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Leoš Janáček: The Makropulos Affair

  • Opera in 3 acts (1925)
  • 4 3 3 3 - 4 3 3 1 - timp, perc(3), hp, cel, str - stage music: hn(2), tpt(2), timp
  • Duration: 120’
  • Instrumentation details:
    1st flute
    2nd flute
    3rd flute
    4th flute
    1st oboe
    2nd oboe
    cor anglais
    1st clarinet in Bb
    2nd clarinet in Bb
    bass clarinet in Bb
    1st bassoon
    2nd bassoon
    1st horn in F
    2nd horn in F
    3rd horn in F
    4th horn in F
    1st trumpet in F
    2nd trumpet in F
    3rd trumpet in F
    1st trombone
    2nd trombone
    3rd trombone
    violin I
    violin II
    stage music: 1st horn in F
    2nd horn in F
    1st trumpet in F
    2nd trumpet in F
  • Choir: Männerchor (TTBB)
  • Roles: Emilia Marty, dramatic soprano Albert Gregor, tenor Vítek, tenor Christa, mezzo-soprano Jaroslav Prus, baritone Janek, tenor Advokat Kolenaty, bass-baritone Strojník, bass Poklízecka, alto Hauk-Sendorf, operetta tenor Komorná, alto Lékar, silent
  • Composer: Leoš Janáček
  • Librettist: Leoš Janáček
  • Writer of pre-existing text: Karel Capek
  • Piano reduction: Ludvik Kundera
  • Original language: Czech
  • Translator: Max BrodSona CervenaChristof BitterNorman TuckerMichel AnceyUte BeckerElijah MoschinskyAlena Wagnerová

Work introduction

The Makropulos Affair, Janácek’s eighth and, at the same time, penultimate opera belongs to the most frequently produced operas of the 20th century. The opera is based on the drama by Karel Capek that Janácek got to see in Brno in January 1923. It was here when he started to think about the ?apek’s drama to base his new opera on. At the beginning, Capek was not very excited about this idea. Eventually, in September 1923 Capek agreed so Janácek could start composing on November 11, 1923. He finished and corrected the manuscript on December 3, 1925. The opera was premièred in the National Theatre in Brno on December 18, 1926 and the reception was better than originally expected thanks to the production team of director Otakar Zítko and conductor František Neumann.

What is so attractive about The Makropulos Affair? Maybe its turbulent detective story, its mysteriousness and fantasticalness. Maybe also its modern setting where characters use telephones (by the way, this is the very first opera where a telephone is used) or take a taxi. Unlike his previous opera The Cunning Little Vixen, The Makropulos Affair is the opposite of the common, as its characters, story and setting are exceptional and somewhat exclusive. At the same time, it is a story of an unhappy woman forced to live for three hundred years, thus becoming against her will an emotionally burnt-out creature. Why does The Makropulos Affair disturb us on one hand and move us on the other? It may be caused by its author’s musical speech based on very short, even aphoristic motifs put in layers and attacking us in a terse, turbulent movement in connections with dynamics of the acting characters. Or is the film condensation used to narrate the story close to us in some way? Surely there are lots of things about this work that draw our attentions and due to which it is considered one of the peaks of the world music theatre of the 20th century.

Jirí Zahrádka


Sample pages

World première

National Theatre, Brno (CZ)
Orchestra of the National Theatre of Brno
Neumann František

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