June 24-28, 2018
ALOIS HÁBA’S THY KINGDOM COME (Opening)
RUDOLF KOMOROUS’ THE MUTE CANARY
DANIEL TING-CHEUNG LO’S A WOMAN SUCH AS MYSELF
SALVATORE SCIARRINO’S LUCI MIE TRADITRICI
JULIUS EASTMAN’S MACLE
JOHN CAGE’S SONG BOOKS I, II (Closing)
Ostravská banda, ONO (Ostrava New Orchestra), Canticum Ostrava
Alois Hába and the score of his microtonal opera, Thy Kingdom Come
The biennial festival New Opera Days Ostrava (NODO), now in its 4th installment, returns to the stages of Ostrava, Czech Republic with six contemporary productions exploring the outer reaches of music theater. This year’s highlight is the highly anticipated world premiere of Thy Kingdom Come (1937-42), a microtonal, sixth-tone opera by one of the music visionaries of the 20th century, Czech modernist composer Alois Hába. This first-time-ever performance marks the 125th anniversary of Hába’s birth and is presented in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Czech Republic.
NODO will also feature the world premieres of two chamber operas, both commissioned by NODO -- A Woman Such as Myself (2017-18) by 32-year old, Hong Kong-based composer Daniel Ting-Cheung Lo, and The Mute Canary (2017-18) by Czech-born Canadian composer Rudolf Komorous. Additional highlights include the critically acclaimed Polish production of Italian composer Salvatore Sciarrino’s Luci mie traditrici (Oh My Betraying Eyes) (1998); the Czech premiere of African-American composer Julius Eastman’s Macle (1971-72), originally composed for the S.E.M. Ensemble, which will perform the work at NODO; and a ninety-minute performance of John Cage’s influential Song Books I, II (1970), capping the festival. Presented by Ostrava Center for New Music in collaboration with the National Moravian Silesian Theatre, NODO is an extension of Ostrava Days, the biennial summer institute and festival of new music that has taken place in Ostrava since 2001.
A leading proponent of microtonal music and a major figure among Czech composers of the interbellum period, Alois Hába (1893-1973) considered his third opera, Thy Kingdom Come to be the pinnacle of his creative powers. The three-act epic work draws from Rudolf Steiner’s anthroposophic teachings and its core message addresses the need for social justice, freedom of thought and a world without wars. When Hába completed the work in 1942, staging was out of question, and after WWII, the ideologues of socialist realism considered it dangerously esoteric.
“Nobody has wanted to rise up to the challenge of performing the work, which is a mammoth undertaking,” notes artistic director Petr Kotik. “Since La Monte Young started to experiment with intonation alternative to the standard tempered tuning in the early 1960s, microtonal music has become one of the experimental avenues to create new compositions. In the last decade, many composers of the younger generation have turned to a microtonal organization of sound. The world premiere of a major music-theater work created some eighty years ago offers an unparalleled opportunity to observe this phenomenon in its beginnings.”
The microtonal opera’s only two performances will kick off NODO festival on June 24 and 25 at Jiri Myron Theater (Ostrava, Czech Republic). They will feature leading Czech vocalists in twenty-six solo parts, the Canticum Ostrava choir under the direction of Yurii Galatenko, a grand orchestra composed of both Ostravská banda and ONO (Ostrava New Orchestra) conducted by Bruno Ferrandis, and stage design by Jiri Nekvasil and David Bazika. Special orchestra instruments used in these performances will include the original sixth-tone harmonium manufactured for Hába in 1930 and provided by the Czech Museum of Music, and the Mutantrumpet designed by the composer Ben Neill and capable of playing both quarter-tone and sixth-tone scales.
On June 26, the festival will present a Polish production of Salvatore Sciarrino’s Luci mie traditrici, directed by Pia Partum. In two acts with a libretto written by Sciarrino, the work tells the story of renaissance composer Carlo Gesualdo, the Prince of Verona, who murdered his wife and her lover. The Czech premiere will feature Ostravská banda conducted by Lilianna Krych, soprano Anna Radziejewska, contralto Jan Jakub Monowid, tenor Andrzej Lenart, and bass Artur Janda.
NODO commissioned Daniel Ting-Cheung Lo to write the chamber opera, A Woman Such as Myself, after the young composer stood out as one of the most noteworthy talents at past Ostrava Days Institutes. To be performed on June 27, the work is based on a short story by one of China's best-known female authors, Xi Xi, and tells about a girl who has a job as a corpse cosmetician. The performance will feature Ostravská banda under the direction of Petr Kotik, soprano Kamala Sankaram, baritone Vojtěch Šembera, and mezzosoprano Eliška Zajícová.
Following up Ting-Cheung Lo’s premiere will be Macle, a twenty-minute early graphic score for four vocalists composed by Julius Eastman (1940-1990), incorporating sound, story-telling and stage movements. Once an outsider and now being rediscovered and hailed as a genius, Eastman drew on the minimalism of Terry Riley, La Monte Young and Steve Reich, but also on the music of Morton Feldman and Petr Kotik. He joined Kotik’s S.E.M. Ensemble at its inception, and Macle was composed in 1971/1972 for the S.E.M. Ensemble’s first European tour. Macle will be performed by the S.E.M Ensemble led by Petr Kotik.
Also commissioned by NODO is Rudolf Komorous’ one-act opera, The Mute Canary, featuring a libretto by French Dadaist writer Georges Ribemont-Dessaignes (translation by Christopher Butterfield). The work is to be performed on June 28 by Ostravská banda conducted by Owen Underhill, with soprano Anne Grimm, baritone Alex Dobson, and countertenor Daniel Cabena.
NODO festival will close on June 28 with John Cage’s voluminous collection of solo compositions, Song Books I, II, which has influenced generations. The S.E.M. Ensemble will join Ostravská banda for this special performance which will feature eight soloists, theater and electronics.