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Don Quixote musical play spans cultures

IN ADDITION to its regular programme of classical music concerts, the Slovak Philharmonic also offers special performances involving both older and more modern forms of classical music. Within the Nová hudba (New Music) programme, the Philharmonic offered a unique production on February 12: an evening of music composed for a rare theatrical performance of Don Quixote. Apart from Slovak musicians like violinist Stanislav Palúch and Slovak/Moldovan cimbalomist Marcel Commendant (both of whom played a variety of instruments for this piece), the performance featured Czech flautist Jana Semerádová, and three French actors - Bastien Ossart (who also directed the piece), Julien Cigana and Benjamin Egner.

IN ADDITION to its regular programme of classical music concerts, the Slovak Philharmonic also offers special performances involving both older and more modern forms of classical music. Within the Nová hudba (New Music) programme, the Philharmonic offered a unique production on February 12: an evening of music composed for a rare theatrical performance of Don Quixote. Apart from Slovak musicians like violinist Stanislav Palúch and Slovak/Moldovan cimbalomist Marcel Commendant (both of whom played a variety of instruments for this piece), the performance featured Czech flautist Jana Semerádová, and three French actors - Bastien Ossart (who also directed the piece), Julien Cigana and Benjamin Egner.

When asked by The Slovak Spectator about the idea behind the project, Palúch said: “This whole project has very old roots: when I was playing Baroque music, I met Jana Semerádová, and she had participated in bigger Baroque operas and theatrical pieces in which she got to know these three [French] actors. She then thought about [doing] smaller, more intimate projects. First, without Marcel [Commendant], we did an adaptation of Moliére’s Scapin’s Deceits, or Le Fourberies de Scapin. And now, for the second piece, we created this project which is, however, not totally Baroque, but bears the elements of several different periods and genres.”

The piece made its Slovak debut on February 12, but had its world premiere in the summer of 2012 at the Early Music Festival in Prague. Palúch praised the response of the Czech public, and added that he was curious about how the Slovak audience would react to the French-language play. Unlike the Czech festival, there were no subtitles in the Small Concert Hall of the Reduta, but the bulletin accompanying the libretto was translated into Slovak.

Palúch also emphasised the performance of the French actors, saying that it was a combination of mime and comedy, drawing on a Baroque style of acting, gesturing and facial expression, while at the same time exhibiting modern, theatrical elements.

“They are familiar with Baroque-style acting, as they do a lot of Baroque projects,” he explained. “I think that each actor should at least watch this type of acting, as it is a special phenomenon that requires enormous skill and knowledge of typical, traditional techniques.”

The widely-known story of a poor knight who desperately clings to his noble ideas and perceptions while living in a base world full of adversity, and of his loyal servant Sancho Panza, unfolded over period-style music, which was intertwined with elements of folklore, Flamenco and even Oriental music – all styles and genres that could be traced back to the knight’s homeland, Spain. It was slightly strange and confusing that Ossart, Cigana and Egner took turns in portraying Don Quixote, Sancho Panza and the Narrator. The figurative and stylised acting was enhanced by sound effects imitating insects, bumping into windmills and various components of everyday life.

“We didn’t allow ourselves to be confined by period and genre,” Palúch explained.

The audiences seemed to be amused and enthused by the nearly hour-and-a-half-long play, and called the performers onstage several times at the end.

“We are slightly afraid today,” Palúch said before the show, “as we don’t know how the audiences will react to theatre in a foreign language, with the subtitling device missing.”

He added that it would be interesting to compare the reaction in Bratislava with France, where the next staging is planned for October.

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