‘We’ll all meet in the same pub’: Bohuslav Martinů, Václav Nebeský, and the Hidden Trace of Futurism

Authors

RUSINKO Marcela POMAJZLOVÁ Alena

Year of publication 2022
Type Chapter of a book
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Arts

Citation
Attached files
Description In the second half of the optimistic and economically successful 1920s, a period dubbed in literature as Les Annés folles or Roaring Twenties for its unique atmosphere, Paris and France became a temporary and often even long-term home and essential inspiration for most of the leading personalities closely associated with the development of modernism and the emergence of avant-garde movements in the Central Europe. Here, as well, among others, the Bohemian composer Bohuslav Martinů (1890–1959) – today worldwide recognised and admired but during these years for the domestic public too non-conformist and hardly understandable – settled in the mid-1920s. His first five – in terms of inspiration and creativity essential and most prolific – years in Paris, Martinů spent alongside the leading contemporary Bohemian critic, theorist, art collector and dealer, Václav Nebeský (1889–1949). Having shared the room in critic’s luxurious apartment at the prestigious address 11bis, rue Delambre, Paris 14e, in the very heart of Montparnasse and the city's artistic life at the time, as well as his upright piano, Martinů composed here over thirty pieces musically, formally and visually inspired also by jazz, ragtime, dada, contemporary Paris school. The idea of metropolis of modernism and avant-garde as an effective, even turbulent and unpredictable “melted pot” of various intermingled personal styles, shared opinions, cultural trends, folk as well as “high” expressions, and even various media, is discussed here on the fragment of shared Czech-French cultural memory, which seems to be still focused only partially in the field of visual culture these days. This view reflects widely among others in two Martinů’s 1927 scenographic experimentations and innovative stage designs but as well in other period pieces that had to wait for their first stage premieres for several decades. As the ballet On tourne!/Filming! was designed by him as a spectacle only for puppets, animated drawings and a film projection; the mechanical ballet Le Raid meirveilleux/The Amazing Flight then intended to be a performance completely without actors, but with a gradually changing scene and dynamic play of lights and props. His artistic designs for both ballets can undoubtedly be linked to the Enrico Prampolini´s Theatre of Futurist Pantomime which the composer visited on 12 May 1927. In this piece, Czech dancer Zdenka Podhajská, Martinů’s close friend and patron, performed as well. Although Martinů later distanced himself from avant-garde movements, mainly from their group activities, the impetus of avant-garde music and theatre innovations is evident in his works dating from this 1920s "era of dynamism".

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