The National Theatre Chorus and Orchestra
At the present time, when we bear witness to pitiful “truth” and love” being prevailed over in society by “good old-fashioned” narrow-mindedness, crassness, insolence, vulgarity and servility, at the time when we see “good old-fashioned” boorishness flourish, when the extremely low manners of some give rise to extreme overreaction of others, we are slowly but surely heading towards the year 2018, and with it the centenary of the establishment of the independent Czechoslovak Republic. Besides grand celebratory gestures, we can also expect deliberations on where and how (and whether at all) the Czech people have progressed over the past one hundred years. Opera is not usually capable of promptly reflecting the “burning questions of the present”, yet we have available a work that, with respect to the aforementioned, simply cannot not be staged at the National Theatre in 2018: Janáček’s opera The Excursions of Mr. Brouček, an absurd burlesque about the chronic moral insufficiencies of the Czech man, or – even better – little man.
Bringing to bear the tools of satire and irony (which are, fortunately, close to us), the diagnosis was first described by the great Czech poet and prose writer Svatopluk Čech in his two 1888 “Brouček” novels. Subsequently, the subject was undertaken by Leoš Janáček, who furnished it with equally satirically and ironically refined, or sharpened, music. Janáček’s indisputably most comical opera took some nine years (1908–1917) to write, as the composer strove to furnish it with an appropriate final form. The Excursions of Mr. Brouček’s difficult genesis and journey to the stage of the National Theatre in Prague coincided with the very years of the no less complicated inception and building up of the Czechoslovak Republic. Will, as they used to in the past and at variance with the creators, Mr. Brouček’s adventures and actions evoke our affection, or even sympathy, or do Janáček’s wishes have a chance to come true? “My aim was to attain it that such a man arouses our disgust, that we destroy and stifle him upon the instant – yet, first and foremost, in ourselves (bravo!).”