Director of State opera
Ing. Alena Kajsová
Umelecký šéf výpravy Štátnej opery
With the genre of opera being preferred by the theater´s dramatic advisers, the status of the “music theater“ changed into the “opera theater“ after the ten years of its existence in the year of 1972. Rising quality of artistic performance led to Banska Bystrica theater becoming an independent institution with a new name – State Opera in the year of 1993.
For the 45 years of existence of the theater in Banska Bystrica the visitors could see around 200 pieces of different genres and styles from classicism to present music genres (opera, operetta, musical, ballet and music-dance theater). Masterpieces of several Slovak composers, as well as worldwide known personalities, were premiered here. A couple of works of European composers were being performed in Banska Bystrica as their first time in Slovakia, e.g. Donizetti´s Elixir of Love, 1962, Viva la Mamma, 1983, The Bell, 1989, La Favorita, 1992, Ponchielli´s La Gioconda, 1971, Verdi´s Falstaff, 1978, Aroldo, 1993, Ernani, 1999, Cilea´s Adriana Lecouvreur, 1985, Gounod´s Le Medecin malgré lui, 1985, Puccini´s Edgar, 1988, Swallow, 1995 and many others. Our stage witnessed the world premieres of operas of the Slovak composers such as Andrašovan, Urbanec or Zeljenka and at the same time the choreographies of two Slovak authors - Zuzana Hájková and Dana Dinková, who we certainly will have a chance to present on our stage again in the future. Mrs. Hájková and Mrs. Dinková are authors of exceptionally interesting stagings, which are subject to continuous interest of the public. Works by Zuzana Hájková: Sattó, The Touch Window, About Nosáľko the Dwarf, Ferdo the Ant. Works by Dana Dinková: Bloody Wedding, Gypsy Roots, Amadeus.
The Opera of Banska Bystrica is known for its memorable approach to interpretation of the opera Krutnava – the pivotal masterpiece of the Slovak opera production. Soon after its opening night in December 1949, Eugen Suchoň, the author of Krutnava, was forced to modify a part of his work according to the demands of the ideology of the past era. The new version was premiered in 1952. Only in the year 1963, a creative team of the Opera of Banska Bystrica consisting of the director B. Kriška, conductor J. Valach and the dramatic adviser I. Vajda, in co-operation with the author, staged the opera Krutnava in accordance with author´s original intentions. The author expressed his wish to have the opera staged in this new form from that time on. This example is one of the ways, how the city of Banska Bystrica with its State Opera earns the réclame of visitors of foreign stagings of the Krutnava opera.
Balancing the achievements of State Opera activities we see several thousands of performances, a hundred thousands of visitors, positive reviews and public acceptance.
It is often said that a town which can pride itself on its own opera theater is a “higher level town“ among the other towns. As far as the city of Banska Bystrica is concerned, this saying is supported by the fact that the three of the famous world opera stars had started their soloist career on the Banska Bystrica stage.
Edita Gruberová sang in the Slovak National Theater in Bratislava as a guest artist when still being a student of the last year of Bratislava Conservatory. In spite of her success and positive response from the public and critiques, she was not offered a contract by this institution. The music theater of the Jozef Gregor Tajovsky Theater gave her the opportunity to take her stand on its stage, where she appeared in nine different roles in the years 1968 – 1970. At the same time, in the years 1969 – 1970, she was an abecedarian, and starting from the year 1970, as an emigrant, the soloist of the Vienna State Opera. And from that point, there was only one step leading to the biggest opera stages in the world.
After he had successfully completed two years of study at Music Arts College in Bratislava in the years 1968 - 1970, Sergej Kopčák was forced to finish his studies at the Sophia Conservatory due to political reasons after the very first year (1970 – 1971). He was warmly received and accepted by Banska Bystrica where he performed in several roles in the years 1971 – 1972. At present Mr. Kopčák is a guest artist – soloist of the prestigious New York Metropolitan Opera and at the same time a professor of singing at Music Arts College in Bratislava.
Ľubica Orgonášová was a soloist of the Banska Bystrica Opera Theater after having completed her Conservatory and Music Arts College studies. In the years 1979 – 1983 she appeared in twelve soloist roles. Since 1983 she has been singing in Germany and at the present time she is one of the most wanted opera divas in the world.
In the past decade the ensemble of the State Opera gave a couple of guest performances in Switzerland (Vevey – in October 1993, October 1995 and November 1996, Zug – in March 1995 and November 1996), at the International Music Festival of Cyprus (Nikosia, 1994), at the International Music Festival “Janáček’s Hukvaldy“ (1999, 2003), in Hungary (2003) and at Bratislava Music Festival (1992, 1997 and 1998).
It should be remarked here, that the performance Sattó “was born“ as a result of obtaining a Japanese grant for purchase of musical instruments for the State Opera orchestra as well as technical equipment for the State Opera Theater. Satisfaction of the Japanese with the performance of artists they saw on Banska Bystrica stage resulted in an invitation of a group of soloist artists to tour around Japan in the year 1999. Since that year the State Opera soloists have been visiting Japan every year. Besides the regularly organized concerts, the Japanese offered cooperation on a several-year project of composing an opera by a Slovak composer based on a Japanese theme and staging it in Japan being performed by the Banska Bystrica State Opera.
In recent years the activities of the ensemble are developing very dynamically. The State Opera Orchestra and its soloists took part in the 11th festival “Donizetti and his age“ in Bergamo in 1993 as the very first foreign ensemble in the history of the festival. Introduction of the Ludwig van Beethoven’s 9th Symphony in Minoritenkirchen, Vienna on March 24, 2000, at the 173th anniversary of Beethoven’s decease, was a great success for both soloists and the State Opera Orchestra performing together with the Bratislava City Chorus. In Neunkirchen Verdi’s opera I. Masnadieri was introduced with prominent international soloists appearing on the stage (June 9, 2001). The State Opera Orchestra gave a concert in Raiding, F. Liszt’s birthplace, on June 30, 2001 at 190th anniversary of his birth. Here our orchestra was conducted by a Spanish conductor Gabriella Esteban. At present the State Opera Orchestra performs approximately 15 concerts in Slovakia and abroad every year.
State Opera of Banska Bystrica is a guarantor and a participant of the music (opera) part of the international summer festival “Zvolen Castle Days“ since the year 1979. This event is being organized and takes place in an attractive setting of the Zvolen castle patio, priding itself on a great popularity among public. Good image of the Banska Bystrica Opera and its artistic performance is spreading among international public due to foreign soloists who take place in this festival and have chance to see our performances, e.g. Olivia Stapp, Alexandra Miltcheva, Mario Malagnini, Dan Iordachescu, Franko Bordoni, Paolo Gavanelli and more than 70 other soloists from Romania, Czech Republic, USA, Bulgaria, Spain, Hungary, Russsia, Chile, Italy, Poland, Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela, Yugoslavia, Austria, Ukraine, Moldova, Greece and Japan.
Noted artists – soloists or ensembles taking part in the fall festival “Banska Bystrica Opera Days“ play a similar role. The festival has been organized by the State Opera at the end of October and beginning of November since 1994. The first performance of the festival usually introduces a premiere of a new opera (or any opera from the ensemble repertoire presenting attractive artists). Besides opera performances, concerts of soloists as well as concerts of various ensembles – orchestras or choruses – are part of the program.
Long term dramaturgic orientation of the State Opera rests upon the ambition to put on the stage less known and frequently performed operas of Slovak, Czech and foreign composers together with well known and time-proven pieces. At the same time it enables young and ambitious authors and artists to present their work. State Opera does not exclude staging original pieces of contemporary Slovak composers of opera or authors of music-dance theater.
State Opera, as one of the representatives of music culture in Slovakia, was brought to notice of organizers and participants of various events taking place in Slovakia and abroad, where our artists are being invited regularly. Our achievements are the best evidence of the fact that State Opera of Banska Bystrica deservedly belongs among the institutions which are fully accepted by Slovak as well as foreign public.