Jiří Bělohlávek

Janácek: The Excursions of Mr. Broucek

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The Excursions of Mr. Broucek occupied Janácek sporadically for 10 years, with most of the delays having to do with the difficulty of finding satisfactory librettists. It's based on two stories by Svatopluk Cech and is essentially two operas that fit very nicely together as one. Mr. Broucek, a bourgeois resident of nineteenth century Prague, has two bizarre dreams, one of which transports him to the moon and the other to fifteenth century Prague. The moon is populated by an exceedingly odd race of aesthetes and artists for whom a banquet consists of sniffing flowers, but for whom the mention of the word "nose" constitutes grounds for banishment. Janácek's surreal lunar world is delightfully absurd, and he provides it with music that matches its whimsicality. The world of medieval Eastern Europe is only slightly less alien to Mr. Broucek, and considerably more dangerous, but he happily finds himself at home by the opera's conclusion. This fine recording with the BBC Singers and Symphony Orchestra is the first to use a newly prepared critical edition of the score by Jírí Zahrádka and Charles Mackerras, reinstating the eccentricities of Janácek's orchestration, which earlier generations of editors and conductors felt compelled to normalize. Jírí Belohlávek leads a vigorous, colorful, and nuanced reading of the score. The principals, all of whom are Czech, sing with passion and conviction and are completely successful at making a convincing case for the opera's musical and dramatic effectiveness. Apart from the difficulties of creating a scenically persuasive representation of the lunar escapades, there's every reason for this genuinely funny modern opera to find a way into the repertoire of more opera houses.

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