15.05.2017 22:43

Students in the National Theatre? Not only as audience

Autor: Kateřina Bečková | Kurz: English section | Kategorie: Features and other

It is Wednesday night, time of the last performance of the opera Love from Afar (Láska na dálku) in this season. Sitting in a pub, trying to identify the noise coming from the place around the corner. “Would you mind if I turned the radio off? They are really incredible,“ a waiter asks. Most of the customers rest in silence, drinking their beers, just a few of them nod undisturbedly, so she knows she can press the button and we are suddenly surrounded by the strong, fulsome voices.

Václav Trpák studies programmes at the Faculty of the Social Studies and the Faculty of Economics. As the other students have some hobbies like doing sports or reading, Václav has one too. He is a member of the choir of Masaryk University. Twice a week he attends the rehearsals with more than 40 students of Masaryk University from different faculties. There have been big changes this year, especially this semester.

“We were asked to perform in the opera performance in the Janáček Theatre,” Václav says. “The offer came in 2015, but we accepted it after the success in Montreux in Switzerland where we won our category and also the grand prix of the town of Montreux,” he adds. The choir previously took part in The Miracles of Mary (Hry o Marii) in the Janáček Theatre where they gained all the necessary experience.

“We asked the choir because of the time reasons,” the director Jiří Heřman states, but Václav shows the decision in quite different connection. “The choir of the theatre wasn’t able to do such a creation, there was required some choreography, which they couldn’t do.” Besides the movements and the choreography, singing seems to be another problem, this time for the student choir. “We had rehearsals every day in a week, they forced us to be the best, and it was even more difficult as it is a modern piece,” Václav says.

As the author of the opera, a Finnish composer based in Paris Kaija Saariaho, is a contemporary artist, her pieces are both modern and classical. In this particular opera she connected music of the 21st century with medieval and oriental melodies. “The music is impressionistic. It evokes amazing pictures – light, love, hate,” the director Jiří Heřman, who got the option to be the first to rehearse the performance in the Czech Republic, comments.

The world premiere was in Salzburg in 2000. In 2003, the opera got the award Grawemeyer for the music composition. Nowadays, it can be seen on a lot of world’s stages. The Czech premiere was held this spring in Brno in the National Theatre (Janáček Theatre).

Love from Afar consists of many layers full of symbols. The actual intention is to show the beauty of living in dreams. It even offers the thought that when we reach the object of our desire, we die. In general, the opera is about love and death – which is a usual topic for almost all art pieces all around the world. However, the specificity is founded in the medieval presentation of the modern feelings. “It is easy to create an image of the ideal partner in the virtual world,” the conductor Marko Ivanović thinks. A reference to today’s world should be provided by the tablets which are held most of the time by the choir. “The choir also has the scores in the tablets,” Heřman adds.

“The scores were in a terribly huge book and when we sung few beginning notes for the first time, we were scared. How we could ever learn to sing it and memorize it at the same time? Impossible. And it actually sounded awful,” Václav says from the position of the member of the choir. Students had to concentrate just on the singing and neglect their school responsibilities.

They started practising in November just with the piano. Pavel Šnajdr, another conductor of the orchestra in the opera, was strict with them. He wanted the choir to be perfect. Later the choir was taken to the theatre where they learned the choreography. In the final phase, the orchestra joined the choir. “We needed to learn it all over again. It sounded totally different,” Václav complains. However, all the actors, singers, musicians and other staff managed it and successfully performed the piece to the audience. Almost all the critics highly recommend the opera. There were only five repeats, another performance will be held after the reconstruction of the Janáček Theatre, in the season 2018/2019.

Meanwhile, the choir won’t be resting. They will practise the usual melodies which they sing. The main repertoire of the choir is composed by acapella songs. “We spend a lot of time together either on rehearsals and on the camps, we know each other very well, they are like my second family,” concludes Václav his feelings about the choir. Their first performance after the opera, will take place in Litomyšl, where the choir will perform within the festival Smetanova Litomyšl on 6th July. Audience will have the opportunity to hear the most famous choir scenes from many operas. 

Klíčová slova: choir, Masaryk University, Love from Afar


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