Behaviour will be governed by rules! It’s not hard to be born. It’s easy to die. Living between these two events is not necessarily impossible. All it takes is to adapt oneself to the rules and to accept their recommendations.
In 1994 French dramatist Jean-Luc Lagarce created a play on the basis of a manual of correct behaviour from the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. He conceived of the play as one long speech in which an actress explains, in florid style, and comments on a list of rules of behaviour in various situations. The endless number of items, their absurdity and comic nature soon come to the surface. It is an unusual theatrical piece that discreetly connects a serious meditation on the sense of human existence with the ways in which people tweak that existence in order to make it bearable. Lagarce’s play became the basis for a new opera by two renowned young artists, the composer Michal Nejtek and the director Jiří Adámek, created directly for the Janáček opera company of the National Theatre Brno. At a Bunuel-style absurd celebration dinner, a choir of four singers – age-old guardians of tradition and noblesse – accompany the audience through life from birth to death by means of the rules of social behaviour.
// Credits //
LIBRETTO Jiří Adámek
MUSIC ASSISTANCE Pavel Šnajdr
CONDUCTOR Pavel Šnajdr
DIRECTION Jiří Adámek
DRAMATURGY Patricie Částková
SET DESIGN Ivana Kanhäuserová
COSTUMES Adriana Černá
CHOREOGRAPHY ASSISTANCE Zuzana Sýkorová
ASSISTANT DIRECTOR Otakar Blaha
TRANSLATION OF THE PLAY Kateřina Neveu
SOPRANO Marta Reichelová
SOPRANO Daniela Straková-Šedrlová
MEZZO-SOPRANO Jitka Klečanská
BASS Josef Škarka, j.h. (guest appearance)
ACTOR Petr Vančura, j.h. (guest appearance)
World premiere September 15th, 2017, Reduta Theatre
// Authors //
JIŘÍ ADÁMEK (1977) Studied direction at DAMU in Prague, where he now teaches. He developed an original type of sonic theatre, in which most emphasis is placed on voice and the combining of voices. His scripts and librettos play with breaking up words into syllables and sounds, the rhythmisation of speech and with imaginary language. He develops his specific approach above all with the theatre group Boca Loca Lab, which he founded in 2007. Projects he has created with Boca Loca Lab include Tick-Tick Politics (2006, awards at Music Theatre now! in Germany and the Contact festival in Poland), Europeans (2008, awards at the Mess festival in Bosnia and Herzegovina), Fire 1911 (2011), Say Something (2013), Four Three Two One (2014) and the opera The Infinity of Lists (2016). He frequently also directs at the Minor theatre in Prague. For the National Theatre’s New Stage he has created a scenic collage from the post-revolution years, After Velvet (2014), and a political-social production, New Atlantis (2018). He also creates sound compositions for Czech Radio (Tick-Tick Politics in a radio version, Marriage Minutes etc.). He also writes on theoretical aspects of the linking of theatre work with music and composition principles, above all in the study Théâtre musical/divadlo poutané hudbou (NAMU, 2011) and in a number of articles for the magazine Svět a divadlo (World and Theatre), of which he was an editor for several years.
MICHAL NEJTEK (1977) Born in Litoměřice, he graduated from the Conservatory in Teplice (piano) and the Music Faculty of AMU in Prague (composition}. He composes symphonic and chamber music, and also works on stage projects (such as Lamenti). He has been commissioned to write new compositions by the festivals Donaueschinger Musiktage, Warsaw Autumn and Klangspuren. He also works with the band The Plastic People of the Universe (Obešel já polí pět, Pašije, Vlaková opera). He plays piano and keyboard instruments in the ensembles AGON, Face of the Bass and the David Koller Band. He also creates music for theatre (Arnošt Goldflam, Jiří Ornest, Jana Svobodová etc.). He likes jazz, alternative music and classical music, all original, authentic and strong. He taught at the Conservatory in Teplice (music theory, repetiteur studies) and now teaches the history of jazz at the Jaroslav Ježek Conservatory. He often writes reviews for the magazine Harmonie. He sees composition and the playing of music as similar to an adventurous walk through the jungle, which is why he enjoys it.
// Company //
THE NATIONAL THEATRE IN BRNO began its activity in 1884, and the activity of its opera also dates from this year. Currently, under the leadership of managing director Martin Glaser, artistic head Jiří Heřman and chief conductor Marko Ivanović, the opera company focuses, with notable results, not only on the classic repertoire but also on contemporary work (such as Thomas Ades: Powder Her Face); Rules of Polite Behaviour in Modern Society was commissioned by the theatre itself. In addition, the theatre organises a significant international opera and music festival, Janáček Brno.
// Press //
Adámek does not let the singers use any external means to act, there are no sweeping movements and “lifelike” gestures as we know them from opera. He arranges the figures in artificial groupings and leaves them to get on with it, in an unassuming but purposeful way. Effectively, in the same way that he treats
his speakers in Boca Loca Lab. Only small gestures and tightly-controlled, restrained movements. The remarkably disciplined, minimalist expression of the four singers, Marta Reichelová, Daniela Straková-Šedrlová, Jitka Klečanská and Josef Škarka, forms the basis of the stage composition. They have enough space for perfect intonation and phrasing of the parts, for precise ensemble singing. It is not at all simple in terms of interpretation. Not for the orchestra, either, but Pavel Šnajdr has rehearsed the hour-and-a-half long work with precision.
– Josef Herman, Divadelní noviny
What remains on the stage is the disorder that each of us leaves behind. The music, and a human life, come to an end: man is mortal, the rules live on.
– Boris Klepal, Hospodářské noviny
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