Check out the LSU Opera’s all-Czech show this weekend.
The pun is definitely intended, because not only will two casts be presenting Czech composer Bohuslav Martinu’s two-one act operas, they’ll be performed in Czech.
There will be lots of stage action too, for one opera will be a dark drama, “Hlas Lesas,” or “Voice of the Forest;” and the other will be a comedy, “Veselohra Na Moste” or “Comedy on the Bridge.”
Both operas will be performed on Friday and Sunday in the Claude L. Shaver Theatre. And, as Music Director Michael Borowitz points out, the productions will give both cast and audience members an opportunity to experience something new.
“As the face of opera changes in this country, the days of bigger productions and grand operas are dwindling,” Borowitz says. “Folks are willing to see newer works and work they’re not familiar with, and it’s important for us to make sure the students here are equipped with as much as possible.”
Borowitz not only is musical director for both works but also director for “Comedy on the Bridge.” LSU Opera Director Dugg McDonough is directing “Voice of the Forest.”
“Michael and I have both been busy this semester with our previous production of ‘Beatrice et Benedict’ and working with Opera Louisiane’s production of ‘Madame Butterfly,’” McDonough says. “So, we’re each taking one of the operas to direct.”
Neither of the operas is large in production, and the costumes and sets are simple, yet each tells a compelling story originally written for radio.
“Martinu wrote them in the 1930s, when radio was the main form of communication,” McDonough says. “They didn’t have television or the Internet, so their entertainment was on the radio.”
Martinu wrote his operas to be performed live on radio in much the same way as radio dramas and comedies were performed. An orchestra accompanied singers who stood in front of microphones while the radio audience imaged in the action.
“The British started broadcasting operas in the 1920s,” McDonough says. “Martinu’s operas were staged later. I saw a production of ‘Comedy on the Bridge’ at the Conservatory of St. Louis, which, unfortunately, no longer exists. This will be the first time we’ll stage them at LSU.”
A young bride named Nevesta is the main character of “Voice of the Forest.” She goes to the forest to meet her husband-to-be, Myslivecek, but he never shows up.
She then meets a bandit, who invites her to join in an all-night party with his fellow bandits and promises to show her the way out of the forest the next morning. It’s here where Nevesta realizes the bandits are holding Myslivecek hostage.
Worse yet, they plan to kill him. Can she save the love of her life?
People are caught in the middle of the bridge in “Comedy on the Bridge.”
“‘Comedy on the Bridge’ has so many elements of a situation comedy,” Borowitz says. “It’s really very funny.”
The opera tells the story of two warring principalities separated by a river. The two towns are connected by a bridge, with a sentry standing guard on either end.
Enter Popelka, who passes through enemy territory and surrenders her “safe conduct” to the enemy sentry, who allows her to cross. But the friendly sentry refuses to let her off the bridge.
The enemy sentry also refuses to let her pass again, so she’s stuck. Four others find themselves in the same situation as the story progresses.
“The people on the bridge begin talking,” Borowitz says. “They’re stuck, and they don’t know what’s going to happen, and they start making confessions. There are betrayals and misunderstandings, and things become more complicated the longer they’re stranded on the bridge. And everyone is guarding a secret.”
But suddenly, a cease fire is called, and everyone is allowed to go home. But will their worlds be forever changed after their time on the bridge?
The answer — and the fun — can be found in the weekend productions.
“It’s a story about how everyone has faults, and how people should love and accept others even with their faults,” Borowitz says. “It’s been fun to direct.”
This show will mark Borowitz’s directorial debut at LSU. He’s directed plenty of shows for other opera companies, but he’s worked only as the music director for the LSU Opera.
“I love all aspects of this art form,” Borowitz says. “It has a cinematic edge.”
One that’s worth checking out.