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<<  -- 4 --  Robert Hugill    LISTENING WITH BAROQUE EARS


Like Mussorgsky, Janácek's genius was so distinctive that well-meaning people adapted it to the perceived taste. The price he paid for the Prague première of Jenufa was a wholesale revision to the finale by Karel Kovarovic, the director of the National Theatre. For the first foreign performance of The Cunning Little Vixen in Mainz in 1927, the translator Max Brod placed his own stamp on the opera, 'to make things clearer and more concentrated'. His German version of the text was more of a free adaptation of Janácek's original rather than a faithful translation. It created links between Harasta's invisible lover Terynka and the title-role, but on the contrary he abolished many of the doubled parts, breaking down the connections between the animals and humans. Janácek never interpolated Brod's changes into his original, preferring his own intentions, but it is in Brod's version that the opera first became known.

Opera as collaboration does seem to be making a come back, if we consider collaboration as the joining of equals, rather than revision by a foreign, possibly anonymous hand. In London the opera company 'Tête à Tête' is planning to follow up its evening of short one-act operas by a single opera with different scenes from a single libretto written by different promising young composers -- the result should be fascinating.

Returning to where we started, in baroque opera, I think that we need to recognise the role that collaboration plays in these operas. If we want to listen to the music with truly baroque ears, then we must recognise the importance of the role of modern collaborators and recreators.

Copyright © 22 January 2004 Robert Hugill, London UK




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