In the Wings

Backstage glimpses with Boston Lyric Opera

DR. VON LYRIC: BLO's upcoming Opera Night at the BPL, February 24

Feb 19, 2015 3:36:00 PM
By BLO Staff

I see that BLO, in association with the Boston Public Library, is presenting a program on February 24 at 6:00 p.m. titled "Musical Nationalism and Folklore in Opera." Learn more about it here:

It should be a fine introduction to the dramatic opera Kátya Kabanová (one of my favorites by that extraordinary genius Leoš Janáček) that BLO is presenting March 13-22...and the event at the library is free.

Janáček was fascinated with the folk roots of his culture; he employed significant folk elements and references in his operas and (along with, among others, his fellow composers Bartók and Percy Grainger) was a noted and painstakingly diligent researcher and collector of ethnographic material all his life. In 1879, he was one of the first to systematically transcribe speech patterns and intonations. He was a pioneer in the photographic recording of the folk traditions of Moravia and Silesia. In 1909, he obtained an Edison phonograph, and much of the data he collected—on wax cylinders—is still studied today.

Here's a delightful photo from this article—I'm not sure if this is actually the young Janáček, as claimed, but as an image of modern technology confronting and absorbing folk culture, it could hardly be bettered:

A clip from a recent  production his opera Jenůfa in Brussels, which obviously draws heavily on visual references to Czech folk culture:

Bedřich Smetana, in his opera The Bartered Bride (1866), presents perhaps the most familiar examples of Czech folkloric influence in the irresistible tunes and dance rhythms in such pieces as the "Polka," which ends Act I:

Two examples of Czech (more or less) folk music:

And to conclude... Not precisely Czech but, at its heart, folkloric (and it's being performed in Prague):

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