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The Excursion of Mr Brouček to the Moon

1st version including première of The Epilogue

Janáček versus Expressionism Festival 2010

Janáček Opera National Theatre Brno Czech Republic

November 17th – 19th & December 4th – 8th 2010


Original creation by Pamela Howard for Narodni Divadlo Brno CZ 2010


Reprise October 2011 www.ndbrno.cz


Conductor: Jaroslav Kyslink

Choreographer: Ladislava Kosiková

Lighting Designer: Daniel Tesař



The Opera takes place over 12 hours - midnight to mid-day the next day. A cold winter's night with deep snow in Prague 1920.


As the audience enter the theatre they will see on one side of the stage, in a spotlight, the figure of Svatopluk Cech in his armchair writing his book. Across the front of the stage facing the spectators, the uniformed Chorus of Street Cleaners (Druzky) are waiting for the signal to clear the garbage, as they do every night at midnight. They have metal wheelbarrows and large sweeping brushes. They are the soldiers of the streets. From the Vikarka sounds of life as the students are drinking. The scene is only illuminated by the Moon. As the orchestra start, the Chorus clear the stage, and sweep the snow. Gradually the whole stage is revealed. An early Skoda car is parked, the wheelbarrows are placed to form a low wall. Cycle tracks in the snow. Malinka and Mazal emerge from the dance. They are not happy. Brouček emerges from the Vikarka, drunk, despondent and angry Svatopluk Cech has gone, but his chair and book remain throughout.


Wűrfl calls 'Time' and the students emerge and get ready to depart on their bicycles. But they torment Brouček like bees ready to sting. They circle round and round him until he falls to the floor. Everything is going round and round in his head and even the Vikarka starts spinning until he falls into a drunken slumber.


From now on, the spectators will share Brouček's drunken dream in which he imagines goes to the Moon. Everything on the Moon is the reverse of Prague. Prague is monochrome, the Moon is highly coloured. It is a hot summers day. The snow is made of tiny white flowers. The sun is shining. The Vikarka becomes the Temple of the Lunar Arts presided over by Caroskvouci who very closely resembles Mr Würfl. In fact Brouček thinks he recognises everyone he knows in Prague, but they have all become strangers to him. As in dreams things are both familiar and bizarre.


The Chorus of Street Cleaners have become the eccentric Druzky.. the students - the chorus of artists, and the Temple is a shrine to the Modern Art Movement. He discovers they are all vegetarians and he begins to think the moon is no better than life in Prague. His expulsion from the moon, as a carnivore is in fact his waking up. We see the Vikarka Pub from a different angle to the beginning. It is a cold but sunny middle of the next day. Evidently Brouček was too drunk to get home, was found in one of the wheelbarrows, and just managed to crawl into the back seat of his parked car and fall into a heavy sleep. His Housekeeper and the maid are shocked and outraged when they discover him. Malinka and Mazal walk towards his house to confront him, and also find him in his car. In the background, the students and the women's chorus come to drink coffee and dance, echoing the beginning of the story. A sense of acceptance of the reality of life prevails..after all.."all's for the best in the best of all possible worlds..."



The maximum depth of the stage is being used, opening up the back stage, to create an area for the cyclists. There is no side masking, up stage exits and entrances are used. The Vikarka, a trucked piece on castors that can be turned manually by the students falls on the diagonal from down stage right to the upstage left small exit that represents St Vitus Cathedral and the Sacristan's house.


The Context

1920 was an amazing year in the thriving and cosmopolitan world of post World War 1 Prague. Czechs were world leaders in steel manufacturing. Laurent & Klement became Skoda Cars and Es-Ka bicycles the most popular form of transport. Both were important exports. The manufacture of City Incinerators and organised street cleaning set an example to the world. Portable typewriters began to replace the heavy desk bound versions, freeing writers much as laptops do now. The National Flag was created. Czechs were prominent in all the modern art movements, many of them centred in Prague. This international avant-garde was intent on constructing a new world and the 'diagonal' was their symbol. Van Doesburg, Karel Teige, and others became known as 'the cosmic occultists'. At the same time was the rise of the borgeousie, often good middle class people caught between two worlds...


Selected Sources

Van Doesburg and the International Avant-Garde - Tate Modern 2010

Skoda Museum (Mlada Boleslav)

Prague Panoramique (Josef Sudek)

Bizarreries 'Un Autre Monde' (Grandville)

Láska a Smetí (Love and Garbage) (Ivan Kľima)

Karel Tiege Typography

History of Czech Cycles (Cycle Museum)

August Sander Master of Photography

Press Reviews

  • Howard pulled out all the stops for Brouček

    Howard pulled out all the stops for Brouček, designing everything herself, from the set to the costumes. Janácek's fifth opera can easily come across as long-winded but there was a real sense of invention in Howard's staging, which rooted the opening scene firmly in the booming 1920s - a comment on the protagonist's preoccupation with material acquisitions, as opposed to the aesthetic values of his new-found lunar acquaintances. Details were subtly observed and the characters intricately defined, thanks largely to Howard's imaginative costumes.

    Hannah Nepil, Financial Times,

    1st December 2010

  • To the Moon with sausages

    The atmosphere of the period to which the story was set was really visible on the scene. It was not thanks to stubborn efforts to create a realistic stage copy but thanks to an elaborate network of references to then-contemporary facts. Plus, the excellent concept was full of smart details. I think we are beginning to see the type of opera performances that the Janáček Theatre should focus on. No worldwide-famous theatre shall be ashamed of this production of The Excursion of Mr. Brouček to the Moon. And if anyone wants to turn Brno into Janáček-style Bayreuth, this might be the way to do it.

    Boris Klepal,

    18th November 2010

  • Free Run of Imagination:

    The Janáček Festival in

    Brno Begins Fantastically

    Pamela Howard of England produced this piece fully from a dream perspective and the associations of sounds. In her decor, the pub must only be rotated and suddenly there is a room in the art design of the 20's for the scenes on the Moon and in Prague at the time of Hussite battles. Imagination does not know any limits and neither does the imagination of dreams. So is the Pegasus for Brouček's travels a blue tandem, in a toneless orchestra with absurd instruments oversized safety pins serve as violin bows and an army, which is marching on the spot, is carrying old rattling typewriters as weapons. Jaroslav Brezina sings and plays the role of Brouček with a dark-toned tenor, smart undertone and finally also with composure in all dream and life situations. The scene and the sound always come as one in this human comedy that lets us laugh but during which no one gets laughed at. That is a dream.

    Boris Michael Gruhl,

    19th November 2010

  • Brouček finally sounds the way it should

    Having focused on burlesque as genre, Pamela Howard could finally leave the lunar over-sensitive style and settle for more sharp-tongued modernist expression. During the overture, she lets a group of sweepers sweep the way for Janáček. She proved her original profession of stage designer by displaying a wide range of costumes, as seen from the diversity of pub patrons at Vikarka who included artists and students, through lunar blue painters, white musicians, yellow-and-pink affectionate Moon woman or writers with typewriters instead of backpacks who keep spinning around while typing their masterpieces on the backs of their "predecessors". It is admirable that a foreigner is able to see into Czech minds. She did, however, have a lot of work with the original artwork: Janáček himself gave up the aspect of petty bourgeoisie portrayal and Hussite movement for the sake of national and political confrontations.

    Helena Havlikova,

    Lidove noviny

Costumes for The Excursion of Mr Brouček to the Moon



Production photographs

Scenic images made on cut foam board

Please click image  to enlarge.

Please click image  to enlarge.

Please click image  to enlarge.