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'The Velvet Oratorio' to Commemorate 25th Anniversary of Czechoslovakia's Velvet Revolution and Fall of Berlin Wall

By Jon Sobel j.sobel@classicalite.com on Oct 03, 2014 02:42 PM EDT

The Velvet Oratorio will receive its first full staging next month to commemorate the fall of the Iron Curtain and specifically the 25th anniversary of Czechoslovakia's Velvet Revolution in 1989.

The grand ballroom at Bohemian National Hall, 321 East 73rd Street in New York City, home of the Czech Center and the Czech Consulate, will host the performances presented by Untitled Theater Company #61 (UTC61) in association with the Consulate General of the Czech Republic in New York.

With a libretto by Edward Einhorn and music and staging by Henry Akona, the original opera/theater piece was first seen in a concert version in 2009. UTC61 has engaged with Czech history and culture for some years, producing the Havel Festival in 2006 (the first-ever presentation of Václav Havel's complete dramatic works) and Einhorn and Akona's adaptation of Havel and Vladimír Morávek's The Pig, or Václav Havel's Hunt for a Pig in 2011.

The Velvet Oratorio is a retelling of the Velvet Revolution, then-Czechoslovakia's non-violent transition from Communism to a parliamentary republic with Havel and Alexander Dubček heading the new government.

The libretto uses scenes inspired by Havel's Vaněk plays, recently released U.S. State Department documents, and interviews with journalists, diplomats, and ordinary Prague citizens of the time. In a series of alternating scenes and choruses, the chorus represents the Prague crowds during the events of November 17, 1989 to January 1, 1990.

Musical America's review of the concert version opined that "Akona's cleverly dissonant, rhythmic music [is] deftly and tastefully orchestrated," the scenes "played for irony, contradiction and some bawdy humor, which lends sympathy and humanism to the political subject and the paranoid atmosphere that defined the era."

The first two performances, Saturday November 8 at 8pm and Sunday November 9 at 5pm, are timed to the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. A roundtable discussion will follow the performance on November 9, the actual anniversary. Additional performances are scheduled for Friday December 12, Saturday December 13, Tuesday January 13, 2015 and Wednesday Jan 14, 2015, all at 8pm. Tickets are $30. Call 212-352-3101 or visit UTC61's website.

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TagsVaclav Havel, Edward Einhorn, Henry Akona, Velvet Oratorio, Velvet Revolution, Berlin Wall, Opera