Leoš Janáček, world-renown composer and a native of nearby village called Hukvaldy, was born in 1854 – precisely 160 years ago. As we commemorate this anniversary, we would like to present you an insight into Janáček´s Ostrava and the staging of his plays in the National Moravian-Silesian Theatre.



PERIOD 1949–1966

PERIOD 1966–1990

PERIOD 1990 – nowadays

Janáček was born in Hukvaldy and his professional life was closely connected with Brno. Janáček influenced also Ostrava´s cultural and artistic life through his educational, theoretical or compositional activities. We can also find a connection in terms of family ties - through the life story of his grandfather, Jiří Janáček.
Leoš Janáček visited Moravian Ostrava and its theatre several times. There are records of his 1906 visit when guesting the National Theatre of Brno staged Janáček´s Její pastorkyňa (Jenufa) for the first time in Ostrava in the presence of the author in the National House (today´s Jiří Myron Theatre). The opera was conducted by Cyril Metoděj Hrazdira, a graduate of Janáček´s organ school in Brno who influenced greatly Ostrava´s musical progress.
We also know that Leoš Janáček was present at the premiere of his opera called Káťa Kabanová (Katya Kabanova) in Ostrava on January 8, 1924. According to Mirko Hanák, a student of Janáček who was a conductor in ostravian theatre in 1922–1958, “After the performance, a dinner party was held in honour of the present composer. Speeches were given, people toasted Janáček´s mastery and his future creative work. Janáček finished with the following words: So now I have the fox (The Cunning Little Vixen). But I won´t let it in Ostrava yet, since it would not run freely here. And he meant our then not so big orchestra by that.”
As Mirko Hanák wrote in his memoir, Janáček also joined the theatre on tour of Káťa Kabanová (Katya Kabanova) to the City Theatre in Opava on February 3, 1924.

      Leoš Janáček

Leoš Janáček´s picture on the cover of
The National Moravian–Silesian Theatre Magazine in 1924


The principals of the opera Emanuel Bastl (head of opera 1919–1927) and Jaroslav Vogel (head of opera 1927–1943 and 1947–1948) had an important role in introducing Janáček´s operas into the National Moravian-Silesian Theatre. Emanuel Bastl was the initiator of the first staging of Janáček´s works into the newly established theatre in Ostrava - which was Její pastorkyňa (Jenufa) on November 1, 1919 followed by the already mentioned Káťa Kabanová (Katya Kabanova) – the author was at the premiere.
Jaroslav Vogel had also a significant role and carried on with Emanuel Bastl´s efforts. During his era, the dramaturgy of ostravian opera focused on various areas: Classical Czech authors including operas by Janáček, the creation of contemporary Czech authors, operas written by Russian composers, the work of W. A. Mozart, R. Strauss and particularly on the work of R. Wagner.
Ten operas by Janáček were played in 1929–1948, all of them conducted by Jaroslav Vogel; amongst which was also not so known opera Věc Makropulos (The Makropoulos Affair) and Z mrtvého domu (From the House of the Dead). Here is the listing: five times Její pastorkyňa (Jenufa, premiere 6. 9. 1929, 8. 6. 1934, 27. 5. 1940, 25. 6. 1943 and 6. 6. 1948), Z mrtvého domu (From the House of the Dead, premiere 12. 2. 1932), Věc Makropulos (The Makropoulos Affair, premiere 15. 3. 1935), two times Příhody lišky Bystroušky (The Cunning Little Vixen, premiere 4. 12. 1936 and 21. 11. 1941) and Káťa Kabanová (Katya Kabanova, premiere 7. 12. 1938).
Vogel´s contribution lies not only in staging Janáček´s theatrical works but also in the preparation of symphonic concerts that became a part of theatrical ranks. The dramaturgy of the concerts focused on music of the twentieth century e.g. Slavonic rhapsody Taras Bulba (1929) or Glagolská mše (Glagolitic Mass, 1937). The importance of Jaroslav Vogel in connection with Janáček is significant; Vogel is the author of the first in-depth monography about the life and work of this composer. 
In years 1943 and 1947, Jaroslav Krombholc and Zdeněk Chalabala were the heads of the opera in Ostrava. During this period no premiere of Janáček´s opera was staged. 
      Jaroslav Vogel


 Jenufa, premiere June 25, 1943
 All the information about the performance had to be published also in German language.

PERIOD 1949–1966

Jaroslav Vogel was replaced by Rudolf Vašata (head of opera 1949–1956). His initial production was Janáček´s Káťa Kabanová (Katya Kabanova) on November 19, 1949. During his era three Janáček´s operas were presented: Káťa Kabanová (Katya Kabanova), Její pastorkyňa (Jenufa) on May 22, 1952 in Josef Kuchinka´s production and on October 2, 1953 Příhody lišky Bystroušky (The Cunning Little Vixen) in production of Vašata.
In short era of Josef Vincourek (1956–1958) Janáček's opera appeared on the repertoire only once, it was the premiere of Její pastorkyňa (Jenufa), which took place June 15, 1958. This production was staged by Josef Kuchinka.
During the following period 1958–1962 Bohumil Gregor was the head of opera. Miloslav Nekvasil, Ilja Hylas (bothe directors) and visual artist Vladimír Šrámek collaborated with him on Janáček´s pieces. During this era, two Janáček´s plays were presented; Bohumil Gregor was in charge of the musical side of the staging: Výlety páně Broučkovy (The Excursions of Mr. Broucek, premiere June 28, 1959) and Káťa Kabanová (Katya Kabanova, premiere October 1, 1960). The director of both productions was Ilja Hylas, who directed a total of 8 Janáček´s works at the State Theatre in Ostrava.
Between the years 1962–1966 the opera was led by Zdeněk Košler. In his music direction, the premiere of Janáček´s opera Věc Makropulos (The Makropoulos Affair) was held on June 13, 1964, directed by Ilja Hylas.

 The Makropoulos Affair, premiere June 13, 1964
 Photo by František Krasl


PERIOD 1966–1990
Jiří Pinkas was a new head of opera for several next seasons. The dramaturgy of opera focused mainly on Czech repertoire. In this period Jiří Pinkas presented four productions of Janáček´s work: Příhody lišky Bystroušky (The Cunning Little Vixen, premiere January 28, 1967), Její pastorkyňa (Jenufa, premiere September 30, 1967, remade premiere October 27, 1973), Z mrtvého domu (From the House of the Dead, October 26, 1974, remade premiere April 6, 1978) and opera Šárka together with ballet Rákos Rákoczy during one evening (premiere May 7, 1978). One of the highlights of this period was Janáček´s opera epilog Z mrtvého domu (From the House of the Dead).

  From the House of the Dead, premiere October 26, 1974
  Photo by František Krasl

During the leadership of Václav Návrat (1979–1990) the frequency of staging of Janáček´s works decreased slightly. In the 1980s there were premieres of Káťa Kabanová (Katya Kabanova, April 4, 1981), Příhody lišky Bystroušky (The Cunning Little Vixen, October 13, 1984) and Její pastorkyňa (Jenufa, October 1, 1988).


PERIOD 1990 – nowadays

After a short era of Miloslav Nekvasil (1990–1991) and Ivan Pařík (1991–1992) Luděk Golat became a new head of opera (1992–2006). In these years the theatre presented four Janáček´s operas, namely Příhody lišky Bystroušky (The Cunning Little Vixen, June 11, 1994), this production is connected with the establishment of children´s Opera Studio of the National Moravian-Silesian Theatre; Počátek románu was the next production  (The Beginning of a Romance, June 25, 2000, premiere and some performances were held in Hukvaldy), a year later it was Káťa Kabanová (Katya Kabanova, January 24 2001) and then Její pastorkyňa (Jenufa, June 12, 2004) which has been on the repertoire of  the theatre until 2013/2014 season.
 The Cunning Little Vixen, premiere June 11, 1994
 Photo by Josef Hradil

Golat was replaced by Oliver Dohnányi, who was the head of opera between the years 2006 and 2010, however, he did not stage any of Janáček´s works.

In 2010 Robert Jindra became the music director of the opera, his effort to bring the music of Leoš Janáček to Ostrava again was obvious. 

Since 2010, various Janáček´s plays were presented: Šárka (during one evening along with opera Ariadna by Bohuslav Martinů, premiere September 23, 2010), concert performance of Věc Makropulos (The Makropoulos Affairwith Eva Urbanová as Emilia Marty (premiere January 13, 2012), Káťa Kabanová (Katya Kabanova, premiere November 15, 2012) and nowadays Výlety páně Broučkovy (The Excursions of Mr. Broucek, premiere October 16, 2014). 





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