as in America, where he emigrated in 1940 under the pressure of the threatening development in Europe.
Janáček first came across the name of Bartók, younger by a generation, during the study of Schönberg’s Harmonielehre, where Schönberg assigns Bartók to his composer circle. In 1923 in Prague Janáček heard the performance of Bartók’s String Quartet No. 1 at a concert of the Contemporary Music Association and his music gripped him. As the chairman of the Brno based Moravian Composers’ Club, he later initiated Bartók’s piano recital as a part of the club concerts. Janáček sent the invitation to concert to Bartók on 16 January 1925 himself. Bartók’s recital took place in Reduta in Brno on 2 March 1925 and the composer presented a number of his own compositions, combined with those of his fellow countryman and contemporary Zoltán Kodály. Janáček later met Bartók again at a concert in Prague on 16 October 1927, where Bartók’s first piano concert was played. After the performance, the discussion of the two composers was allegedly so vivid that other participants in the conversation were completely overshadowed by the “fireworks of the two extraordinary personalities”. Janáček was probably familiar with Bartók’s extensive folklorist and collector’s activities that he himself used to engage in strongly.
Bartók composed his String Quartet No. 4 in the year of Janáček’s death, namely from July to September 1928 in Budapest. We do not know much about the motivation for the creation of this work, however, it is very close to the String Quartet No. 3 and again it is a harmonic response to Lyric Suite by Alban Berg. In terms of form, it preconceive Quartet No. 5, which deals with the sonata form by symmetrical application of five movements. He gave the composition to Pro Arte Quartet, yet it was first performed in London on 22 February 1929 and then in Budapest on 20 March 1929 by the Waldbauer-Kerpely Quartet.

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