Festival Diary: Janacek Brno Festival 2020: Day 3

By Alan Neilson

This morning I headed off to Brno’s Romany Museum, the only one dedicated to the Roma people, their history, and their culture in Europe.

Situated in a fairly poor area of the city in which the Roma people had been forcibly settled I was greeted by a most enthusiastic and knowledgable guide who was happy to give me a personal tour of the small museum. He was more than happy to answer all my questions and a tour that should have lasted about 20 to 30 minutes turned into an hour and a half.

We covered so many aspects, including their persecution under the fascists and communists, their music and dress, forcible resettlement, customs, and lifestyles, along with their position within the country today. For anyone visiting Brno, this is a must-see attraction.

What provoked my interest was the evening concert which was centered on Janacek’s song cycle, “The Diary of One who Disappeared,” about a young plough boy who falls in love with a gypsy girl, and under her spell abandons his mother, father, and sister, who would never have been able to accept her as a daughter.

The performance took place at the Reduta Theatre, with the Slovakian tenor Pavol Breslik as the plough boy; he put in an excellent performance which captured the character’s many conflicting emotions.

The program also included a recital by pianist Jana Jiraského, with works by Bartók, Stravinsky, and Janacek, as well as a piece for piano and folk instruments, composed and performed by Krystof Maratka.