ePrivacy and GPDR Cookie Consent by TermsFeed Generator

head main legfrissebb

'We have great plans…'

'We have great plans…'

Interview with Martin Glaser, the Director of the National Theatre Brno.

The National Theatre Brno was established in 1884. It consists of three ensembles: Drama, Opera, and Ballet. It also organizes three festivals: the Janáček Festival, the Theatre Festival, and the Ballet Festival. We asked stage director Martin Glaser, Director of the National Theatre Brno, about their theatre, but mainly about the biennial Janáček Festival, which is now being held for the 8th time between November 2 and 20.


How many venues does the National Theatre Brno have?

There are three theatre buildings: the Mahen Theatre, the Janáček Theatre, and the Reduta Theatre. Reduta is the oldest, the smallest, and the newest one. It is one of the oldest theatres in Central Europe – Mozart had performances here in his childhood – but it was reconstructed 15 years ago, so now it is a very modern house inside.

Do you perform operas in all three buildings?

We try to perform our operas at the Janáček Theatre, because this is the best building in the Czech Republic to play operas. Sometimes we have chamber projects, especially for kids, set in the Reduta Theatre. But it is not good to mix different genres in one building. So, we are happy to have separate buildings for opera and ballet in the Janáček Theatre, and drama and contemporary pieces in the Mahen Theatre and the Reduta Theatre.

Who had the idea of the Janáček Festival?

As I know, the idea came from the musicologist Jiří Zahrádka, who is still working here and is one of the most recognized experts on Janáček.

What is the concept of the festival? What other composers' works are included in the festival's programme besides Janáček's works?

It depends on the theme of the festival. We present works connected to Janáček's time and compositions inspired by him, though we also perform some new pieces because we find it important to give space to contemporary operas, too. But the focus is on Janáček and the wide context of his oeuvre. We want to make the audience see different ways of interpretations and to bring complete productions to Brno from abroad.

martin glaser 1

Martin Glaser (photo: Marek Olbrzymek)

Who decides about the programme of the festival?

We have a programme board whose members include Artistic Director Jiří Heřman, the dramaturg Patricie Částková, me, and the already mentioned musicologist Jiří Zahrádka. He mainly works on the concert part of the programme because we also have lots of orchestral and chamber concerts. Besides the above, we have some other colleagues in this board from the Janáček Foundation and from the Academy of Arts, for example, who give us advice.

Does your own company of the National Theatre Brno always take part in the festival?

Yes, it is always us who open the festival with a new production. Two years from now, the cycle we started in 2014 with The Makropulos affair, will be complete, so, by then, our theatre has presented all the operas of Janáček. In 2026 or 2028, we will focus on performing our former productions with special guests in the main roles, and in 2028 the latest, we start again this cycle with new productions. We believe that as most of Janáček's operas were premiered here, we must be at the forefront of staging and interpreting his works.  

In the festival, you also present symphonic and chamber concerts, exhibitions, and theatre performances. Besides your theatres, how many venues can you use in Brno during the festival?

We try to use all the possible facilities available. Fortunately, there are many, as Brno is a culturally diverse city. We cooperate with the Brno Philharmonic and use their concert hall, and with the Academy of Art, which also has a theatre building. We have performances in churches, too. In Brno, it is unique to have a concentration of villas. In these special lovely buildings, like Vila Tugendhat and Vila Löw-Beer, we can have chamber concerts. We try to be all around the city.

How many foreign companies have been invited to the festival this year?

Two main foreign companies, the Grand Théâtre de Genève from Switzerland, presenting Katya Kabanova and the Welsh National Opera, who brought The Makropulos affair. Both companies will perform symphonic concerts, too.

The Janáček Festival was awarded the International Opera Awards for the best festival of 2018. How do you imagine the future of the festival?

Thanks to this award, opera lovers now know much more about our festival. It helps us negotiate with the best European opera companies, so we have great plans. Of course, it is always a question of budget, but we are very happy that the City of Brno and the Ministry of Culture, from whom we get our financial support, understand the importance of this festival. Janáček is now the most performed Czech opera composer worldwide and we want our festival to be better and better. I am not saying 'bigger and bigger' because the capacity of the city is limited. We wish to invite as many prestigious companies as possible. The best directors, orchestras, conductors, and singers who can show how differently you can interpret Janáček's operas. Sometimes I say Janáček is the Czech Shakespeare because you can see Shakespeare's works in so many versions. We would also like to invite more visitors again from abroad. Their number began to rise in 2018, but since Covid, we have not yet reached that number again.

martin glaser 2

Martin Glaser (photo: Marek Olbrzymek)

Why do you not hold your festival in summer?

This was my first question when I arrived in Brno to become the director in 2013. The answer is that we have to find the best month for the festival in the European cultural calendar. There is too much competition in summer; there are so many festivals to choose from. And it is also easier to invite opera companies during the season than in summer.

And why do you hold the festival only every two years?

It was my second question when I came to Brno in 2013. Financially, we could probably not afford it every year, or at least we could not reach the same standard. And Janáček did not write many operas; it could become a bit boring for the audience to see the same operas every year. But I also had a third question when I came to Brno in 2013 [he is laughing]. Shouldn't we cancel the theatre festival and make one big festival instead every year? Like in Salzburg where you can see not only operas but dramas, ballets etc. But I was convinced by my colleagues that it is better to organize a separate Janáček Festival because it is something really unique.

You are also a stage director. The audience of the festival saw your staging of Jenůfa in 2016 and 2020. Are you planning to direct at the next festival?  

I do not know about the festival yet. At the theatre, during last season, I worked on Otello, but this season I will concentrate on dramas, not operas. However, in 2023, I would like to stage Dvořák's The Jacobin, which is a beautiful national opera.

Balázs Csák


martin glaser 3

 Martin Glaser (photo: Marek Olbrzymek)