Hra o láske a smrti [Das Spiel von Liebe und Tod] (‘The Play of Love and Death’)
- Igor Vajda
[Das Spiel von Liebe und Tod] (‘The Play of Love and Death’)
Music drama in one act by Ján Cikker to a libretto by the composer after Romain Rolland ’s play, Le jeu de l’amour et de la mort (1925); Munich, Nationaltheater, 1 August 1969.
Set in the Paris of 1792, at the height of Robespierre’s reign of terror, the opera concerns the last day in the lives of Jérome de Courvoisier (baritone) and his estranged wife Sophie (soprano). Jérome has effectively condemned himself to death by refusing to support Robespierre’s demand that Danton be executed. Claude Vallée (tenor), a former friend of the couple, seeks refuge in their house. Realizing that Claude and Sophie are lovers, Jérome gives them the passports that were to bring him and Sophie to safety abroad. However, Claude leaves alone when Sophie tears up her passport to await arrest (and execution) with her husband.
Cikker adds to the original play an offstage chorus that functions like the chorus in Greek tragedy, commenting on the action and breaking up the work into more or less independent scenes. Outwardly, therefore, the work resembles a rondo, and the structure is further tightened by the use of a cyclical technique: when Courvoisier’s narration about the National Convention reaches its climax, the music is similar to that both at the beginning and end of the opera. The large orchestra is used illustratively, uncovering inner truths about the characters of which they themselves may not be aware. The vocal writing is often declamatory, in the style of Janáček. Václav Neumann conducted the successful première (in German), and the cast included Keith Engen and Donald Grobe....