Česká centra, Czech Centres

Česká centra / Czech centres - logo


May 11, 2013 7:00 PM

King Lavra

US Premiere of micro-opera King Lavra for chorus, piano and percussion. Music by Czech composer Jan Jirasek, video projections by New York artist Sheri Wills with the New York based choral ensemble Khorikos. Suggested donation $15.

A NEW MICRO-OPERA for chorus, piano and percussion King Lavra features music by Czech composer, Jan Jirásek and video projections by New York artist, Sheri Wills.
The choral ensemble, KHORIKOS, will perform the world premiere in May 2013 at the Czech Center in New York City.
The opera is performed in English.  


The story of King Lavra is based on a Czech fairy tale about a king, with an embarrassing secret: beneath his long hair, he has the ears of a donkey. Although  he is generally a benign, if uninspired, leader, his insecurity about having the ears of an ass lead him to execute every barber who cuts his hair – to ensure the secrecy of his unusual feature. When Kukulin is chosen as the next unlucky barber, his widowed mother emplores the king to spare him. The king relents, but swears Kukulin to secrecy – a secret that
turns out to be very heavy to keep.

While King Lavra is the specifically Czech version of this story, a king with donkey ears is found in many cultures. The most well-known contemporary retelling of King Lavra was a 1950 puppet animation by the great Czech animator, Karel Zeman. Artists living under the repressive Soviet regulation often worked with children’s stories and folk tales as a strategy to avoid censorship. By wrapping political critique in a seemingly naive covering, artists slipped their work past the censors to audiences who clearly understood the underlying messages of these old stories in relationship to their current circumstances.


Jan Jirásek is well known for his subtle, superb arrangements in the tradition of European mystical minimalism. Unafraid of embracing beauty, his compositions draw on both the textures of Early Music and contemporary extended techniques.

He is also one of the leading composers of film soundtracks in Europe. Jirásek’s King Lavra is dramatic and infused with dark humor. The chorus functions as a demanding crowd, the voice of the people, wielding scissors and snapping them as percussion instruments. While the piece is obviously a satire of foolish leaders, ultimately it is a critique of the passivity of the people who accept them.  King Lavra is an exciting, sophisticated, yet accessible piece – an operatic adventure in less than twenty minutes.

King Lavra is a story about concealing and revealing – secrets whispered into a willow tree, only to be played out for all to hear. It is a psychological story about one’s need to hide a secret shame, and a political one – the need for people to know the true nature of their leaders, and to question their own responsibility when those leaders fail. In developing the video projections for King Lavra, video artist Sheri Wills draws on the surreal symbol of the scissors, while focusing on the importance of place in the story: the comfort and familiarity of the king’s castle, as opposed to the untamed and unpredictable qualities of the forest. Using folk art patterns and organic imagery, Wills creates an uneasy and complex visual component to the opera.

KHORIKOS, Manhattan representative of WQXR Battle of the Boroughs 2012, is an a cappella ensemble that enlists musicians from the NYC area, who are professionally and passionately dedicated to cultivating distinctive interpretations of musical works ranging from medieval polyphony to contemporary sound sculpture. What sets KHORIKOS apart from other ensembles is its unique approach to programming and performance, and its vision to bring “classical” music back into the mainstream.

The artistic direction guiding the ensemble is successfully bridging the gap of formality that currently prevents a large segment of our population from taking an interest in classical music. By bringing the music to where the people are, in way that will move them and inspire them emotionally, KHORIKOS is making classical music relevant and widely loved and appreciated.

More info:



321 East 73rd Street
NY 10021 New York
United States


May 11, 2013 7:00 PM


Czech Center is a coorganizer of the event

Remind me
This event has already started.