A NEW MICRO-OPERA for chorus, piano and percussion King Lavra features music by Czech composer, Jan Jirásek and video projections by New York artist, Sheri Wills.
The choral ensemble, KHORIKOS, will perform the world premiere in May 2013 at the Czech Center in New York City.
The opera is performed in English.
The story of King Lavra is based on a Czech fairy tale about a king, with an embarrassing secret: beneath his long hair, he has the ears of a donkey. Although he is generally a benign, if uninspired, leader, his insecurity about having the ears of an ass lead him to execute every barber who cuts his hair – to ensure the secrecy of his unusual feature. When Kukulin is chosen as the next unlucky barber, his widowed mother emplores the king to spare him. The king relents, but swears Kukulin to secrecy – a secret that
turns out to be very heavy to keep.
While King Lavra is the specifically Czech version of this story, a king with donkey ears is found in many cultures. The most well-known contemporary retelling of King Lavra was a 1950 puppet animation by the great Czech animator, Karel Zeman. Artists living under the repressive Soviet regulation often worked with children’s stories and folk tales as a strategy to avoid censorship. By wrapping political critique in a seemingly naive covering, artists slipped their work past the censors to audiences who clearly understood the underlying messages of these old stories in relationship to their current circumstances.
Jan Jirásek is well known for his subtle, superb arrangements in the tradition of European mystical minimalism. Unafraid of embracing beauty, his compositions draw on both the textures of Early Music and contemporary extended techniques.
He is also one of the leading composers of film soundtracks in Europe. Jirásek’s King Lavra is dramatic and infused with dark humor. The chorus functions as a demanding crowd, the voice of the people, wielding scissors and snapping them as percussion instruments. While the piece is obviously a satire of foolish leaders, ultimately it is a critique of the passivity of the people who accept them. King Lavra is an exciting, sophisticated, yet accessible piece – an operatic adventure in less than twenty minutes.
King Lavra is a story about concealing and revealing – secrets whispered into a willow tree, only to be played out for all to hear. It is a psychological story about one’s need to hide a secret shame, and a political one – the need for people to know the true nature of their leaders, and to question their own responsibility when those leaders fail. In developing the video projections for King Lavra, video artist Sheri Wills draws on the surreal symbol of the scissors, while focusing on the importance of place in the story: the comfort and familiarity of the king’s castle, as opposed to the untamed and unpredictable qualities of the forest. Using folk art patterns and organic imagery, Wills creates an uneasy and complex visual component to the opera.
Thursday, May 23, 2013 @ 8:00 pm
King Lavra is a micro-opera by Czech composer, Jan Jirásek, with live video by Sheri Wills, and performed by KHORIKOS. Based on an old folk tale, King Lavra is a very contemporary re-telling of secrets concealed and revealed: a psychological story of an individual hiding a silent shame and a political one of the people's need to know the true nature of their leaders.
Sheri Wills is an artist whose work is based in film, video performance & installation. Her work has been exhibited around the world, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the London Film Festival and the International Film Festival in Rotterdam and is featured in the Rizzoli book, Sonic Graphics: Seeing Sound, by Matt Woolman. She has had one-person screenings at the Director’s Lounge in Berlin, the Robert(a) Beck Memorial Cinema in NYC, and the Telluride International Film Exposition.
~ CALL FOR SCORES ~
KHORIKOS is accepting new a capella score submissions for our 2014 Modern Music series.
We prefer contrasting new music styles. Your imagination is the limit. Any level of technical difficulty welcome.
Selected compositions will be performed and recorded as part of our 2014 Modern Music concert series ---- ORTUS.
Performance and recording dates will be announced, along with the selected compositions on September 1st, 2013