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

John Holland
John Holland graduate student in music
John Holland

John Holland, a York Musicology PhD student is presenting the Canadian premiere of Antonin Dvorak’s opera Jakobin this month in a single performance.

The fourth-year graduate student is co-producing the opera with Danielle Dudycha and William Shookhoff through his Canadian Institute for Czech Music.

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, notes Holland. During the time Dvorak composed his operas, Vienna and Berlin were the European cities at the heart of the operatic world and the composer had to cater to the tastes of the German and Austrian audiences. Holland’s research is in Czech vocal music, so producing this show has a major tie to his studies. He also comes by his interest in Czech music through his family, 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.”

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.

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