Sets: Boris Kudlička
Costumes: Natalia Kitamikado
Lighting design: Daniel Tesař
Chorus master: Adolf Melichar
Chorus master of the Kühn's Children's Choir: Jiří Chvála
State Opera Orchestra and Chorus
Premiere performances: 3 and 5 October 2019 at the Estates Theatre
The American bestseller about the passionate sexual relationship between Humbert Humbert, a middle-aged intellectual, literature professor and writer, and the 12-year-old Lolita, an unbridled, impudent and lustful girl, set in the 1940s or the 1950s, gave rise to fierce debates and generated controversy. Following the initial wave of decrial, its author, Vladimir Nabokov (1899–1977), a Russian-American novelist and poet, gained global fame. Almost four decades after the book’s publication, the Russian composer Rodion Shchedrin (b. 1932) created an opera set to Nabokov’s best-known work. It is his fifth stage piece inspired by literary works by great Russian writers, with the previous ones being the opera Dead Souls (1976, based on Gogol) and the ballets Anna Karenina (1972, based on Tolstoy), The Seagull (1979) and The Lady with the Lapdog (1985, the latter two based on Chekhov).
Shchedrin composed the opera Lolita to his own libretto to commission from Mstislav Rostropovich, who conducted its world premiere (in Swedish translation) on 14 December 1994 in Stockholm. The piece, retelling a multi-layered story, blending themes of sensuality, love and sin, will receive its Czech premiere. The opera’s music reflects a variety of inspirations, with the most distinctly palpable being the Russian Orthodox chant. Whereas Lolita is just the second Shchedrin opera to be presented on a Czech stage (on 20 December 1978, Brno hosted the Czechoslovak premiere of Dead Souls), his ballets, particularly Carmen, are familiar to the local audience. With a certain degree of self-irony, the composer incorporated in Lolita a quotation from Carmen. Shchedrin wrote the majority of his ballets for his wife, the prima ballerina Maya Plisetskaya, who performed in Prague on several occasions. The very first Czech production of Shchedrin’s Lolita will be created for the National Theatre in Prague by the renowned Slovak director and performance artist Sláva Daubnerová, who is noted for her singular approach to 20th–century opera, affording it a forcible and visually provocative touch.