Leoš Janáček, Zápisník zmizelého, Carnet d'un disparu
16, 17, 18, 20, 21/05 > 00:00
At the age of 63, Leoš Janáček met Kamila, a woman 38 years his junior. The ardent and loving passion binding him to his ‘gypsy’ created this Slavonic composer’s most emotional score. Diary of One who Disappeared (for piano, tenor, mezzo soprano and choir of young, female voices) is a kind of interior self-portrait. For some time, Janáček had been transcribing the prosody of dialects in Bohemia, Slovakia and Moravia, his own country. He drew on their natural melody to create music that is vital and has the most perfect form of impulses and emotions. Its theatrical exploration has been taken up by Claude Régy, a man who for some time now has been surveying the mysterious spaces that escape words. In this instance, the director does not want to create a performance but ‘act in between’ to allow the music to construct itself in the body of everyone listening to it.
Mise en scène/Regie/Direction: Claude Régy
Scénographie/Scenografie/Scenography: Daniel Jeanneteau
Eclairages/Lichtontwerp/Lighting design: Dominique Bruguière
Costumes/Kostuums/Costumes: Isabelle Perillat
Assistant à la mise en scène/Regie-assistent/Assistant to the director: Alexandre Barry
Assistant éclairages/Licht-assistent/Lighting assistant: Thierry Fratissier
Directeur technique/Technisch directeur/Technical director: Sallahdyn Kathir
Direction musicale et piano/Muzikale leiding en piano/Musical direction and piano: Alain Planès
Ténor/Tenor: Adrian Thompson
Mezzo-soprano: Hana Minutillo
Trois voix de femmes/Drie vrouwenstemmen/Three female voices: Sophie Marilley, Michelle Sheridan, Anja Van Engeland
Acteurs/Actors: Yann Boudaud, Bénédicte Le Lamer
Editeur/Uitgever/Editor: Artia, Prague
Texte du prologue (traduction française du livret)/Tekst van de proloog (Franse vertaling van het libretto)/Text of the prologue (French translation of the libretto): Eugène Hartman-Moussu
Coproduction/Coproductie/Coproduction: Culturgest (Lisboa), Les Ateliers Contemporains (Paris), La Monnaie/De Munt (Bruxelles/Brussel), T&M-Nanterre, Centre Musical National d’Orléans, Muziektheater Transparant (Antwerpen)
Avec le soutien de/Met de steun van/Supported by: l'Association Française d'Action Artistique et le service de coopération et d'action culturelle de l'ambassade de France à Bruxelles
Présentation/Presentatie/Presentation: KunstenFESTIVALdesArtsBack to top
Leoš Janáček’s music is a science of instinct, the exemplary expression of a truth free from all pseudo-cultural excesses, customs, deviations and formal aestheticism. It is the essence that dictates the forms he gives it. Behind the words, behind the notes, he is searching for the heartbeats of man and nature. He wants to cultivate an ‘inner prosody’, that of the soul.
Guy Erismann, Janáček ou la passion de la vérité [Janáček or the Passion for Truth], Musiques/Seuil, 1980
There is no greater art than the music of the human language, for there is no instrument that enables an artist to express his feelings with a veracity equivalent to that of the music of spoken language. Its melodies have secret inner lines of development and harbour the presence of ‘spiritual mysteries’.
LeošJanáček’s notes on his research into folk language and songs, 1901
1917. The First World War was drawing to a close. Czechs and Slovaks were preparing to form their union, paving the way for the independent republic of Czechoslovakia. Detesting the Germanic domination of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, LeošJanáček had consistently argued in favour of the preservation of the native languages of the Bohemian, Slovak and Moravian peoples. Born in Hukvaldy, a village on the border of Moravia and Silesia, he loved the region’s fertile countryside and had a thorough knowledge of its folk songs and dances. Deeply nationalist and a non-conformist in everything he did, the composer spent weeks at a time travelling the country, transcribing the characteristics of local dialects into a musical form. Not limiting himself to their words, patterns and rhythms, he meticulously collected their melodic components, punctuated with variations in impulses and emotions. He noted the influence of the weather, light and the landscape of the natural environment. “I saw much more clearly the soul of a man whose speech I heard by listening to its melody (…) In the space of just one second, our senses are capable of distinguishing six different impressions with equal clarity.”
In 1917, Janáček was a youthful 63 year-old. Resting in Luhačovice that summer, he met Kamila Stösslova, a woman 38 years his junior. An ardent and loving passion developed between them, binding him from then on to the woman he called ‘gypsy’ and who, in his twilight years, inspired his most flamboyant and innovative works. His minutely detailed observations had liberated him completely from the presuppositions of composition. As in life, all musical intervals were to be allowed, chords unchained, notes freed from tonality and rhythms released from the authority of the metronome. At the same time, Janáček discovered a cycle of anonymous poems entitled Verse of a self-taught person in Lidové Noviny, the literary and musical review to which he contributed. Captivated by this fable that bore some resemblance to his life, he decided to set it to music.
The cycle was written in the dialect of north-eastern Moravia, similar to his native dialect. A young peasant working his field is watched from the edge of the wood by a brown-skinned, dark-eyed gypsy girl. Resisting temptation at first, calling his cows and nature in its entirety to bear witness, the young man finally abandons himself to the sensual delights of physical love. The gypsy bears the fruit of their love. He disappears with her, leaving behind a ‘confession’– Diary of One who Disappeared. Is it the story of a real but anonymous person or the fiction of a secret poet? The conciseness, terseness and dramatic strength of the short ballad bewitched the composer. He gave it a quivering song (for tenor, mezzo-soprano and female choir) and the movement of all the murmurings of man’s soul and of nature (score for solo piano). A pianist himself, Janáček liked rediscovering the intimate breath of the piano. As the instrument of his confidences, the piano was his rebellious alter ego whose vigour he loved to experience without seeking to diminish it in any way. To the piano he gave Diary’s most beautiful and emotional pages.
Claude Régy’s theatrical exploration of the work has Alain Planès at the piano. “The work frightens off lots of pianists because when you tackle it you have to forget everything you’ve ever learned! It bears no similarity to the lovely piano music of the Romantic movement. Here, the instrument is treated physically, with its sustaining pedal effects raising the dampers to allow all the strings to vibrate in sympathy. There is a harmonic richness close to that of its ancestor, the dulcimer, which was popular in central Europe and which was also played by the composer. Janáček recreates its rusticity and roughness on the piano. He removes all virtuosity to the advantage of the music. Didn’t he say that a note which is not an expression of something has no right to exist? In Diary of One who Disappeared, his dense and minimal music goes straight into the subconscious.”
“His reason for opting for minimalism was so that he could express more”, continues Claude Régy. “For him, the musical idea had to course through the listener’s veins. The body is in the voice. In this most studied of explorations, he transposes into his music all the agitation that a person has the moment he expresses himself. His music reveals what is not said, enabling the music to reach the innermost areas of the human being. Condensed from vital energies, it is akin to vegetation and animality. The peasant’s telluric strength is the sap from trees, this same sap that irrigates all humanity. Autobiographically, the work touches upon the secret of a passion that knows of what it speaks, of a passion experienced physically, in the body, in the soul, in the mind. Coming to Janáček at a late age, it caused a scandal, like the scandal of the peasant. Diary is an internal self-portrait.”
That being the case, what can be done on stage when the music brings the space so intensely alive, carving it from this quintessence of life? “The music is the theatre here. It directs and takes the place of action. It renders visible the irresistible impulse of desire, fear and pleasure, battering the restrictions of a moral and religious society. To perform the work, Janáček suggested that only the piano and tenor should be seen. The gypsy girl is an apparition and the choir merely voices in the distance. He spoke only of light – dawns, sunsets, their reddish glows, evoked in the poem, night-time and the light of the moon. You can play with these atmospheres, but nothing can be represented. However, ‘doing nothing’ seems to be a mistake and ‘doing something’ would appear to be another. So we have to ‘act in between…’ to allow the music to develop inside the body of each member of the audience.
“At the heart of the work there is a breathtaking ‘intermezzo erotico’ played just by the piano. It represents the carnal liaison between the peasant and the gypsy girl. In the poem there is nothing written down, just dots on the paper – it is a part of life’s nature that escapes words. However, the words being sung are crucial. They reflect Janáček’s private passion, breaking with convention, and his musical passion – the intonations, emphases and rhythms of his mother tongue. Singing in Czech can’t be avoided, but it would be damaging not to understand the words. There will be a prologue in which an actor initiated in Janáček’s abrupt sparseness will say the whole text in French. The actor and then the singer will be presented to the audience as the living substance of the awkward poem, without their characters being indicated in any way. They will be there, lit on stage. We are respecting the intensity that Janáček developed, because at the same time it was Janáček who invented the sensual enjoyment of it.”Back to top