Chamber opera by the Janáček Academy of Music and Performing Arts

Jiří Najvar Falstaff

Daniel Šimek Unknown



Daniel Šimek was born in Vienna on 15.7.1994. He studied the piano at Brno Conservatory with Mgr. Renata Bialasová while simultaneously attending composition classes with MgA. Pavel Zemek Novák. He is currently studying composition in the 1st year of his Master’s degree at the Janáček Academy of Music and Performing Arts in Brno; having started with Assoc. Prof. Martin Smolka, he is now studying under Prof. Leoš Faltus.

The opera The Unknown Lady was completed at the beginning of 2017. Its libretto is based on the theatre play of the same name written by Russian symbolist author Alexander Blok. The libretto itself is in Czech.

The plot of the opera takes place on the border between reality and dreams. The heroes of the opera are a Poet who is looking for an unknown girl and the “Unknown” girl herself, who is named Marie and is a star which has fallen to earth. The main theme of the opera is the search for one´s own ideal, and the situations when one really recognizes it.

The musical language of the piece attempts to capture the content of the libretto as well as it can and is supposed to be in equilibrium with the other components, if possible. The vocal lines are mainly based upon the flow of speech. The performance features two sopranos and three baritones partnered by a chamber orchestra composed of strings, electric piano, drums and clarinets.

Jiří Najvar FALSTAFF

Jiří Najvar studied composition at the Janáček Conservatory in Ostrava (under Milan Báchorka). He continued these studies at the Music Faculty of the Janáček Academy of Music and Performing Arts in Brno (under the pedagogical leadership of Assoc. Prof. Dan Dlouhý). He has received many awards in competitions for composers. So far, he has had quite a few theatre premieres – “Flowers Don´t Grow in the Dark”, “Bloody Wedding”, “Eugene Onegin”, “Light Off”, the children´s opera “Duvets”, “Victory over the Sun” (Moravian Autumn 2017) and a neo-Baroque opera, “Divine Comedy”.

Composer J. Najvar’s newly produced libretto, which was written by Arrigo Boito and translated by Václav Juda Novotný, deals with the “trials and tribulations” of Shakespeare´s character Falstaff. Jiří Najvar has created the music for a comedy whose main character is the dissolute and rotund Falstaff – a cowardly thief whose desire for women and youth hidden in the beauty of attractive ladies is a good source of laughter. From his comfortable place in the guest house “At the suspender”, he undertakes daring love affairs with Windsor townswomen Alice and Markéta. However, Alice and Markéta always outwit Falstaff with the help of Mrs. Quickly. Falstaff may appear to be a naïve fool who always gets tricked but he reveals his philosophy at the end of the opera: if it weren´t for his clumsiness and complete irresponsibility, life would be boring and the townspeople would be unable to show off how virtuous they are. The plot also deals with a secret romance between two people – Bardolf and Alice – who become acquainted thanks to Falstaff´s conspiracy and grow closer to one another. In the last act (in the magic forest), a children´s choir of pixies and fairies appears… The whole opera finishes with a fugue in the Finale with the words: “Everything here is a comedy. Everything in the world is a farce! We are all fools! We all seem funny to each other. Those who laugh last are having a good time!!

Falstaff is composed in the style of a “bel canto” opera buffa. The novelty of the musical interpretation consists in the work with the textual content – as the main source of inspiration in this music. The neoclassical form of the orchestra utilizes instrumental colours that are typical of comedies. The declamatory accompaniments in the ariosos are instrumented contrastingly and unconventionally (in connection with the individual characters), while the diversity of instrument colours completes the story line in the recitatives.