L’amour des trois oranges
Have you heard the one about the hypochondriac prince falling in love with three ... oranges?
The National TheatreApproximate running time
2 hours 20 minutes, 1 intermission 20 minutesLanguage
In French, subtitles in Czech, EnglishPremiere
May 16, 2019
The old Italian fairy tale about a prince who goes out into the world so as to seek three mysterious oranges and after overcoming numerous life-threatening obstacles finds in one of them his princess. The fable’s teeming with wild fantasy might have been the reason why it has so attracted those who primarily treasure playfulness, joy and wit in theatre. The Italian dramatist Carlo Gozzi, who seasoned it with bizarre commedia dell’arte elements; the Russian avant-garde stage director Vsevolod Meyerhold, who adapted the original play for modern theatre; the composer Sergey Prokofiev, who made from it a zany and moving opera; and the director and mime artist Radim Vizváry, who has created the current production. Yet another musical fairy tale for the whole family!
National Theatre Chorus
National Theatre Orchestra
Losers Cirque Company
The Italian playwright, satirist and mystifier Count Carlo Gozzi (1720–1806) inadvertently gave rise to a peculiar moment in the history of 20th-century opera: while in 1920 Giacomo Puccini began recasting Gozzi’s fairy-tale-based play Turandot into his final opera that, despite its excesses, was still written in the spirit of good old Romanticism, another opera based on a scenario penned by Gozzi – L’amour des trois oranges – was awaiting its premiere. Sergey Prokofiev conceived the piece as sheer burlesque, traducing everything “heart-felt” and “seriously meant”. In 2019, when the National Theatre in Prague staged its modern-time premiere of L’amour des trois oranges, one hundred years had gone by since the opera’s coming into being. How had it come to pass that one of Prokofiev’s best-known and most acclaimed works, an opera abounding with “jest, irony, satire, as well as profound ideas”, manifesting pure and eternal joy at dallying with human imagination and seeking “sense” and “nonsense”, had, with a single exception, been overlooked by Czech theatres for a full century?
Prokofiev wrote L’amour des trois oranges in the wake of his emigrating from the Bolshevik-ruled Russia to the USA as a sui generis highly cosmopolitan work: based on an Italian play, in a Russian adaptation, set to a French libretto, for an American audience. Gozzi had created his original, predominantly prosaic play L'amore delle tre melarance as a crazy fable in the commedia dell’arte style, with the aim to ridicule his competitors Goldoni and Chiari. Its Dada vein and the playful story so impressed the Russian avant-garde artist Vsevolod Meyerhold that in 1914 he named after Gozzi’s comedy his own magazine, in whose very first issue he published the play’s modern adaptation. Prokofiev happened to have the text in the USA, and since an opera set to a Russian text was out of the question, he opted for a French libretto, which he based on Vsevolod Meyerhold’s translation. No less intricate and quaint than the genesis of Prokofiev’s opera is the opera’s story, depicting as it does a hypochondriac, orange-loving prince.
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