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The American bestseller about the passionate sexual relationship between
Humbert Humbert, a middle-aged intellectual, literature professor and writer,
and the 12-year-old Lolita, an unbridled, impudent and lustful girl, set in the
1940s or the 1950s, gave rise to fierce debates and generated controversy.
Following the initial wave of decrial, its author, Vladimir Nabokov
(1899–1977), a Russian-American novelist and poet, gained global fame. Almost
four decades after the book’s publication, the Russian composer Rodion
Shchedrin (b. 1932) created an opera set to Nabokov’s best-known work. It is
his fifth stage piece inspired by literary works by great Russian writers, with
the previous ones being the opera Dead Souls (1976, based on Gogol) and the
ballets Anna Karenina (1972, based on Tolstoy), The Seagull (1979) and The Lady
with the Lapdog (1985, the latter two based on Chekhov).
Shchedrin composed the opera Lolita to his own libretto to commission from Mstislav Rostropovich, who conducted its world premiere (in Swedish translation) on 14 December 1994 in Stockholm. The piece, retelling a multi-layered story, blending themes of sensuality, love and sin, will receive its Czech premiere. The opera’s music reflects a variety of inspirations, with the most distinctly palpable being the Russian Orthodox chant. Whereas Lolita is just the second Shchedrin opera to be presented on a Czech stage (on 20 December 1978, Brno hosted the Czechoslovak premiere of Dead Souls), his ballets, particularly Carmen, are familiar to the local audience. With a certain degree of self-irony, the composer incorporated in Lolita a quotation from Carmen. Shchedrin wrote the majority of his ballets for his wife, the prima ballerina Maya Plisetskaya, who performed in Prague on several occasions. The very first Czech production of Shchedrin’s Lolita will be created for the National Theatre in Prague by the renowned Slovak director and performance artist Sláva Daubnerová, who is noted for her singular approach to 20th–century opera, affording it a forcible and visually provocative touch.
Premiere performances: 3 and 5 October 2019 at the Estates Theatre