National Theatre (Prague)

author Leoš Janáček

conductor Jaroslav Kyzlink

director Sláva Daubnerová


  • Synopsis

    1. Mr. Brouček’s excursion to the moon
    Act 1

    The painter Mazal is arguing with his sweetheart Málinka, the daughter of the sacristan at the cathedral of St. Vitus, in front of the Vikárka inn on the castle hill in Prague. Mazal’s landlord, Mr. Brouček, has had more than he can handle and goes to make his way home. In order to anger Mazal, Málinka plays with Mr. Brouček, who in his drunkenness even promises her marriage. The conversation is overheard by the sacristan, but Brouček turns his promise into a joke and says that he would take Málinka to the moon. He is angry with the world and enviously looks up at the full moon – people up there must be happier, there are no painters, bankruptcies or Imperial councils. He falls asleep, drunk, and dreams about the moon.
    Scene change
    Brouček wakes up on the moon and looks in wonderment at the strange landscape and the inhabitants, who remind Brouček of his friends from Vikárka. Mazal is transformed into the ecstatic poet Hvězdomír Blankytný who, like the other moon people, does not wish to know about their earthly counterparts. Blankytný is in love with the esoteric Etherea (Málinka) and is almost ruined when Etherea falls in love with Brouček at first sight and, despite the protests of her father Lunobor (Sacristan) and Blankytný, she takes him away on the winged horse Pegas to the temple of the All-Knower.

    Act 2

    In the temple of the All-Knower the main word is had by the patron Čaroskvoucí (Würfl), who asks Brouček to sing some moon songs at a feast. Meanwhile Lunobor has seized Etherea and has dragged her away in a net. To Brouček’s amazement, at the feast they are serving only the aroma of flowers and the ravenous Brouček is in despair. During the recitation by the leading poet Oblačný he falls asleep, exhausted, and dreams about beer and pork with cabbage and dumplings. Not even the painter Duhoslav fills him with enthusiasm and when Brouček pulls out a piece of ham from his pocket the terrified moon artists fall into a swoon. Etherea does not give up and once more entices Brouček. The poets come round from their faint, the angered Brouček pushes aside Etherea and in the general confusion he sits on Pegas and flies away.
    Scene change
    During the celebÿtoሴ̽ song by the inn landlord Würfl the group of artists from Vikárka leave at dawn, and bring the worn-out Brouček home in a chest. Málinka and Mazal become reconciled and sing of their love for one another.
    In the afternoon Brouček wakes up at home in his bedroom and before he has a chance to remember his moon dream, Málinka and Mazal arrive in order to ask their landlord to accept the retraction of Mazal’s notice of departure from the house. Brouček is so astonished by the appearance of Málinka – Etherea, that he signs the retraction without protest. In the end Brouček has hard work on his hands to become friends once again with his enraged housekeeper.

    2. Mr. Brouček’s excursion to the 15th century
    Act 1

    This evening the group of friends at Vikárka are talking about the medieval underground corridors. Brouček sets off for home and suddenly finds himself in an underground cellar, where he walks along a secret corridor and finds himself in the chamber of the crown jewels in the Old Town. As soon as he leaves the chamber, Svatopluk Čech appears before him and sings an ode to the famous history of the Czech people.
    Scene change
    Brouček exits not far from Old Town Square, but everything looks different from how he is accustomed. The people are strangely attired, speak a strange form of Czech and somebody convinces Brouček that it is 1420. At first Brouček takes everything as a joke, but understands the seriousness of the situation when he is identified as an enemy spy. It would have ended badly, had the knight Domšík taken him from Zvon (Sacristan). The armed people prepare for battle and, singing, go to pray at the Týn church.

    Act 2

    At the house of Domšík Brouček is not enjoying having to become accustomed to the new situation. He would most like to disappear secretly, but must change into Hussite clothes. Domšík’s daughter Kunka (Málinka) gathers her friends, prepared for battle, and tells them of the service in the Týn church, where the commander Žižka was also present. They all discuss the battle situation and dispute the meaning of the battle, truth and religion. Brouček does not display any enthusiasm for battle and even states that it is all the same to him and that he would not fight because King Zikmund had done nothing to harm him. An argument breaks out, during which Petřík (Mazal) runs in with news that the battle on Špitálské Field had already begun. They all run to battle and push Brouček, with a weapon in his hand, out of the door – hw however secretly creeps back and quickly changes into his original clothing.
    Scene change
    The victorious Hussite soldiers go to Old Town Square to receive the adulation of the people. Domšík had fallen in battle, and Brouček tells of his heroism in battle, but Domšík’s friends had seen him on his knees before a crusader knight and accused him of treachery. Brouček is rammed into a wooden barrel and is sentenced to be burned.
    Scene change
    In the courtyard of Vikárka the landlord Würfl leans over the barrel, in which Brouček is sitting in his dream, with a lit candle in his hand. Brouček is relieved to find that he is back home and does not forget to boast to Würfl, how bravely he had fought alongside Žižka and had helped to save Prague.

  • Opera cast lists

    conductor: Jaroslav Kyzlink
    director: Sláva Daubnerová
    set design: Pavel Borák
    costumes: Simona Vachálková
    Video art: Erik Bartoš
    lighting design: Daniel Tesař
    choirmaster: Martin Buchta
    dramaturgy: Ondřej Hučín

    Matěj Brouček: Jaroslav Březina
    Mazal, Blankytný, Petřík: Aleš Briscein
    Sacristan at St. Vitus, Lunobor, Domšík from the Bell: František Zahradníček
    Málinka, Etherea, Kunka: Alžběta Poláčková
    Würfl, Čaroskvoucí, Konšel: Jiří Sulženko
    Young Waiter, Child Prodigy, Pupil: Doubravka Součková
    Poet, Svatopluk Čech, Oblačný, Vacek Bradatý: Jiří Brückler
    Composer, Harfoboj, Miroslav Zlatník: Petr Levíček
    Painter, Professor´s voice, Duhoslav, Vojta of Pávů: Josef Moravec
    Kedruta: Stanislava Jirků

The Excursions of Mr. Brouček is the only opera by Janáček to have its premiere in Prague and it will be a Prague ensemble that performs the opera at this festival, produced by their music director Jaroslav Kyzlinka and the Slovak director Sláva Daubnerová, who is an interesting personality in the Slovak theatre scene. Her authorial projects, in which she combines the function of director, author, performer and often also artist into a highly specific theatre language, are highly regarded.

In 1904-1907 the composer was looking for a comedy plot for his fifth opera and, in the end, decided for a work of humorous prose by Svatopluk Čech (1864-1908), The True Excursion of Mr. Brouček to the Moon, which was published for the first time in 1888. Even almost twenty years after first seeing the light of day in the literary world, the landlord Matěj Brouček who does nothing himself but always gives advice and knows everything was still a very popular character, and the resultant opera in all its originality confirmed the correctness of Janáček´s choice. Nine years of hard work were required before the piece was completed successfully, as it soon became obvious that finding a suitable librettist for the piece was a very hard nut to crack. In the end, seven writers were involved in the libretto for Brouček´s excursions, with various levels of success. However, these problems didn´t reduce the charm and impressiveness of Janáček´s music in the least – the marvellous singing, the masterful depiction of the characters, the liveliness of the scenes and the pace, all of which are combined with a three-period waltz meter which creates the impression of an omnipresent dance, both on the Moon or at Vikárka in Prague. Janáček completed The True Excursion of Mr. Brouček to the Moon in 1917, but before its performance was possible, the political situation changed. Janáček reacted by expanding the opera, which was originally intended for Prague’s artistic and critical circles, to include a national aspect, and Brouček´s adventure in the 15th century was an ideal fit. The opera thus gained a second half and another perspective – nationalistic and tragicomic aspects were added to the original satirical work. It was performed in this form at the National Theatre in Prague on 18th March 1920.

Patricie Částková