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opera 1. 10. 2014

The Fall of Arkun will be Fibich´s opera Renaissance

After more than eighty years, the last opera by Zdeňek Fibich with libretto by his collaborator and partner Anežka Schulzová The Fall of Arkun returns to the stage of the National Theatre.

The monumentally tragic work, staged for the first time in 1900, which refers to a conflict of Christian Danes and pagan Slavs in the 12th century, is set on the coast of the Baltic Sea and on today´s northern German island of Rügen. The piece consisting of a prologue Helga and a three-act opera Dargun was musically prepared by American conductor and the current Music Director of The Norwegian Opera John Fiore. The director of the production, which will premiere on 9 and 10 October 2014, is one of the most outstanding personalities of Czech opera Jiří Heřman. The National Theatre will stage the opera two more times until the end of the year: on 12 and 20 October. This new opera is due to its extraordinary range National Theatre´s most distinctive contribution to the Year of Czech music. For this reason the Czech Radio will acquire a live recording of the opera in its first reprise and prepare it for broadcast before the end of the year.

"Fibich´s orchestration is wonderfully rich and full of colour. The Fall of Arkun will be a great spectacle," says conductor John Fiore and continues: "For a long time I´ve been passionately interested in working on the preparation of the new production and with the same enthusiasm and passion I will also be conducting. I love this score and I'd like for everyone to love it. I think the audience will be really surprised by how good the music is, and will ask, why wasn´t it played for so long. It will be a discovery!" The latest cooperation of John Fiore with the National Theatre was the successful staging of Wagner's Parsifal three years ago.

"My first encounter with The Fall of Arkun was while still studying opera direction at HAMU (Academy of Performing Arts) however, I was only looking into the first part of the opera Helga, which struck me with its music and with the fate of the title female character. A performance of the overture to Dargun at a concert of the Czech operatic repertoire under the baton of Tomáš Netopil seven years ago was another powerful moment. The Fall of Arkun led me to a complete reassessment of Fibich's work, it is worth it to study it more. It's a hidden treasure of Czech opera," says director Jiří Herman. Among his recent projects are the scenic Schubert's Winter Journey, Britten's Gloriana, or Wagner's Parsifal. Operas Rusalka and The Jacobin directed by Jiří Heřman are part of the current repertoire of the National Theatre.

The new production of Fibich´s The Fall of Arkun will feature leading soloists and guests of the National Theatre, among others Eva Urbanova, Szilvia Rálik, Dana Burešová, Maria Kobielska, Alžběta Poláčková, Pavla Vykopalová, Martin Bárta, Roman Janál, Ondrej Mráz, David Szendiuch and more. The production team of Jiří Heřman was again composed of set designer Pavel Svoboda, costume designer Alexandra Grusková and lighting designer Daniel Tesař. National Theatre Choir was musically prepared by Pavel Vaněk, Czech National choir by Miriam Němcová.

"The Fall of Arkun will be the peak of The Year of Czech music at the National Theatre. I believe that John Fiore´s predictions will come true and next to Smetana and Dvořák today's viewers and listeners will also fall in love with the work of Zdeňek Fibich. We wish Jiří Heřman on his new mission in Brno at least the same success, which his work has seen at the National Theatre. Here in Prague we definitely do not want to lose his magical and thoughtful approach to staging of operas. We will see Jiří Heřman with a new and perhaps very surprising piece next season," says the director of the National Theatre Opera and the State Opera Silvia Hroncová.

Last Fibich's opera had its premiere at the National Theatre until after his death, 9 November 1900. Initiative to compose an opera was brought two years before by the former director of the National Theatre František Adolf Šubert, who dealt with the culture of the pagan Slavic tribe Rani living on the island of Rügen from a historical and linguistic perspective. Fibich is linked to the first Czech scene, then only the Provisional Theatre, by his engagement as a second Kapellmeister from 1876 - 1877, when he conducted mainly operetta repertoire and music for drama. In November 1881 the premiere of opera Blaník was held in the New Czech theatre (branch scene of the Provisional Theatre). In March 1884 the National Theatre premiered his opera The Bride of Messina, later in the 90s also his other operas The Tempest, Hedy and Šárka. Undisputed Fibich´s professional achievements included the introduction of its scenic melodrama Courtship of Pelop at the Flemish National Theatre in Antwerp and hosting of the National Theatre with the same production at the International music and theatrical exhibition in Vienna in 1892. One year before his death Zdeňek Fibich accepted the newly created position of dramaturge at the National Theatre. In October 1900 he took part in rehearsals for The Fall of Arkuna. The actual premiere took place after his death. He is buried at Vyšehrad.

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