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The Genesis and Life of Janáček’s Opera Káťa Kabanová

The exhibition coincides with the staging of Janáček’s opera Káťa Kabanová at the Metropolitan Opera in New York in spring 2020. It explains the circumstances surrounding the creation and first staging of Káťa Kabanová, which took place in Brno in 1921. It also presents the history of productions of Janáček’s operas at the Met, and the exhibition will also include a series of visually striking paper collages by the Brno-based artist Vendula Chalánková featuring characters from Janáček’s operas and portraits of Leoš Janáček and those close to him.

Czech Center New York opens a new exhibition on the occasion of the reappearance of Káťa Kabanová, a Czech opera composed by Leoš Janáček, on the New York Metropolitan Opera (Met) stage this spring. The exhibition prepared by the Moravian Museum in Brno and Tourist Information Centre Brno reveals circumstances of the opera’s origin and its first showing in the city in 1921. In addition, visitors will get to know the history of Leoš Janáček’s stagings at the Met as well as ongoing events presenting Brno as the Janáček’s and they will get a chance to see impressive paper collages by artist Vendula Chalánková. The exhibition opening on Thursday, March 12 will also bring a musical performance by young artists of the Mannes School of Music in New York who will perform several excerpts from Janáček’s musical compositions.

 The exhibition will introduce an American audience to Janáček’s search for a theme to his opera, the process of composition, how he went about preparing the premiere in 1921, and his dealings with publishers. It will also present the issue of preparing critical editions of Janáček’s operas as well as the composer’s muse, Kamila Stösslová, his inspiration not only for Káťa Kabanová. The history of Leoš Janáček’s operas performed at the Met was prepared by the Metropolitan Opera itself and it focuses on the very first staging of Her Stepdaughter, known in the English-speaking world as Jenůfa, during the author’s life, to further stagings of the operas The Makropoulos Affair, Káťa Kabanová, and From the House of the Dead. A presentation of current events in connection to Leoš Janáček taking place in Brno will demonstrate the relationship of Janáček to his hometown – Janáček Brno Festival, web portal www.leosjanacek.eu, In the Footsteps of Leoš Janáček trail in Brno, and the listing of the Leoš Janáček Archive in the Memory of the World Register (UNESCO).


“Undoubtedly, Janáček’s music is a testimony to the powers of the transforming imagination, which can sublimate desire into sublime art,” wrote The New York Times in 1994, two years before the start of the online publication of the correspondence between Leoš Janáček and Kamila Stösslová  collected in Intimate Letters.



“We would like to highlight Leoš Janáček’s great output not only in the Czech context, but also in American culture, and to develop the dialogue about the interpretation of his work both in Europe and overseas. Czech Center New York will thus become the meeting point for all those who study this remarkable figure of Czech musical history professionally or have been internally inspired by him.”


The exhibition will be introduced by Michael Beckerman, Carroll and Milton Petrie Chair and Collegiate Professor of Music at New York University, who has written six books, including Janáček as Theorist, and by Šárka Zahrádková on behalf of Jiří Zahrádka, a musicologist, curator of the Janáček Archive of the Department of Music History at the Moravian Museum, and a senior lecturer (docent) at the Institute of Musicology, Faculty of Arts, Masaryk University (Brno) whose research focuses on the life and works of Leoš Janáček.




“Leoš Janáček is the most played Czech opera composer in the world, illustrated by this year’s comeback of Káťa Kabanová on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera New York. It is Janáček’s most lyrical opera and I am very pleased that here, at Czech Center New York, we can introduce Janáček’s personality, his connection to the city of Brno, and mainly the background of Káťa Kabanová’s genesis and its world premiere.”


One section of the exhibition will show a series of paper collages featuring characters from Leoš Janáček’s operas, portraits of him and his close ones. The author of the collages is Brno-based artist Vendula Chalánková, involved as well in the creation of the animated video series Leoš Janáček in Three Minutes, also part of the exhibition.


 In the upcoming two months, the exhibition opening will be followed by these events:


Concert: Janáček: Katelyn Bouska & Štěpán Filípek
March 19, 7 PM, Bohemian National Hall, Ballroom
The Czech-American duo will present an exclusive recital containing chamber compositions by Leoš Janáček and other composers from Brno including Vítězslav Kaprálová, Miloslav Ištvan, and Radomír Ištvan. Silent Woods, a masterpiece by Czech composer Antonín Dvořák, is meant as a special addition to the program.


Discussion: Janáček: Last Year and This Year
April 13, 7 PM, Bohemian National Hall, 3rd floor
115 years ago, Janáček published an article called “Last Year and This Year.” The panel uses this title as a jumping off point to talk briefly about the history of the reception of Janáček and concentrates on the question of what Janáček has to offer us today. Moderated by Prof. Michael Beckerman with panelists Katelyn Bouska, an American pianist, and Thomas Cabaniss, a music composer, lecturer, artist.



Exhibition opening: March 12, 7 PM, Czech Center Gallery
Exhibition on view from March 12 to May 10, 2020
The exhibition is organized by the Department of Music History at the Moravian Museum in Brno, the Brno Tourist Information Centre, The Metropolitan Opera, and Czech Center New York with the support of Bohemian Benevolent & Literary Association and Dvořák American Heritage Association.


  For more information: Marie Tomanova / tomanova@czechcenter.com / 646.422.3395

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