General information
Title CZHlas lesa [auth.]
Subtitle CZrozhlasová opera o 1 dějství
Title ENThe Voice of the Forest
Subtitle ENradio-opera in 1 act
Title DEDie Stimme des Waldes
Subtitle DEFunkoper in einem Akt
CategoryStage Works and Film Music
Halbreich number243
Durata37'
Instruments1121-2110-Timp-Batt-Pf-Archi (2221, max. 4432)
List of charactersBride (S), Huntsman (T), Publican (A), Highwayman (Bar), 2 Highwaymen (T, B), Narrator
Dedicatee
Origin
Place of compositionParis
Year of origin1935
Initiation of composition04/1935
Completion of composition05.05.1935
First performance
Performer Otakar Jeremiáš (dir./cond.), Aša Slavická (Nevěsta/Bride), Jaroslav Gleich (Mysliveček/Huntsman), Marie Šlechtová (Šenkýřka/Publican), Zdeněk Otava (1. loupežník), Antonín Votava (2.loupežník), Jan Kühn (3. loupežník), Antonín Zíb (Vypravěč/Narrator)
Gleich, Jaroslav
Jeremiáš, Otakar
Kühn, Jan
Otava, Zdeněk
Slavická-Vondrovicová, Aša
Šlechtová, Marie
Votava, Antonín
Zíb, Antonín
Date of the first performance1935-10-06
Location of the first performancePrague, Czechoslovak Radio
Ensemble Pražský rozhlasový orchestr, Sbor Radiojournalu, sbormistr Jan Kühn
Autograph deposition
InstitutionCzech Radio
Deposition locationPrague
OwnerCzech Radio, Prague
Note on the autograph depostitionAutograph score.
Autograph deposition 2
InstitutionBohuslav Martinů Centre in Polička
Deposition locationPolička
OwnerBohuslav Martinů Foundation, Prague
Note on the autograph depostitionAutograph score, 8 pages (beginning of the opera).
Copyright
CopyrightDilia, Prague
Purchase linkbuy
Sources
References Related writings
Documents in the Library
Note Libretto (in Czech) by Vítězslav Nezval. *** Title and durata on the title page of the autograph score located in the Czech Radio archive: "Hlas lesa. | Radio-opera. (V. Nezval.) | Doba trvání = 30 minut". Also two notes are included on the title page [see Czech version of this page for diplomatic transcription]: "Strings can be doubled, especially for performance out of Radio, but no more that 4 violins, 4 violas, 3 cellos and 2 double-basses." and "Soloists are singing also all the choral parts, i.e. in the overture and in the finale of the play (choir). Also Highwayman and Huntsman are singing all the choral parts of the highwaymen (the choir of highwaymen as small as possible)."
About the composition

Martinû's one-act opera, The Voice of the Forest, written in 1935 on a commission from Prague Radio, it has ranked alongside the most frequently performed radio operas of all time. Bohuslav Martinů had originally conceived it with the possibility of its subsequent stage presentation in mind; it is an irony, then, that his other radio opera, Comedy on the Bridge, which had been intended exclusively for that medium, actually received a number of productions at major international opera venues in the 1950s and '60s, whereas The Voice of the Forest has so far failed to assert itself on stage. Perhaps this should be ascribed to its greater complexity and stylistic variety, which in their turn pose considerably higher demands on production.

Martinů formulated his opinions on the assets of radio opera in his notes on Comedy on the Bridge, as follows: "Elimination of the actual stage, leaving it up to the listener to visualize the play in his imagination, represents a gratifying task for the radio which will thus make full use of both the intensity of the drama produced, and the concentration combined with a certain kind of involvement on the part of the listener." He knew very well what he was talking about there: while still a student, he had been a regular visitor of the Prague National Theatre' s "blind man 's perch," an upper row of places whence he was unable to see the stage and could only imagine what was going on there.

Seeking for an author of the libretto, Martinů approached Vítézslav Nezval, the most prominent Czech Surrealist poet and translator of Apollinaire. Nezval proved to be an ideal partner who developed to the full the composer' s basic idea. In a letter of May 1935, Martinů expressed his satisfaction with the result, writing: "I believe it's a lovely play," and commissioning from Nezval the libretto for his next opera, Theatre Behind the Gate, H 251: "Please do the same as in The Voice of the Forest and stick strictly to the poetic content, and not so much to the plot."

By the time of writing this one-acter Martinů had already been engaged for several years in work on his concept of "folk theatre," experimenting with Czech folklore; a fine document of this endeavour is provided by his folk singing ballet, Spalíček (The Chap Book), H 214 I, of 1932. Like Nezval's libretto, the music of The Voice of the Forest, too, oscillates between a penny dreadful, a Czech folk fairy-tale, a dream and a lyric tableau. Its dramatic makeup is strictly anti-realistic; by involving the Narrator — whose task starts with the opera's prologue: "Come enter the forest more frightful than the skeleton" — Martinů achieved a sens of distance. As a result, the world of the stage play is de-psychologized and unequivocally defined as unrealistic, belonging in the domain of theatre. The Voice of the Forest was premièred on the waves of Prague Radio, on 6 October, 1935.

Aleš Březina, Martinů: Les Larmes du couteau, The Voice of the Forest, © 1999 Supraphon Music a.s

 

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