Ondřej Havelka - režisér

8. 11. 2024, 7 p.m.

Mahen Theatre

Author: Pavel Haas

Conductor: Jiří Habart

Director: Ondřej Havelka

Ensemble: National Moravian-Silesian Theatre

The performance lasts 150 minutes including a 25-minute intermission.

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Act 1

Scene 1:

Curious people gather at Doctor Pustrpalk’s fairground tent. The charlatan treats the sick. The adventurous beauty Amaranta is one of those seeking help from the famous healer. He cures her of hypochondria by trickery and is captivated by her beauty. The monk Jochimus keeps jealous watch over Amaranta and threatens to denounce Pustrpalk for his fraudulent activity.

Scene 2:

A scenic interlude depicting Pustrpalk’s travels from town to town.

Scene 3:

The charlatan’s jealous wife Rozina surprises her spouse as he courts Amaranta, who has joined Pustrpalk’s troupe. The quarrel between the women is so violent that Pustrpalk has no choice but to leave town with his troupe.


Act 2

Scene 4:

The charlatan sets up camp in front of an old mill. He professes his love to Amaranta in vain. When he returns disappointed and unheard in the night to his wagon, he overhears Zavináč and Provazolezec planning to rob their master. Pustrpalk recognises the poverty of his associates and decides to share his property with them. He entertains the troupe with wine until the merry drinking ends in a fight. The mad miller throws a lantern among the drunkards, which kills Zavináč. The troupe sets fire to the mill, and Pustrpalk, Amaranta and Bakalář flee in panic.

Scene 5:

Pustrpalk, Amaranta and Bakalář arrive at a fair in a town where they are celebrating the carnival. Pustrpalk has left his troupe, become acquainted with the quack doctor Šereda and become his partner. Pustrpalk attracts the attention of everyone, even the King who has come to the fair in disguise. He is enchanted by Pustrpalk and honours him generously. In his hour of triumph, Pustrpalk looks for Amaranta, but she has left town with Jochimus.


Act 3

Scene 6:

Several years later, Pustrpalk is travelling with just two old companions. Jochimus, seriously ill, seeks salvation from the famous Pustrpalk, who generously forgives Jochimus and rejoices that he can save Jochimus with a dangerous operation. The monk dies after the operation, however, and Pustrpalk and his companions flee from the mob that accuses him of murder.

Scene 7:

Several years later, Pustrpalk’s former companions meet up in a tavern when his star has long since waned. He is said to suffer from paranoia and to drink. A drunken and decrepit Pustrpalk enters and offers hospitality to three poor students if they can guess his name. The students finally recognise him, and Pustrpalk, in a surge of grandeur, then improvises a song mocking his miracles and his companions join in. The gleefully excited Pustrpalk suddenly staggers and sees an apparition in a deathly delirium – the monk Jochimus. Pustrpalk strikes out at the vision, but falls and dies.

Director: Ondřej Havelka
Conductor: Jiří Habart
Scene: Jakub Kopecký
Costumes: Kateřina Štefková
Choirmaster: Jurij Galatenko
Dramaturgy: Juraj Bajús

If we had to choose one Brno composer to commemorate during the festival, it would definitely be Pavel Haas. Janáček’s favorite student, whose life ended prematurely in October 1944 in the Auschwitz concentration camp, is connected to Brno not only because he was born in the city and studied here. Haas’ only opera The Charlatan had its world premiere at Brno Mahen Theatre in 1938. It will also return there after almost ninety years in a new production by the Moravian-Silesian Theatre Opera Company, directed by Ondřej Havelka and conducted by Jiří Habart. Festival audiences will thus have the opportunity to see The Charlatan in the place of its birth just a few weeks after the Ostrava premiere.

Deception and delusion, potions, tricks and deceit all accompany the wandering charlatan Pustrpalk on his travels from town to town through a landscape destroyed by the Thirty Years’ War. Pavel Haas found his inspiration in a novel by the German writer Josef Winckler Doctor Eisenbart, based on the real-life character of the barber surgeon Johann Andreas Eisbarth who, although without a medical education, gained recognition even in Austrian court circles. The name of the protagonist and many other features, however, Haas added from a purely Czech source – the medieval The Ointment Seller. The tragicomic and almost Faustian tale of a wandering barber surgeon who promises the unattainable only to search in vain for happiness in his own life, premiered on the brink of World War II, less than three weeks after the Anschluss of Austria. The war and the death of Pavel Haas were the reasons why The Charlatan did not appear on stage until sixty years later at the opera festival in Wexford, Ireland. It will be shown in the Czech Republic for the first time since its pre-war premiere. 

Patricie Částková