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Opera in three acts

Composer Leoš Janáček · Text by Leoš Janáček after a play by Karel Čapek
In Czech with German surtitles

Wednesday, 29. October 2014
08:00 pm – 09:50 pm
Nationaltheater

Duration est. 1 hours 50 minutes

Introductory Event: 07:00 PM

Prices K , € - /- /- /- /- /- /- /10

Premiere at 19. October 2014

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  • Ausstattungspartner der Bayerischen Staatsoper

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Cast

Musikalische Leitung
Tomáš Hanus
Inszenierung
Árpád Schilling
Bühne und Kostüme
Márton Ágh
Licht
Tamás Bányai
Dramaturgie
Miron Hakenbeck
Chor
Sören Eckhoff

Hauk-Šendorf
Jan Ježek
Emilia Marty
Nadja Michael
Albert Gregor
Pavel Černoch
Vítek
Kevin Conners
Krista
Tara Erraught
Jaroslav Prus
John Lundgren
Janek
Dean Power
Dr. Kolenatý
Gustav Beláček
Ein Theatermaschinist
Peter Lobert
Eine Aufräumefrau
Heike Grötzinger
Kammerzofe Emilias
Rachael Wilson
  • Bayerisches Staatsorchester
  • Chorus of the Bayerische Staatsoper
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The inheritance litigation of Gregor against Prus that has dragged on for generations comes to an unexpected turn when the singer Emilia Marty turns up who can be of service with astonishingly detailed information about the past. The men caught up in the dispute lose their heads over this fascinating woman. However, love seems to mean nothing to her and sex is a ware; Marty goes to bed with the one in possession of the old document she is looking for: the Makropulos affair. For his final opera, the aged Leoš Janáček falls back on a contemporary drama with a phantasy plot, the story of 337 year old Elina Makropulos. As a young woman a life-prolonging elixir was tested on her. Since then she constantly changes countries, lovers and identities. As the effect of the elixir wears off she, tired of life but nonetheless fearful of death, searches for the recipe that could once again defer her ageing. Karel Čapek's ingenious comedy speculates on the meaning of mortality. Janáček turns it into a tragedy stretching across 300 years of loneliness.

 

What happened previously or The Case of Gregor versus Prus

The process of litigation between the families of Gregor and Prus about the estate of Baron Josef Ferdinand Prus has dragged on for almost a hundred years. Baron Prus died without a direct heir. He is said, however, to have named a boy from an orphanage, one Ferdinand Gregor, as the heir to part of his estate. This Ferdinand was unable to claim his inheritance because the baron died intestate and there was no written proof. The estate therefore went to a cousin of the late baron and thus remained in the possession of the Prus family. The adversaries in the fourth generation are Baron Jaroslav Prus and Ferdinand’s great-grandson Albert Gregor, who is deep in debt. Albert Gregor has taken the deadlocked case to a final hearing, against the advice of his lawyer Dr Kolenatý, in order to force a final decision. As there is still no will it is more than unlikely that Gregor will win.

Act One – In Dr Kolenatý’s chambers

Albert Gregor is waiting impatiently in the chambers of his lawyer, Dr Kolenatý, for news about the outcome of the case. The clerk, Vítek, cannot give him any information. Vítek’s daughter Krista, who dreams of becoming a great singer, is full of enthusiasm about the famous singer Emilia Marty with whom she is appearing at the moment. Krista believes that in the face of Marty’s perfection she herself can forget all hope of a career.

Kolenatý returns from court: the pronouncement of judgement has been postponed. He is followed by Emilia Marty. She is interested in Gregor’s case, about which she has read in the newspaper, and has Kolenatý explain it to her in great detail. Marty astonishes Kolenatý and Gregor with some information about the past which throws a new light on the case. She tells them that the orphan named by Josef Prus as his heir all those years ago, Ferdinand Gregor, was Prus’ illegitimate son, the child’s mother was Ellian MacGregor, a famous singer at the time.

Marty mentions a sealed will written by Prus in favour of his son Ferdinand which could be found in the house of the Prus family. She appears to know exactly what it contains and even tells them in which drawer they will probably find it. This would mean that Albert Gregor would clearly have a chance of claiming the inheritance, worth a few million, after all. Kolenatý thinks Marty’s information lacks credibility but when his client threatens to change his lawyer he declares himself prepared to look into the matter.

Gregor and Marty are left alone. Gregor admits to Marty that he has felt drawn to her ever since she came into the chambers. When he offers her part of his inheritance Marty laughs at him and also rebuffs his passionate declaration of love. Instead she asks Gregor to give her some documents written in Greek which his great-grandfather Ferdinand left him. Gregor denies owning such papers.

Kolenatý returns from his mission accompanied by Gregor’s adversary, Prus: the will has indeed been found where Marty said it would be. Marty is very interested in any other documents that might have been found there. Prus points out that all documents will remain in his possession as long as there is no proof that Ferdinand Gregor was indeed the son by the name of Ferdinand mentioned in the will. Marty promises to produce such a document.

Act Two – On the empty stage of a large theatre

After the performance a number of Marty’s fans await the singer, among them Jaroslav Prus. Krista tells her friend Janek, Prus’ son, that she has worked out the secret of Marty’s success: absolute devotion to her art – and thus a renunciation of romance. Marty, weary of the compliments and flowers from her many admirers, makes first Janek, then Gregor and also Krista look ridiculous in front of all present. The old Count Hauk-Šendorf, who is thought to be senile, recognises in Emilia Marty the Spanish gipsy Eugenia Montez with whom he had had a passionate love affair half a century earlier. Marty seems moved by the old man’s reminiscences and accepts his caresses with no inhibitions.

She then sends all of them away – except Prus whom she questions about the other documents found with the will. Prus mentions the existence of diverse love letters signed „E.M.“ and an old Greek document which particularly interests Marty. She offers to buy the papers off Prus at any price but Prus refuses her offer.

Gregor returns and declares that he is madly in love with Marty. She advises him rather cynically to kill himself. She explains that she is tired of men’s aggressive proofs of love which are always the same – and then falls asleep.

Janek wakes her, he, like all the others, is attracted to Marty. She persuades him to deceive his father and steal a Greek document from him which means a great deal to her. Prus surprises the two of them and sends his deeply ashamed son away. He is willing to give Marty the document in return for her favours.

Act Three – In a hotel room

After they have spent the night together Prus hands Marty the document, although he feels cheated of his payment: she has remained cool and dispassionate throughout. One of Prus’ servants brings dreadful news: his son Janek has shot himself in the head. Marty appears unmoved by this suicide and refuses to accept Prus’ claim that she is responsible.

Hauk wants to persuade his gipsy Eugenia Montez alias Emilia to flee south with him. Kolenatý, Gregor, Vítek and Prus prevent Marty from leaving and accuse her of forging a document. While Marty is dressing, the men search her luggage and find proof: the letters of Ellian MacGregor and several papers signed „E.M.“ are in the same handwriting as Marty’s autographs. Under the pressure of strict interrogation Emilia Marty gets drunk and tells the incredible story of her origins.

Her name is Elina Makropulos and she was born in Crete in 1585. Her father, Hieronymus Makropulos, was an alchemist and the physician of Emperor Rudolf ll at his court in Prague. On the orders of the emperor he brewed an elixir of life which stopped the ageing process for 300 years. Afraid of being poisoned the emperor first had the elixir tested on Makropulos’ sixteen year-old daughter. Elina lost consciousness for a week. The emperor threw his physician into prison and preferred to wait for a natural death. On regaining consciousness Elina fled, taking the recipe for the elixir of life with her.

The potion really worked. Elina lived through three centuries without ageing. She became a great singer. In order not to stand out she moved to a different place every two decades and changed her name and identity. She kept her original initials however. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, as the singer Ellian MacGregor, she met Baron Josef Prus. She had an illegitimate child by him – Ferdinand Gregor – Albert Gregor’s great-grandfather. She left Josef Prus, the only man she had really loved, her father’s recipe.

Elina Makropulos is now 337 years old and the effect of the elixir is beginning to wear off. Her fear of death has not decreased. In order to prolong her life for another 300 years, Elina set off to find the recipe, the only reason for her interest in Gregor’s case.

After admitting this, Elina Makropulos alias Emilia Marty faints. When she comes to she seems to have undergone a change. She no longer sees any sense in using the Makropulos secret a second time: her life, human existance and aspiration seem to be meaningless to her. The many equally disappointing experiences and losses have made her lonely. She gives Krista the secret recipe. The men warn Krista against using it. Elina Makropulos dies saying the Lord’s Prayer in Greek.

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Premiere of Leoš Janáček's "The Makropulos Affair" on October 19, 2014 in the Nationaltheater

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Biographies

Tomáš Hanus studierte an der Janáček-Akademie für Musik und Darstellende Kunst in seiner Heimatstadt Brünn/Tschechien. 1999 machte er als Gewinner des Internationalen Dirigentenwettbewerbs in Kattowitz auf sich aufmerksam. Seit seinem Debüt am Nationaltheater Prag im Jahr 2001 mit Bedřich Smetanas Die Teufelswand dirigierte er dort zahlreiche Vorstellungen. Von 2007 bis 2009 war er Musikalischer Direktor des Nationaltheaters in Brünn. Gastengagements führten ihn an die Opernhäuser von Paris, Madrid, Berlin, Dresden, Wien, Basel, Kopenhagen, Oslo, Helsinki, Lyon und Warschau. Zudem dirigierte er Konzerte mit Orchestern wie dem Bayerischen Staatsorchester, dem London Symphony Orchestra, dem Ensemble intercontemporain, dem Staatsorchester Stuttgart, der Camerata Salzburg und der Tschechischen Philharmonie. Seit der Spielzeit 2016/2017 ist er Music Director der Welsh National Opera. An der Bayerischen Staatsoper dirigierte er u. a. Die Sache Makropolus, Rusalka und Hänsel und Gretel. (Stand: 2018)

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