The Excursion of Mr. Brou?ek is a very complicated and difficult piece. It’s a wonderful piece I think. But again, it’s a very complicated idea, because it’s a double satire. Through Brou?ek the effeminate, artistic world, set on the moon, is satirized and on earth the ridiculously dogmatic, fanatical world of the Medieval religious fundamentalists is satirized, but at the same time Brou?ek himself is satirized as a contemporary petty bourgeois philistine, so it’s a double satire. Usually in a satire you have an Everyman figure through whom you see that the world is absurd. But in this piece you see the world as absurd, but you see that the central figure is absurd as well. So there is no centre.
The Excursion of Mr. Brou?ek to the Moon and The Excursion of Mr. Brou?ek to the 15th Century doubtlessly occupy a special position within the composer’s operatic oeuvre. After all, they seem to completely contradict the fundamentally serious and dramatic character of his other operas. With its intense comedy, garnished with unmistakably satirical elements, one could almost characterise The Excursions of Mr. Brou?ek as being atypical of Janá?ek’s production. Yet here as well, his extremely expressive, text-orientated and, above all, original compositional style, which made him one of the 20th century’s most important composers, is unmistakably present. On the occasion of the German première in 1959, the Viennese music critic and cultural journalist Karl Löbl asked, How has this delectable music managed to remain hidden from us for so long?
The opera is set in Prague in the year 1888. Verger’s daughter Málinka accuses the painter Mazal of dancing with another woman, and she announces defiantly that she is now going to marry the landlord Brou?ek. Annoyed by all the little troubles of everyday life, however, Brou?ek yearns to travel to the moon – far away from insolvent tenants, irksome taxes and unbearable scandals in the press. With his mind clouded by alcohol, Brou?ek embarks on an excursion to the distant planet in a dream and is astonished that the world up there is entirely different to how he imagined it to be. Instead of being free of his worries, he meets numerous oversensitive aesthetes who dedicate their lives to painting, poetry and music. Finally he escapes and is found near a pub in a drunken stupor while Mazal and Málinka declare their love for one another.