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The Excursions of Mr Broucek

JANACEK

9 JUNE - 7 JULY

Directed by opera giant David Pountney

Opera giant, David Pountney, directs Janacek’s warm comedy of errors, a riposte to the bourgeoisie for their petty ways.

Broucek, a bourgeois landlord from Prague, is the Czech-equivalent of Mr Pooter. (His name translates as Mr Beetle.) He plods away in his humdrum life ­– until he is swept away on several excursions to get away from the people bother him. First stop is the moon, followed by a trip to the 15th century during the Hussite uprisings. Alas, he can travel far, but he can’t get away from those irritating people.

Operagoers have taken Broucek to their hearts as a downtrodden Everyman.

It was last performed in the UK in 2009.

An opera in two parts

Sung in English (translation by David Pountney)

Music: Leoš Janáček

Based on two novels by Svatopluk Čech

First performance: 23 April 1920, Prague National Theatre

UK première: 5 September 1970, King’s Theatre, Edinburgh

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Cast & Creatives

MR BROUCEK, property ownerPETER HOARE
MALINKA Sakristán’s daughter / ETHEREA / KUNKAFFLUR WYN
MAZAL, a painter / BOUNZINCEK / PETRIK / SVATOPLUKMARK LE BROCQ
WÜRFL, a bartender / PAYCEK / COUNCILLORANDREW SHORE
SAKRISTÁN, Sacristan / DUDCEK / DOMSIKCLIVE BAYLEY
FANNY, a housekeeper / KEDRUTA ∙ ANNE-MARIE OWENS
SPOTCEK / VOJTA / RAINCEK / MIROSLA ADRIAN THOMPSON

CONDUCTOR ∙ GEORGE JACKSON
DIRECTORDAVID POUNTNEY
SET DEISGNERLESLIE TRAVERS
COSTUME DESIGNER ∙ MARIE-JEAN LECCA
LIGHTING DESIGNER ∙ OLIVER FENWICK

Performance dates

Thursday 9 June 5:45pm
Saturday 18 June 5:45pm
Sunday 26 June 5:45pm
Wednesday 29 June 5:45pm
Thursday 7 July 5:45pm

Booking dates

Pioneers & Singer Sponsors: Wednesday 6 Oct
Revels: Wednesday 20 Oct
Hippocrates: Wednesday 24 Nov
Archimedes: Wednesday 15 Dec
Plato: Wednesday 9 Feb
Public: Wednesday 23 Mar

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Part 1 To the Moon

Scene 1

Mr. Matěj Brouček is a rather unkempt drunken landlord in late 19th-century Prague. On a moonlit night in 1888, Mr. Brouček stumbles down Vikárka street after a drinking binge at the Hradčany tavern. In his impaired state, he encounters Málinka. She is upset and dramatically suicidal after discovering that her lover, Mazál (who happens to be one of Brouček’s tenants) has been cheating on her. In an ill-advised attempt to calm Málinka, Brouček agrees to marry her. He quickly realizes the error in this and retracts his offer, leaving Málinka to return to her bohemian lover. Brouček decides he has had enough of this stress, and dreams of a more relaxed life on the moon.

Scene 2

Brouček is quickly disillusioned by what he finds in his lunar paradise. He “lands” in the middle of an avant-garde colony of lunar artists and intellectuals, whom the uncultured Brouček clearly despises. He finds himself in the home of an avant-garde artist, Blankytny (a parallel character to Mazál). Blankytny sings a heartfelt ode of platonic love to the lunar maiden, Etherea. This signals the arrival of Etherea and her ‘sisters’ who commence with a song preaching the benefits of a healthy lifestyle. Ironically, Brouček catches the eye of the maiden, who becomes instantly infatuated with the exotic stranger. She whisks him away aboard mythical Pegasus, leaving behind Blankytny in disbelief and despair.

Scene 3

Etherea and Brouček land in the Lunar Temple of the Arts, where a group of inhabitants have gathered. They are immediately startled and frightened at the sight of Brouček, but soon see him as the latest vogue. The locals proceed to present Brouček with the latest in lunar art and treat him to a “meal” of sniffing flowers. Brouček is not at all pleased with this display of art, nor is he nourished by the fragrances. He is soon caught sneaking a bite of pork sausage; the crowd quickly turns on him; and he is forced into a furious escape aboard Pegasus. As he flees, the lunar artists sing praises to art.

Scene 4

As the moon scene transforms back into the tavern courtyard in Prague, Mazál and Málinka are returning home, and the artists are enjoying a final drink. A young waiter laughs at the drunken Brouček who is being carried off in a barrel. Málinka is apparently recovered from her turmoil, as she and Mazál sing a duet of their love for each other.

 

Part 2 To the 15th Century

Scene 1

Set in the Castle of Wenceslas IV, Mr. Brouček and his fellow drinkers debate the particulars of the medieval tunnels that were believed to exist beneath the city of Prague. Once again, an inebriated Brouček staggers toward his home and is interrupted. He finds himself somehow in one of these dark tunnels, where he encounters apparitions from the past. One of these ghostly figures is Svatopluk Čech, the author of the Brouček stories and a famous Czech poet. Čech expresses his regret over the decline of moral values in the Czech nation. He sings about the loss of true heroes and yearns for a rebirth of his nation. Ironically, Čech’s lament is directed toward Brouček himself and toward the satirical nature of this very opera.

Scene 2

Mr. Brouček is transported back in time and finds himself in the Old Town Square in 1420. This is a tumultuous period in 15th-century Prague, when the Czech people, led by Jan Žižka, were under siege by the German armies of the Holy Roman Empire. Brouček is quickly confronted by Hussite rebels, who accuse him of being a German spy, due to his poor Czech grammar laden with German expressions. Brouček somehow convinces the rebels that he is on their side and is allowed to join them.

Scene 3

Brouček is brought to the house of Domšik, a sacristan, and his daughter Kunka. Brouček now finds himself in the midst of an impending battle for the future of the Czech nation, signified by the powerful singing of battle hymns by the gathered masses. The rebels ask Brouček to assist in the defense of Prague, to which he is characteristically averse. As the battle begins, our hero flees the scene.

Scene 4

In Old Town Square, the people of Prague celebrate their hard-fought victory, but lament the death of Domšik. Brouček is found in hiding and accused of treason. He is appropriately sentenced to death by burning…in a beer barrel.

Scene 5

Back in 1888 Prague, just outside the Vikárka Inn (Home of the Hradčany Tavern), Mr. Würfl, the landlord of the Inn and the maker of the infamous pork sausage from the moon, hears moans coming from the cellar. He discovers Mr. Brouček in a beer barrel, visibly relieved to be alive and back home. Our shameless hero boasts to Würfl that he single-handedly liberated the city of Prague.

Tickets

Thursday 9 June 2022

5:45pm

Saturday 18 June 2022

5:45pm

Sunday 26 June 2022

5:45pm

Wednesday 29 June 2022

5:45pm

Thursday 7 July 2022

5:45pm

Sunday 17 July 2022

5:45pm