National Theatre Opera, Prague, Czech Republic, 2013
Author: Aleš Březina
Directed by: Petr Zelenka
about the production
The Číhošť miracle, similarly as many other inexplicable phenomena in the history, had become the subject of many interpretations and power dealings which had cost at least one hero, in this case the “adversely affected” participant of the event, his life. According to eye witnesses the cross behind the priest’s back moved just at the time when he said: “Here, in the altar is your Saviour”. This happened on 11 December 1949 in a small village of Číhošť in the Vysočina district during a mass celebrated by a Catholic priest Josef Toufar on the 3rd Advent Sunday. The church authorities as well as the ŠtB (Secret Police) and the top state and party officials including the President Klement Gottwald got interested in the village which had been quite inconspicuous until then and its small church. Father Toufar was imprisoned in Valdice and in less than a month died as a result of torture. ŠtB commissioned a staged short documentary film Woe unto them that draw iniquity as with a long cord (directed by Přemysl Freiman) in which they tried to prove that Toufar had constructed a mechanism with a suspender belt and a windscreen wiper by which he was secretly moving the cross during the mass. The plan failed, however, because Toufar had died during the shooting of the film and also because the director had not got the liturgical details of the mass right and so the believers could see that the document was a fake. Therefore, they accused Toufar of homosexual and paedophile behaviour. Children were forced to make false statements by Ludmila Brožová - Polednová, the prosecutor known from the lawsuit with Milada Horáková.
To open the analysis of the Číhošť situation and take it back to the even more remote past, the driving spirit of the staging, author of the text and music Aleš Březina finds a parallel to the story of Josef Toufar in the martyrdom of St. John Sarkander who lived at the turn of the 16th and 17th centuries and whose fate also illustrates a harsh encounter of church and secular power. The event labelled as the Číhošť miracle happened at a time when the communist power in Czechoslovakia tried to liquidate the Catholic Church definitely. They vehemently tried to abuse the situation for their own benefit in order to slander the church and prove its dirty tricks by which they are enticing the believers. They produced a version according to which the priest wanted to make the little church famous with the miracle and get rich on the influx of tourists (the event is described in such a way in the poem The Číhošť Little Church published in the weekly The Little Radio and signed by a fictitious child author and many other contemporary caricatures commissioned by the regime). On the other hand, the Catholic Church had set up a “miracle commission” and tried to achieve Josef Toufar’s canonisation.
In his documentary opera, composed exclusively on the basis of archive materials, Aleš Březina is analyzing the struggle for power by institutions and puts questions about the essence of human faith, truth and miracle. In this case, the philosophical issue of the miracle is of no lesser significance – the inability to clarify this phenomenon, its potential to mediate something from the supreme being, from the world “above” or even about the human desire to reach such a world as well as the issue of our need of saints, martyrs and heroes. And also the issue of an inexplicable event in a rationally structured system, such as a work of art. The anti-illusionary staging approach by the director Petr Zelenka, reviving the props and the space and revealing the staging procedures, supports the line of an art work illusion analysis as well as that of a possibility of a power struggle for the so called “truth” or rather the correct, or the only valid interpretation of it.
The origin of the production was initiated by the Divadelná Nitra Association within the project Parallel Lives – 20th Century through the Eyes of the Secret Police.
The Czech premiere will take place on 18 and 19 September 2013, National Theatre, Prague – The Kolowrat Theatre.
directed by Petr Zelenka
music: Aleš Březina
conductor: Jiří Štrunc
motional co-operation: Klára Lidová
choreography: Petr Louženský – choirmaster
dramaturgy: Pavel Petráněk
set design and lighting: Nikola Tempír
costumes: Vladimíra Formínová
produced by Martina Anna Hostomská
direction assistant, stage manager: Ondřej Slavík
cast: Soňa Červená, Jan Mikušek, Petr Louženský, Kühn´s Children´s choir, instrumental ensemble
Aleš Březina (1965) studied musicology at the universities of Prague and Basel. Since 1994 he has been active as the director of the Bohuslav Martinů Institute in Prague. He has composed music for a number of theatre productions (e.g. The Makropulous Case, National Theatre, Prague, 2010, directed by Robert Wilson; King Lear, National Theatre, Prague, 2011, directed by Jan Nebeský; The Marriage of Figaro, National Theatre, Prague, 2012, directed by Michal Dočekal) and films (e.g. I Served the King of England, 2007, directed by Jiří Menzel; Kawasaki‘s Rose, 2010, directed by Jan Hřebejk). He composed a documentary opera about the political trial of Dr. Milada Horáková Tomorrow There Will Be... (2008). The production was awarded Alfréd Radok’s Prize for the Best Opera Production of the Year and was introduced at the International Festival Divadelná Nitra several months following its premiere.
Petr Zelenka (1967) studied scriptwriting at the Film and TV Faculty of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague (FAMU). He is the scriptwriter and director of a whole range of successful films, e.g., The Buttoners (1997), The Year of the Devil (2002), The Wrong Side Up (2005), The Karamazovs (2008). He has obtained a number of important distinctions for his films at the following fi festivals: Karlovy Vary, Rotterdam, Thessaloniki, Moscow and others. Petr Zelenka is also the author of several theatre plays translated into many foreign languages. As a director, he is visiting the Divadelná Nitra Festival for the first time.
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Script of the production: EN
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