Falling in Love With Four Czech Opera Heroines -- John Frey
Thursdays, January 25, February 1, 8, 15, 1:00pm - 4:00pm
Oddfellows Hall, SLO
$20 for LLCC members, $40 for non-members.
Czech opera began in 1627 when Italian singers came to perform for the Coronation of Ferdinand III. By the 19th Century a new national consciousness had been stimulating efforts towards a Czech national opera which dates from the work of Frantisek Skroup who composed the first Czech opera, The Tinker (1826). However, it took Bedich Smetana to recognize that a more mature method than a simple musical play using folk songs was demanded as a basis for the development of a true Czech opera. He won their hearts with The Bartered Bride (1866).
Four operas will be viewed in this course. All of them have one thing in common - in each case the primary character is female. Besides Smentana's the Bartered Bride, we will explore Dvorak's Rusalka, and two operas by Janacek: Jenufa, and the Cunning Vixen.
In Smentana's Bartered Bride, Marenkas parents are enthusiastic about the suggestion of the marriage broker, that their daughter should marry the son of the wealthy Mícha. Marenka refuses because she is already in love with Jeník,. Míchas first son is presumed dead, and his second (by a second wife) is Vaek. When Marenka discovers that this is her chosen bridegroom, she declares that she will not marry him. Meanwhile Kecal tries to bribe Jeník to abandon his suit of Marenka and Jeník accepts on condition that she only marries Míchas son. Everyone is shocked at his mercenary attitude but then all becomes clear: he is himself Míchas long-lost first son and has won both love and a dowry.
In Anton Dvorak's Rusalka a water nymph has fallen in love with a Prince. Now she wants to become human and to be with him. Rusalka calls on the moon to tell the Prince of her love. Jeibaba, the witch, agrees to turn Rusalka into a human - but warns her that if she doesnt find love she will be damned and the man she loves will die. The Prince appears and is captivated by her beauty and leads her away to his castle. A foreign princess has come for the wedding with the Prince who confesses his love for her. When Rusalka intervenes, rushing into his arms, he rejects her. The Prince, desperate with remorse looks for Rusalka. She appears, reproaching him for his infidelity, and explains that now a kiss from her would kill him. Accepting his destiny, he asks her to kiss him to give him peace. She does, and he dies in her arms.
There are four central characters in Janacek's Jenufa: Jenufa, her stepmother the Kostelnicka, a stern, domineering widow and her two foster brothers, Steva and Laca. Steva impregnates Jenufa but evades marrying her. Laca disfigures her out of mad jealousy but loves her unreservedly. The fierce Kostelnicka, whose determination to save her stepdaughter and herself from shame drowns the baby. Laca offers himself to Jenufa. She agrees to become his wife.
The Cunning Little Vixen is an opera adapted by the composer from a serialized daily comic strip by Rudolf Tesnohlídek. Janácek discovered the comic-strip and decided to turn it into an opera. Throughout the opera Janácek portrays the animals with loving accuracy and finds a surprising affinity between them and the humans of the story. We see the Vixen change from a playful fox-cub into a beast of prey and then from a desiring lover to a contented and protective mother. Janácek gives the Vixen a rare female intuition and native cunning and draws her with extreme tenderness.
Each session consists of a 30-minute commentary and discussion as well as a 2.5-hr showing of each video. The course syllabus includes (1) an analysis of the plot of each of the videos, (2) a synopsis and list of characters, (3) a description of the source material that inspired the works and (4) brief biographies of authors, composers and performers. A list of recommended CDs, DVDs and books is provided. The course will familiarize you with the scope of contemporary American opera.
John Frey is a retired Chemistry professor and a member of the boards of LLCC, Festival Mozaic and of Opera Lovers Meet. He has performed in the chorus of Opera San Luis Obispo and the SLO Master Chorale. He has had a lifelong love and passion for opera, choral music and musical theater. He has made numerous commentaries and video presentations for SLOs Opera Lovers, OperaSLO and LLCC.
If you would like to have the password for the member price for this course, go to www.lifelearnerscc.org for information on how you can become a member.
Odd Fellows Hall (View)
520 Dana Street
San Luis Obispo, CA 93401
|Wheelchair Accessible: Yes!|