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Janáček adapted Rudolf Těsnohlídek’s popular serial into the form of an opera libretto, which he then filled with beautiful musical content, bringing together the worlds of nature and of human fates. Janáček’s musical world is so evocative that even without the set and costumes, it takes you directly into forests.
The Cunning Little Vixen, concert performance of the opera (1h 50')
Elena Tsallagova soprano
Kateřina Kněžíková soprano
Jarmila Balážová mezzo-soprano
Jan Martiník bass
Other singers TBA
Prague Philharmonic Choir
Lukáš Vasilek choirmaster
Prague Philharmonic Children’s Choir
Jiří Chvála choirmaster
John Eliot Gardiner conductor
“Once I was reading – there happened to be a picture of Bystrouška (the vixen Little Sharp Ears) walking hand in hand with Zlatohřbítek (Gold-Spur) and carrying a flower. The way they were strutting about seemed terribly funny to me. I didn’t think anyone could hear me laughing out loud. The lady of the house was not at home just then and the gentleman was in his study. But suddenly he appeared at the kitchen door: ‘If you please, woman, what are you laughing at?’ ‘Well, it’s the Vixen here, sir.’ ‘What Vixen?’ ‘You don’t read it? It’s a reporter from [the Brno newspaper] Lidové noviny, Mr. Těsnohlídek, who wrote it.’ I handed him the newspaper and he looked at the picture, read a bit, started smiling and I said to him: ‘Sir, you know quite well how animals are always talking to each other, how you’re always notating birdsong – Lord, what an opera that would make!’ And he said nothing. He just started watching for each continuation of the Vixen’s story.”
Thus began the story of one of the world’s most famous twentieth century operas, as described by the Janáček family’s housekeeper Marie Stejskalová in 1920. Janáček did not begin work on the opera until two years later, as he wrote to his friend Kamila Stösslová: “I’m now working on the girls’ novel ‘Liška Bystrouška’. Now I have no time to think about myself. There has never been a year when I worked as hard mentally as this year.” Janáček had to adapt Rudolf Těsnohlídek’s popular serial with illustrations by Stanislav Lolek into the form of an opera libretto, which he then filled with beautiful musical content, bringing together the worlds of nature and of human fates. Janáček’s musical world is so evocative that even without the set and costumes, it takes you into forests, the Beskid Mountains countryside, or wherever else you would want to experience one of the loveliest stories about life that has ever been made into an opera.
Kateřina Kněžíková, born 1982 in Bohumín, graduated from Prague Conservatory in 2007 and in 2010 she completed her university degree at Music and Dance Faculty of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague as a student of Jiřina Přívratská. She has been the prize-winner of numerous competitions, for example Antonín Dvořák’s International Singing Competition in Karlovy Vary.
In 2005, Kateřina Kněžíková made her debut in the National Theatre in Prague in the role of Zerlina and she has been a permanent cast member thereof since 2006. This is where her operatic engagements over recent years include roles such as Susanna (Le nozze di Figaro), Serpetta (La Finta giardiniera), Servilia (La Clemenza di Tito), Blonde (Entführung aus dem Serail), Despina (Cosí fan tutte), Ilja (Idomeneo), Almirena (Rinaldo), Adina (Elisir d’amore), Barče (Hubička), Terinka (Jakobín), Nannetta (Falstaff), Aristea (L’Olimpiade) and many others.
She made her guest appearance in F. X. Šalda Theatre Liberec, J. K. Tyl Theatre in Pilsen, National Moravian-Silesian Theatre in Ostrava, Slovak National Theatre in Bratislava, Theatre de Caen, Opéra Royal de Versailles, Theatre Royal de La Monnaie in Brussels and Opéra de Dijon.
She has been performing in productions of various directors - D. Beneš, Karl-Ernst and Ursel Herrmann, J. Heřman, L. Keprtová, L. Moaty, J. Nekvasil, V. Věžník etc.
Her professional concert and operatic engagements have involved work with conductors such as S. Baudo, J. Bělohlávek, A. Fisch, J. Gaffigan, M. Honeck, H. M. Förster, J. Hrůša, R. Jindra, V. Luks, E. Mazzola, J. Nelson, T. Netopil and outstanding orchestras including BBC Symphony orchestra, Camerata Salzburg, Collegium 1704, Czech Philharmonic, Hessischer Rundfunk Frankfurt am Main, PKF - Prague Philharmonia, Prague Symphony Orchestra, Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra and many others.
She regularly makes her appearance at prestigious international festivals in the Czech Republic and abroad (Dvořákova Praha International Music Festival, International Music Festival Janáček Máj, Prague Spring International Music Festival, International Opera Festival Smetana’s Litomyšl, St. Venceslav Music Festival, Strings of Autumn, Festival de La Chaise-Dieu, Festival Rencontres Musicales de Vétzelay, Festival Baroque de Pontoise, Music Bridge Prague – Dresden, Uckermärkische Musikwochen, Tage Alte Musik Regensburg etc.).
She made recordings for Czech Radio, television channel MEZZO and Belgian radio station RTFB International. She recorded Bartered Bride by Bedřich Smetana for HARMONIA MUNDI and her recording of Dove é amore é gelosia produced for OPUS ARTE DVD was awarded “Preis der deutschen Schallplattenkritik“.
Young czech Bass Jan Martiník was born in 1983 in Ostrava where he studied on Janáček Conservatory and on the University of Ostrava with Eliška Pappová. 2003 he won the International Singing Competition Antonín Dvořák in Karlovy Vary in the category Junior and was also rewarded with the second prize in the category "Lied". Jan Martiník is laureate of the International Competition Jelena Obraztsova, where he won the special prize for the best Tchajkovsky romance. 2007 he was finalist in Placido Domingo´s Competition "Operalia" and in 2009 in Cardiff Singer of the World, where he won the category "Song".
While studying at the university he appeared in roles at the NDM Ostrava, including Pistola (Falstaff), Leporello (Don Giovanni) and Truffaldino (Ariadne auf Naxos). At the National Theatre Prague he sung roles including Masetto (Don Giovanni), Larkens and José Castro (La fanciulla del West), Leporello (Don Giovanni) in the new production in Estates theatre.
From 2008 to 2011 Jan Martiník was a member of Komische Oper Berlin, where he sung roles including Sarastro (Die Zauberflöte), Colline (La bohème), Surin (Pique Dame) and Nachtwächter (Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg). In Volksoper Vienna he sung Betto (Gianni Schicchi), 1.Nazarener (Salome) as well as Zuniga in Carmen. Since 2012/13 Jan Martiník is a member of Staatsoper Unter den Linden, Berlin, where he performes roles including Colline (La Bohéme), Sarastro (Die Zauberflöte), Eremit (Der Freischütz), as well as Father Trulove (The Rake´s Progress).
In concerts the young Bass was working with well known orchestras such as Czech Philharmonic, Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, Staatskapelle Dresden, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Brimingham Symphony Orchestra, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, as well as the King´s Consort and the Collegium 1704. Amongst other pieces of the concert repertoire he has performed Jesus in St. Matthews Passion, as well as the Aria Part, the Bass Parts in Mozart, Dvořák and Verdiʼs Requiem, Dvořák Te Deum, Beethovens 9. Symphony and Haydns Schöpfung. Jan Martiník is already known for his sincere interpretations of Schubertʼs Winterreise and Dvořák Biblical Songs.
The beauty of his voice matches with a splendid technique and a comical talent, which makes him one of the leading singers of the young generation.
Bass-baritone Boris Prýgl ranks among the most talented Czech young singers. He successfully went through the Young Artists program of the Bavarian State Opera in Munich, where he has assumed the roles of Morales in Carmen, Ping in Turandot, the prince Ottokar in Der Freischütz, the Hunter in Rusalka, etc. His artistic commitments in the 2021/2022 season include the roles of Guglielmo in Così fan tutte at the National Theatre in Prague and Don Giovanni at the Slovak National Theatre in Bratislava, a concert with Pretty Yende at the Smetana Hall in Prague, Dvořák's Rusalka (Gamekeeper) with the Czech Philharmonic under the baton of Semyon Bychkov, an advent recital in Prague, and others.
Boris Prýgl is a laureate of several singing competitions and the absolute winner of the 2015 Antonín Dvořák Singing Competition in Karlovy Vary. In July 2017, he was a finalist of Belvedere and Plácido Domingo’s Operalia. In September 2019, he was granted the award of the then Director of the Vienna State Opera Dominique Meyer at the Stella Maris Vocal Competition. He graduated from the Academy of Music in Bratislava and gained his first stage experience at the Slovak National Theatre in Bratislava.
The Prague Philharmonic Choir is the most important and oldest professional mixed choir in the Czech Republic. During its long history, there has been a succession of the most important Czech choirmasters at its helm; since 2007, the chief choirmaster has been Lukáš Vasilek, and the second choirmaster is currently Lukáš Kozubík.
The Prague Philharmonic Choir performs mainly the oratorio and cantata repertoire in collaboration with the world most famous orchestras (the Berliner Philharmoniker, Czech Philharmonic, the Israel Philharmonic, the St. Petersburg Philharmonic, Staatskapelle Dresden or Wiener Symphoniker, among others) led by such illustrious conductors as Sir Simon Rattle, Daniel Barenboim, Zubin Mehta, Fabio Luisi, Semyon Bychkov, Jiří Bělohlávek, and Jakub Hrůša. It also performs in opera as an ensemble-in-residence at the opera festival in Bregenz, Austria.
The choir is realising several projects of its own. Since 2011 it has been presenting an independent series of choral concerts in Prague, with its programming focused mainly on challenging, lesser-known works of the choral repertoire. Music education for young people is an integral part of the choir’s activities, with a Choral Academy for vocal students and a series of educational concerts for younger children.
Lukáš Vasilek studied conducting and musicology. Since 2007 he has been the chief choirmaster of the Prague Philharmonic Choir. Most of his artistic activity with the choir involves rehearsing and performing a cappella repertoire along with preparing the choir to perform in large-scale cantata, oratorio, and opera projects in collaboration with world-famous conductors and orchestras (Berlin Philharmonic, Czech Philharmonic, Israel Philharmonic, Saint Petersburg Philharmonic etc.).
Besides his work with the Prague Philharmonic Choir, he also engages in other performing activities mainly in cooperation with the Martinů Voices, which he founded in 2010. He is credited as a conductor or choirmaster on a large number of Prague Philharmonic Choir recordings made for important international labels (Decca Classics, Supraphon). In recent years, he has been devoting himself systematically to recording the choral music of Bohuslav Martinů. His recordings have won exceptional acclaim abroad, earning honours including awards from the prestigious journals Gramophone, BBC Music Magazine, and Diapason.
Today, the Kühn Children’s Choir (founded in 1932) is one of the most important Czech artistic ensembles, renowned not only in Europe, but on all five continents. Over the years, it has trained thousands of talented children and taught them love for music and the arts. In terms of its traditions and the breadth of its artistic scope, it is a unique artistic institution of its kind not only in the Czech Republic, but anywhere in Europe.
The choir’s exceptional artistic reputation is documented by many prizes and official honours. It is invited regularly to major music festivals and concert tours, and it collaborates with leading orchestras and opera companies. It has also made more than 50 recordings of Czech music and the worldwide repertoire.
The Kühn Children’s Choir has a special sound all its own, and at first hearing it captivates listeners with the naturalness, purity, and refinement of the children’s voices. Since the choir’s founding, these characteristics have been an inspiration for a number of outstanding Czech composers to write music especially for the Kühn Children’s Choir.
Jiří Chvála graduated from HAMU in Prague with a degree in conducting, and went on to become choirmaster with the Czech Choir (later the Prague Philharmonic Choir) and the Czech Philharmonic Children’s Choir, which he has headed since 1967. He thus directly continued the exceptional legacy of the choir’s founder, Jan Kühn, who was also his professor at the music faculty. He managed the choir’s cooperation with distinguished Czech and foreign conductors, directors, chamber groups and orchestral bodies. He has undertaken a number of tours with the choir, including to prestigious festivals at home and abroad on almost every continent, and made dozens of recordings. He has led the choir to victory in a number of international competitions. Since 1958 Jiří Chvála has taught in the conducting department of the Music Faculty of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague, in 1986 being appointed professor. Over the course of his long artistic and teaching career he has won a large number of awards, including the František Lýsek Award, the Bedřich Smetana Award, an honorary award (II degree) from the Czech Education Ministry, and an award from the Czech Senate and the Czech Ministry of Culture.
Sir John Eliot Gardiner stands as an international leader in today's musical life, respected as one of the world's most innovative and dynamic musicians, constantly at the forefront of enlightened interpretation. His work as Artistic Director of his Monteverdi Choir, English Baroque Soloists and Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique has marked him out as a central figure in the early music revival and a pioneer of historically informed performance. As a regular guest of the world's leading symphony orchestras, such as the London Symphony Orchestra, Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and Berlin Philharmonic, Gardiner conducts repertoire from the 17th to the 20th century.
The extent of Gardiner's repertoire is illustrated in the extensive catalogue of award-winning recordings with his own ensembles and leading orchestras on major labels (including Decca, Philips, Erato and 30 recordings for Deutsche Grammophon), as wide-ranging as Mozart, Schumann, Berlioz, Elgar and Kurt Weill, in addition to works by Renaissance and Baroque composers. Since 2005 the Monteverdi Choir and Orchestras have recorded on their independent label, Soli Deo Gloria. His many recording accolades include two GRAMMY awards and he has received more Gramophone Awards than any other living artist.
Gardiner and the Monteverdi Choir and Orchestras perform regularly at the world's major venues and festivals, including Salzburg, Berlin and Lucerne festivals, Lincoln Center and the BBC Proms where Gardiner has performed over 60 times since his debut in 1968. Gardiner has conducted opera at the Wiener Staatsoper, Teatro alla Scala, Milan, Opéra national de Paris and Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, where he has appeared regularly since his debut in 1973. From 1983 to 1988 he was artistic director of Opéra de Lyon, where he founded its new orchestra.
Gardiner's book, Music in the Castle of Heaven: A Portrait of Johann Sebastian Bach, was published in October 2013 by Allen Lane, leading to the Prix des Muses award (Singer-Polignac). From 2014 to 2017 Gardiner was the first ever President of the BachArchiv Leipzig. Among numerous awards in recognition of his work, Sir John Eliot Gardiner holds honorary doctorates from the Royal College of Music, New England Conservatory of Music, the universities of Lyon, Cremona, St Andrews and King’s College, Cambridge where he himself studied and is now an Honorary Fellow; he is also an Honorary Fellow of King's College, London and the British Academy, and an Honorary Member of the Royal Academy of Music, who awarded him their prestigious Bach Prize in 2008. Gardiner was made Chevalier de la Légion d'honneur in 2011 and was given the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany in 2005. In the UK, he was made a Commander of the British Empire in 1990 and awarded a knighthood for his services to music in the 1998 Queen’s Birthday Honours List.