Martinů’s Gilgamesh: a unique, modern and monumental adaptation

Reading time: 2 min. Bohuslav Martinu

Tonight the Brno Philharmonic Orchestra will present the world première of the new critical complete edition of Bohuslav Martinů’s The Epic of Gilgamesh, a unique, modern and monumental adaptation of a seminal work from the dawn of Babylonian history.

Although this musical work employs the text of the world’s oldest surviving piece of literature, its treatment of the questions of friendship, love and death remains topical to this day. The performance, involving more than a hundred top musicians, will be in English (with Czech surtitles) and semi-staged, as originally conceived by its composer Bohuslav Martinů.

Find out more on the website of the Brno Philharmonic and the Bohuslav Martinů Institute.

Vítězslav Mikeš, Brno Philharmonic Orchestra Programmer, on The Epic of Gilgamesh:

The Epic of Gilgamesh consists of three parts of almost equal length: Gilgamesh, The Death of Enkidu, and Invocation. It is scored for soloists (soprano, tenor, baritone and bass), narrator, mixed choir and orchestra. Martinů wrote it for Paul Sacher’s chamber orchestra, a fact reflected in the score. Although Martinů said that he “would need to express himself with greater orchestral might”, the sound of Gilgamesh is monumental.

The work was premiered in January 1958 in Basil, Switzerland under Sacher’s baton. Before the premiere, Martinů presented his idea of semi-staging the work to the conductor, desiring to “animate” Gilgamesh, to create “an illusion of action”. However, Sacher rejected the idea and performed the work as a concert oratorio. The Brno performance will be an attempt to revive this forgotten idea of Martinů on the stage; this task has been entrusted to Radim Vizváry, a striking figure of contemporary mime theatre.

Bohuslav Martinů: The Epic of Gilgamesh
Oratorio in 3 parts | 50'
after the text of the new critical complete edition
world prem. 11.12.2014; 12.12.2014; Janáček Opera House, Brno; Brian Caspe, narrator; Adriana Kohútková, s; Martin Šrejma, t; Jiří Hájek, bar; Adam Plachetka, bar; Czech Philharmonic Choir choir, cond Petr Fiala; Brno Philharmonic Orchestra, cond. Aleksandar Marković

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