Mozart had a special fondness for Prague, a city which was wildly enthusiastic about his music, including Don Giovanni, which had its premiere there. As a proud Czech himself, and Music Director and Chief Conductor of the Prague Philharmonia, Jakub Hruša feels particularly close to Mozart’s work: “I’m all of a quiver when I stand on the stage at the Estates Theatre in Prague and read the plaque on the floor: it announces that this was where Mozart conducted the premiere of Don Giovanni… Prague is a place where you can play Mozart with all due passion, and I adore conducting his music with my beloved Prague Philharmonia. As for Don Giovanni, it’s my favourite Mozart opera.”
Glyndebourne on Tour 2010 marks the beginning of Hruša’s tenure as the company’s Music Director. He conducted the tour of Bizet’s Carmen in 2008, but this time his responsibilities go beyond simply conducting one opera. He is looking forward to the challenges that await him. “I think the most important thing for the Music Director is the care and maintenance of the orchestra’s quality and approach: I’d like to continue to cultivate the players’ stylistic diversity and sense of colours as well as inspiring their passion. I remember my first encounter with the musicians in 2008 as a very stimulating moment. I loved especially their will to work hard without losing their freshness of spirit, even in the tiring process of travelling and playing five times a week.”
Hruša dismisses any suggestion that the circumstances of touring opera make it a lesser experience than the summery attractions of the Glyndebourne Festival: “The differences between the Festival and a GOT season are obvious, but I’d prefer to dwell on the similarities. What you get on tour just as much as at the Festival is a passion for opera. Both audiences value quality over the temptations of city life, calm and sharp concentration over everyday distractions.”
The conductor’s first duty is to the music, but for Hruša fidelity to the score is not separable from doing justice to the drama: “The key to my work as a conductor is to find a balance which loses none of the musical contrasts, but rather brings them together in appropriate proportions. And that’s exactly what Don Giovanni represents: it has an unlimited diversity that is true-to-life, but it’s brought into a totality which is balanced in a divine way. That’s some challenge to get to grips with. There are so many questions to answer: when Giovanni meets his death, from what perspective can we judge whether he deserves it or not? If we speak about conventions, hasn’t Giovanni’s own life become trapped in its own kind of ‘convention’? Taking things further, is his end really a tragedy for him? The miracle of this opera is that it mirrors ‘reality’, it mirrors ‘truth’, but it’s open to interpretation in millions of ways.”
Words: Nick Kimberley
Jakub Hruša will conduct a revival of David McVicar’s 2002 production of Carmen at the 2015 Glyndebourne Festival.