Sunday, May 8, 2016

Barihunk duos alternating roles in Brno double bill of Martinů and Purcell

David Nykl, Ondrej Mraz and Jiří Brückler (L-R)
The National Theatre in Brno is presenting a double-bill of Bohuslav Martinů's rarely performed Epic of Gilgamesh along with Henry Purcell frequently performed Dido and Aeneas from May 13 to June 10.

The cast is loaded with barihunks, including David Nykl, who we introduced to readers back in 2014, and Ondrej Mraz, who are alternating the bass role in the Martinů and the Sorceress in the Purcell.
Jiří Brückler and Jiří Hájek are alternating the baritone part in the Martinů and Aeneas in the Purcell.

Martinů created the Epic of Gilgamesh at the height of his exile period while staying in the South of France, only four years before his death. He reached for the oldest surviving literary text, and in composing his work employed the universally recognized translation into Elizabethan English made in 1928 by the archaeologist and Oxford professor Reginald Campbell Thompson. Deeply captivated by the epic from the dawn of Babylonian history, Martinů only began the compositional work after meditating on the philosophical essence of the text for several years.

Listen to a complete recording of the Epic of Gilgamesh here:

The Epic of Gilgamesh consists of three parts of almost equal length: Gilgamesh, The Death of Enkidu, and Invocation. It is scored for soloists (soprano, tenor, baritone and bass), narrator, mixed choir and orchestra. Martinů wrote it for Paul Sacher’s chamber orchestra, a fact reflected in the score. Although Martinů said that he “would need to express himself with greater orchestral might”, the sound of Gilgamesh is monumental.

The work was premiered in January 1958 in Basil, Switzerland. Martinů presented his idea of semi-staging the work to the conductor, desiring to “animate” Gilgamesh, to create “an illusion of action.” However, Sacher rejected the idea and performed the work as a concert oratorio.

Ondrej Mráz, who is new to this site studied voice at the University of Performing Arts in Bratislava and graduated in 2006. He became a soloist of the State Theatre in Košice and won the Literary Fund Prize for his portrayal of Mephistopheles in Gounod's Faust. At the National Theatre, he has appeared as Luther and Crespel in Offenbach's Les contes d'Hoffmann, Dulcamara in Donizetti's L'elisir d'amore, Titurel in Wagner's Parsifal and Count Vilém in Dvořák's The Jacobin.

32-year-old Jiří Brückler was born in Liberec in northern Bohemia, where he started his career in music as a member of various children’s choirs. He then studied voice at the Prague Conservatory and the Academy of Music in Prague. He performs regularly at the National Theatre in Prague and the State Opera in Prague.

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