York Music PhD student presents Czech opera for first time in Canada

A York Musicology PhD student is presenting the Canadian premiere of Antonin Dvorak's opera Jakobin this month in a single performance.

John Holland headshot

John Holland

John Holland, in the fourth year of his PhD, is co-producing the opera with Danielle Dudycha and William Shookhoff through his Canadian Institute for Czech Music. Founded in 2013 to promote the research and performance of Czech music across Canada, the performance of Jakobin is the institute's inaugural event, Holland says.

Composed in 1888, the opera has ties to the French Revolution, and is set in a small Czech village ruled by a Count whose son went off to join the Revolution in France. Following the conclusion of the Revolution, the son heads back to his village preceded by rumours. "There's rumours he's coming back to enslave the townspeople," Holland notes, “(but he's actually) coming back to reconcile with his father.”

Dvorak's operas are mired in obscurity, he says. Back when he was composing, you had to make it in Vienna or Berlin as Europeans "only wanted to hear German or Austrian operas.”

Holland says his research is in Czech vocal music, so producing this show has a major tie-in with his studies. He also comes by his interest in Czech music honestly, noting his mother's side of the family is Czech and Slovak.

When they were looking for a project, the approach was to do something unique. "Here's this beautiful opera by Dvorak that's never been done in Canada," he says. "This is our first big project; we'd like to do one or two projects a year."

Holland says "we're in music to perform. The research I've done has only helped to inform the performance."

Dvorak's Jakobin will be presented Friday, October 24 beginning at 7:30pm at Trinity St. Paul's Centre. For tickets or information, please call 647-969-3498 or visit the Canadian Institute for Czech Music website.