Friday, 13 November 2009

The Adventures of Mr. Broucek - Lowry Theatre, Salford

The Adventures of Mr. Brouček
Composer: Leoš Janáček
Conductor: Martin Andre
Director: John Fulljames
Reviewer: Lorna Andrewes

Brouček , on first sight, seems to be a very weird opera. It is based on the novels of czech writer Svatopluk Cech, the main protagonist being a most unappealing character : an inebriated small-time property owner with lecherous tendencies, cowardly and without any generous sentiments or any redeeming features. He is of a type often seen in czech literature, a sort of Mr.Bean type (Brouček translates as Mr Beetle)

This is a strongly satirical work in the czech style, with a very self deprecating view of the national psyche .But although not quite uproariously funny to our contemporary sensibilities it is transformed by Janáček into an amusing and compelling music drama with many delightful moments. Opera North has created out of it a bright, stylish and articulate production.

In the first act, a drunken Brouček sung outstandingly by John Graham-Hall, flirts with Malinka - Anne Sophie Duprels - before falling into a drunken stupour and dreaming himself into a moon world where aesthetics are the ruling principles. Brouček's coarseness shocks the inhabitants, who seem to resemble figures in his normal life. Broucek commits umpteen social gaffs and has to flee the moon.

Act two finds Brouček , once more thoroughly inebriated, back in 1420, with a group of czechs preparing to fight against the Holy Roman Empire. He fails to measure up to their courage and determination and after many alarms is relieved to escape with his life to his own time. One has no great hope of his becoming a wiser man as a result!

This opera has been described as being made of rather ill-fitting ingredients, making it difficult to achieve coherence in presentation. If one were, however, to view it as an attempt to escape a disagreeable existence into a more interesting world only to find oneself unsuited to it and therefore become more philosophical about the real world, then the work can be seen with greater clarity.

Though the two 'other' worlds - one a fantastical future and the other a heroic past dramatically bear little eqivalence to each other, they are held together by being peopled by Brouček's associates (though as different characters) from the real world.

The two fantasy worlds are brilliantly realised in this production by the charmingly choreographic treatment of the moon people in the first land(choreograper Ben Wright) and by the dramatic use of the chorus, both visually and musically in the second land of the 1420 siege of Prague. Particlar mention must be made of John Graham-Hall, Jeffrey Lloyd- Roberts, Anne Sophie Duprels and Donald Maxwell, as
, Mazal, Malinka and Wurfl, whose performances shone even in such excellent company.

The visual and musical dynamics were beautifully married together in this masterly production. Right from the first bars of the overture one knows that this is a production to be enjoyed.

Photos: Alastair Muir
The Adventures of Mr. Brouček is on tour more info click here
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