Norbert is currently Chief-Conductor with Theatre J. K. Tyl n Pilsen in the Czech Republic. He studied at the Bratislava Conservatorium and at the Music Academy of the Performing Arts in Prague. He began his career in 1998 when he became conductor of the North Bohemian Opera and Ballet in Ústí nad Labem and was promoted to Head of Opera for the 1999 season at the age of just 24.
Dvořák’s last opera has been neglected for reasons that are at once hard to fathom and easily understandable. An ideal ‘Wexford work’, then, it ties together many strands from across operatic history.
Opera in four acts
Libretto by Jaroslav Vrchlický
(after Torquato Tasso’s La Gerusalemme liberata)
Sung in Czech with English surtitles
First performance: National Theatre, Prague, 1904
Armida is based, unusually for a 20th-century opera, on a source that was especially popular in 17th- and 18th-century operas. Torquato Tasso’s Gerusalemme liberata, a largely mythified account of the Crusades, tells the story of the love of the Saracen sorceress Armida for the Christian warrior Rinaldo. It inspired around 100 operas and ballets — most famously operas by Handel, Gluck, Haydn. There was a late flowering of interest in the story in Rossini’s Armida in 1817, and then almost a century later Dvořák turned his attention to it.
His Armida was premiered four years after the much more famous Rusalka, with the same soprano creating both title roles. The difficult-to-understand aspect of the opera’s neglect has to do with Dvořák’s music, some of it very characteristic of the composer’s finest work — especially the music of his American period. It also represents the peak of his admiration for Wagner and to be fair, with its cast of Christian knights pitted against a pagan magician and female sorceress, to say nothing of an enchanted garden, Parsifal is not the most improbable model.
So it is fair to conclude that its neglect has more to do with the old-fashioned nature of the libretto — a throwback to Quinault’s text for Lully’s Armide — and it is hardly surprising that the story found little favour in fin de siècle Prague, where the opera was premiered in 1904. Although the librettist Vrchlický — a poet nominated for the Nobel Prize eight times — had already translated the whole of Gerusalemme liberata into Czech, it’s fair to say that he was better at oratorio texts than opera librettos. Not since his first opera, Alfred, had Dvořák set a non-Slavonic subject, making this perhaps something of a surprise turning in his last opera, but a fascinating one nonetheless.
In Damascus, news of an approaching Frankish army puts the royal court on alert, but the prince Ismen tries to dissuade the King Hydraot from dispatching an attacking force. Instead, he suggests sending the king’s daughter Armida (with whom Ismen is in love) to sow dissent. Armida initially refuses, but changes her mind when Ismen uses his magical powers to conjure up an image of the camp, where she recognises Rinald as the knight of whom she has just dreamt. In the crusaders’ camp, Armida and Rinald become lovers before escaping back to her garden. Though it appears that Armida’s powers of sorcery are stronger than Ismen’s magic, with the help of Rinald’s fellow knights they lure him out of the palace, which collapses amid Armida’s grief. Rejoining the crusaders, Rinald advances on Damascus, where he kills Ismen and — unwittingly — Armida. She dies in his arms.
Discover the Repertoire
by Antonín Dvořák
Active as both a director and designer, Hartmut is constantly fascinated by opera’s manifold possibilities as a multi-faceted art form. Born in Salzburg, he studied interior design in Linz and stage design at the Mozarteum University in Salzburg. Austria, Germany and Switzerland have been central to his career, but his activities have also embraced France, Belgium, Russia, Sweden and Slovenia.
D.M. is a Canadian working internationally as a lighting designer for opera and theatre. She has been a Wexford regular in the
past years and her acclaimed lighting designs include last year's Catalani's Edmea and Thomas' Le Songe d'une nuit d'été. Ms Wood received the UK's 2012 Knight of Illumination Opera Award for her design of Suor Angelica (Royal Opera House).
Monika studied international relations in Pilsen and studied art and theatre at the University of Salford. She was accepted to the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague to study directing and dramaturgy of drama theatre. Her own dramatization of Stefan Zweig’s novel Beware of Pity won third place in the Evald Schorm Prize for 2020.
Jozef has been a member of the ensemble of the Slovak National Theater in Bratislava since 2004. His recent performances include three concerts featuring Janáček's Glagolitic Mass with the Orchestra of the Academia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia Rome under Jakub Hrůša. He sang in Halévy's La Juive in a production by Peter Konwitschny.
Jennifer is an alumna of the Jette ParkerYoung Artist Programme, and has sung Elsa/Lohengrin; Gretel/Hänsel und Gretel; Adina/ L’elisir d’amore; and Erste Dame/Die Zauberflöte (Covent Garden). She previously appeared in 2014 at WFO as Agata/Don Bucefalo by Antonio Cagnoni.
Stanislav graduated with honours from the vocal department of
the Art Institute in Ivano-Frankivsk, Ukraine and in Poznan Music Akademy. His future engagements include debuts with as Metivier/War and Peace (Bayerische Staatsoper); Figaro/Il barbiere di Siviglia (Opera Australia); Miecznik/The Haunted Manor (Teatr Wielki Warsaw).
Jan studied at Prague Conservatory and is currently with Paolo de Napoli. He is a soloist in the Pilsen J. K. Tyl theatre and host soloist in Prague National Theatre, South-Bohemian Theatre in České Budějovice and Liberec F. X. Šalda theatre. He won the Singing A. Dvořák competition in Carlsbad, 2016 and the Mozart competition in Prague 2012.
A graduate of TU Dublin Conservatoire, Rory is also an alumni of Wexford Factory 2020/2021 and The Irish National Opera ABL Aviation Opera Studio. He is a current Company Artist for Northern Ireland Opera. He also studied as an actor. He was Falstaff/Falstaff Chronicles and Jeremy/Le Songe d'un nuit d'ete in the last two Seasons of WFO.
Austrian-Australian tenor Gerard Schneider is acknowledged as a preeminent singer of opera, operetta, and songs. He has developed a strong international presence and appeared around the world, having made major debuts at the Sydney Opera House, Carnegie Hall, Metropolitan Opera, Oper Frankfurt, and Salzburg Festival in repertoire spanning the bel canto, romantic, and verismo styles.
Josef Moravec graduated from the Prague Conservatory, then studied at the Academy of Music, Prague and the Sibelius Academy, Helsinki. Having completed a master class with the renowned tenor Gregory Kunde, he switched from baritone to tenor. His repertoire includes: Don Ottavio/Don Giovanni; Alfredo/La traviata; Ismaele/ Nabucco; Don José/Carmen; Rodolfo/La bohème.
Andrey has been an artist at the Odessa Opera House, Ukraine since 2014 and won first prize at the 2019 Antonín Dvořák International Competition in Karlovy Vary. He trained at the Odessa National Music Academy and has been a soloist with the Odessa Philharmonic Orchestra, the Vodyanoy Academic Theatre of Musical Comedy, the Teplice Philharmonic and Pilsen Opera House.
Graduate of the Music Academy of Performing Arts in Prague and of the Prague Conservatory, he made his professional debut in 2015 as Hermann/Les Contes d'Hoffmann (Bregenz). In the same season he appeared as a guest artist on Czech opera stages. Since 2020, he is a permanent soloist of the opera of F. X. Šalda Theater in Liberec.
Libuse is guest soloist of Astana Opera House in Kazakhstan. She moved to Italy at very young age to study with Mirella Freni and then with Renata Scotto at Accademia di Santa Cecilia in Rome. During her career she has sung more than 40 different leading opera characters. Forthcoming engagements include Tatiana/ Eugene Onegin and Cio Cio San/Madama Butterfly.