Wonderful Dvorak

A charming musical and dramatic scenery from the environment of the historical salon of the Prague bohemian representatives from the last century with the most beautiful Dvorak's arias and melodies interpreted by leading opera soloists as well as violin virtuosos. Rusalka, The Jacobin, Moravian Duets, Biblical Songs, Mazurek and many other unforgettable compositions take the spectator to the times where Dvorak, than at the zenith of his creativeness, stood in the front-rank of both Czech and American music cultural life. The impressiveness of the performance is emphasized not only by the immediate contact of the performers with the spectators and closeness to the exposed Dvorak's relics like e.g. musical instruments, scores, letters, etc., but also by the splendid baroque interior and acoustics of Villa America. This time again the guests are invited to visit the Museum and to toast with a glass of Becherovka.

The performance is featured in English or in Czech, arias in the original. Multilingual programs are available, the program is about 80 minutes long without interlude.

Place of performance

Villa Amerika - A summer palace of Vaclav Michna from Vacinov in the heart of Prague built by Kilian Ignac Diezenhofer between 1712 and 1720, a beauty-spot of aristocracy, later even a pub of German students of medicine - today a museum with precious exhibits and a research center of Antonin Dvorak and his followers - the Czech composers Josef Suk, Vitezslav Novak and Oskar Nedbal - destination of Antonin Dvorak's music admirers from all over the world and especially from the USA.

Story

The scenario takes place on May 1st 1904.The soprano opera singer Marie has organized an afternoon musical party at her home. Her salon is one of the most highly favored in Prague, and so outstanding artists have gathered here. Even the master Antonin Dvorak is to come. And because all the performers in attendance love him, they want to prepare a nice holiday entertainment for him. Each will play or sing the work of the master that he or she likes best. And thus together they choose what will give him the greatest pleasure when he comes.

From the Moravian Duets, Op. 32: "The Modest Girl", "The Ring"

The Moravian Duets were a fateful work for Antonin Dvorak. He wrote them as a thirty-three-years-old at the request of the Prague merchant Jan Neff, whose wife Marie was Dvorak's piano student. (Later Dvorak's wife and sister-in-law loved to sing the songs).

They are intended for household performances so popular with "high society" in the last century.

Which of Dvorak's songs does the lady of the house like best? Hard to say, but now she will sing "Death reigns in many a human breast".

From The Love Songs, Op. 83:"Death reigns in many a human breast", "When thy Sweet Glances on me fall"

The Love Songs, too, are closely tied to the story of composer's life. Dvorak composed this cycle to love poems by the Czech poet Gustav Pfleger - Moravsky titled Cypresses. This poetry, very popular in its day, first captured Dvorak's attention when he was in his twenties at the time of his romantic passion for the Prague actress Josefina Cermakova (later the composer's sister-in-law), Dvorak's first love, however, remained unrequited, and the composer sang out his longing in the song cycle Cypresses. He never published it, but later he reworked some of the songs as the Love Songs.

The violinist is offended that Dvorak's instrumental works are being neglected here, and makes ironic jokes at the expense of the singers. But the soprano quiets the violinist by mentioning, as though off the top of her head, that the sonatina the violinist wants to play now is the composer's opus 100.

From the Sonatine in G major, Op. 100: Scherzo

Dvorak wrote this, his hundredth opus, during his stay in the United States. The public was expecting a monumental work, but he created a slight composition which he dedicated to his children Otilie, Tonik, Aninka, Marenka and Otakar. The oldest child, his daughter Otilie (later married to the composer Josef Suk) and his son Tonik then played it together for the father's enjoyment.

The baritone, too, would finally like to perform something. His colleague the mezzosoprano seems familiar to him. He learns from her that they saw each other twelve years ago at the Great Musical and Theatrical Exhibition in Vienna. He was there a soloist and she - the children's choir! And now they will sing together:

Selections from the Biblical Songs, Op. 99

Dvorak was a deeply religious catholic and in 1894, when far away in America he learnd that his father in Bohemia was seriously ill, he became engrossed reading the Bible. To its words (in the Czech translation of the "Kralicka Bible") he than composed ten songs, in which we feel the strength of the composer's faith still today.

O'Sanctissima, Op. 19

In a back room the mezzosoprano finds a costume prepared for Ruslaka (The Water Nymph). She asks the lady of the house to put it on. And while lady Marie is dressing, the violinist plays:

Romance in F Minor, Op. 11

The thirty-two-year-old Dvorak wrote this Romance for a well-known violin virtuoso of the second half of the 19th century - a friend of him - Frantisek Ondricek. Their mutual friendship lasted many years; Dvorak dedicated his Violin Concerto to Ondricek, who gave its successful premiere. Interestingly the famous composer was the best man at Ondricek's wedding.

Rusalka is still not ready, so the baritone offers an aria in the time.

From the Cunning Peasant, Op.37: The Prince's Aria

Dvorak wrote the comic opera The Cunning Peasant, his sixth opera, at the age of thirty-five. It was strongly influenced by Smetana's The Bartered Bride, which was and still is regarded sometimes as a minus, sometimes as a plus. The work has survived in the repertoire only in Czech opera houses;, there are several recording of it.

And now the lady of the house appears in the costume and wig of the Water Nymph, who sings of her beloved prince in the aria:

From Rusalka, Op. 114: "Oh, Dear Moon in the Deep Sky"

Dvorak wrote the opera Rusalka (The Water Nymph) at the age of fifty-nine to a libretto by the Czech writer and theatrical director Jaroslav Kvapil. The well-known fairy tale about little mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen served as a model. In the aria "Oh, Dear Moon" the beautiful water nymph confess her love for a mortal being - a man. But as often happens not only in fairy tales, but in real life, love leads the nymph to make a sacrifice that is in vain. Rusalka is the most often performed of Dvorak's stage works.

The mezzosoprano, mrs. Viola Fialova, finds a large bundle of pencils on a desk. The lady of the house tells her they are prepared for master Dvorak. Whenever he composes he breaks a lot of them. And now he is writing a new opera - so he needs to have something to brake. "If I used up twice as many of them", sighs the mezzosoprano, "I could never manage to write anything as beautiful as he does, for example The Stabat Mater".

From The Stabat Mater, Op. 58:" Inflamatus"

The oratorio Stabat Mater, for soloists, choir and orchestra, was composed by Dvorak to the famous words of Jacoponus da Todi. In it Dvorak expressed his sorrow over death of his first three children. First died Josefa, than Ruzenka and finally the first-born son Otakar (who preceded a later son given the same name). The work was written in 1876, 77.

A servant who appears at lady Marie's door brings crushing news: At noon today master Dvorak died. Lady Marie decides not to tell anyone for the time being and to dedicate today's musical celebration as an homage to the master's art. Thanks to that art Antonin Dvorak is with us and will remain with us forever.

From the Gipsy Melodies, Op. 55: "songs my mother taught me"

The romantic poetry, songs of longing of a temperamental gipsy written at the turn of the nineteenth century by the Czech poet Adolf Heyduk, attracted many composers of the time including Antonin Dvorak in 1880. Perhaps "Songs My Mother Taught Me" made Dvorak as famous as his renowned Humoresque.

From The Jacobin, Op. 84: The Steward's Aria

The opera The Jacobin, to a libretto by Marie Cervinkova-Riegrova - granddaughter of the greatest Czech historian, Frantisek Palacky parodies the fear of the French Jacobins among residents of a Small Czech town, and portrays the life of the Rococo period both in the castle and in the town around it in a manner that mixes tragedy with comedy. Dvorak encountered a similar environment during his youth in Zlonice (northwest of Prague), where he wrote his first compositions while studying with the school teacher and musician Antonin Liehmann. The music of his work, a reminiscence of the composer's youth, is enchanting.

Selections From The Gipsy Melodies, Op. 55

Mazurek, Op. 49

The Mazurek stems from Dvorak's "Slavonic" period and is strongly reminiscent of the composer's Slavonic Dances. It is one of his virtuosic works, and only a very good violinist can bring it off with success. Interesting is the fact that during the premiere (March 29th 1879) Ferdinand Lachner was accompanied at the piano by the composer Zdenek Fibich, and that Smetana's famous quartet From My Life was first performed on the same program.

Cast

  • Soprano
    Renee Nachtigallova
    Ivana Sakova, Lenka Skornickova, Lenka Krejcirikova
  • Mezzosoprano
    Edita Adlerova, Virginie Walterova, Pavla Vykopalova, Tereza Roglova
  • Baritone, Vaclav Viktorin
    Pavel Horacek, Zdenek Musil, Karel Skop, Jiri Kubik
  • Violin Virtuoso
    Ivan Zenaty, Ivan Straus, Jindrich Pazdera, Pavel Kudelasek, Leos Cepicky
  • Pianist Jiranek
    prof. Karel Hron, prof. Jaroslav Kolar, prof. Karel Prokop, Jitka Nesverova
  • Butler
    Vaclav Blaha
  • Servant
    Milan Skolnik
  • Script
    Renee Nachtigallova
  • Director
    Josef Prudek

Photos

photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo