By David Salazar
(Photo Credit: Zdeněk Sokol)
As part of its “Musica non grata” series, the National Theatre Opera in Prague is set to present Erwin Schulhoff’s “Flammen” for the first time since its world premiere in 1932. The opera opens on June 12, 2022 and runs through Nov. 22, 2022.
The work, which is a unique take on the Don Juan myth, will be directed by famed director Calixto Bieito, who will hone in on the surrealist aspects of the work. The opera will be conducted by Jiří Rožeň and stars Victoria Khoroshunova, Denys Pivnitskyi, Tamara Morozová, Jan Hny, Michal Marhold, Jaroslav Patocka, Josef Palán, and Tone Kummervold, among others.
“I was not sure if I could ever completely understand this work, but I felt that I would be able to fill it with my own imagination,” Bieito said in an official press statement issued by the company. “’Flammen’ is a work that allows us to speak of darkness, the emptiness inside a man, images appearing in our dreams, the passing of life into death, of seduction, desire, and love. It is an opera breathing the absolute freedom of our imagination.”
Schulhoff was 29 when he met librettist Karel Josef Benes, the creator of the narrative poem “Don Juan.” Per Rožeň, the music weaves in many of Schulhoff’s stylistic obsessions, including his interest in jazz and dadaism.
“The opera immediately draws your attention by its structure with significant purely symphonic episodes. Singing, on the other hand, is sparser and the chorus only has a single scene to perform,” said Rožeň. “Also the way in which Schulhoff combines various styles is worth mentioning. His music ranges from late romanticism to expressionism with overtones of impressionism suddenly switching to a jazz scene or a nuns’ psalmody.’”
For this production, the Czech company is reconstructing the opera’s original Czech libretto as there is no final authorized version of the work, and changes were made following the premiere that were never inscribed in the score.