The History of Slovak Theatre – 7. Opera

Slovak and Czech Repertoire

The development of the Slovak opera theatre has not been long, but over the past 100 years of its existence it gained a remarkable character through its intensity and dynamic. The activities in this field took place on two levels: interpretation and composition. In both cases, the Slovak National Theatre played the key role. Building of the professional interpretation level arose from the Czech and world repertoire by staging Italian, French and Russian operas and focusing on the development of the original Slovak opera. This interpretation trend is clear throughout the history of the Slovak opera theatre. Czech opera heavily influenced the emergence of the Slovak opera theatre. Three Slovak opera houses were opened by three plays of the Czech artists: The Kiss by Bedřich Smetana in the Slovak National Theatre, his Bartered Bride in the State Theatre Košice, and Eva by Josef Bohuslav Foerster in the State Opera in Banská Bystrica. Since the 1920s, the Slovak opera scene initiated the development at the original Slovak works. The first steps included Ján Levoslav Bella’s Wayland the Smith and the first original attempt at national opera Detvan by Viliam Figuš-Bystrý, culminating in the full-fledged The Whirlpool by Eugen Suchoň. His generational contemporary Ján Cikker wrote a wonderful score about the fate of the folk hero Juro Jánošík and set to music Charles Dickens’ story Mister Scrooge. The works of both authors are alive on the stages of the Slovak theatres to this day. Three Slovak opera stages now feature the works of more recent and contemporary composers: The Feast by Juraj Beneš and Dorian Gray by Ľubica Čekovská strongly resonated in the Slovak National Theatre. The alternative opera scene is being successfully represented by Slavo Solovic and his Cirrostratus or Coma by Martin Burlas.

World Repertoire

Russian opera traditionally occupied a strong position in the Slovak opera life, particularly Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin that essentially never left our opera stage since 1920. Italian opera has been the most popular part of the opera repertoire among our audiences as well as in the world, particularly the works of Giuseppe Verdi and Giacomo Puccini. The Slovak National Theatre and the State Opera in Banská Bystrica have a long tradition of staging the bel canto style operas of Gioacchino Rossini and Gaetano Donizetti. On all three of these stages, operas of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart are a fixture. Charles Gounod and particularly his most important opera Faust and Marguerite became a series of staging milestones in the history of the Slovak opera theatre. Almost every production was a significant theatrical eyent. Starting with the first plays of directors Josef Peršl and Viktor Šulc in the early days at the Slovak National Theatre, through the expressionist mood of the Košice production directed by Kornel Hájek, the ground-breaking and for many shocking play of Jozef Bednárik, to the last version – in the philosophical introverted execution by the Lithuanian Gintaras Varnas in the Slovak National Theatre.

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