Opera Film Baņuta: Love is a Battle

When and Where

Wednesday, November 16, 2022 7:00 pm to 10:30 pm
Innis Town Hall
Innis College
2 Sussex Avenue, Toronto, Ontario


The CDTPS is proud to present the opera film Baņuta with the primary artists in attendance. The feature-length film will be shown at the Innis Town Hall Theatre on November 16, 2022, at 7 pm. There will be a short talk before the film’s screening and a Q&A at the end. The language of the opera is in Latvian and German with English subtitles.

Tickets will be free for U of T students/ $20 for the general public. To purchase your ticket, visit banuta.eventbrite.ca

Doors open at 6:30pm.

The opera film Baņuta is an international project that melds opera, music performance, and cinematography into one riveting feature-length film. 

The story is about a young woman fighting for love amidst the trauma of war. Baņuta is a partisan in both a mythical past and in 20th century Eastern Europe, when her life is saved by the Lithuanian prince, Daumants. Speeding away on a motorcycle, he takes her to his homeland in Romove, a holy Baltic site. Preparations for their wedding are interrupted by ravens, who remind Daumants of his crime against a girl he raped and killed. Soon Daumants falls in battle, and Baņuta is caught up in sacrificial rituals and revenge. Nevertheless, she refuses to give up her struggle for happiness. 

When composer Alfrēds Kalniņš’ premiered Baņuta in 1920, it was the very first opera ever written in the newly decolonised, independent Latvia. More than a hundred years later, director Franziska Kronfoth from Berlin and dramaturg Evarts Melnalksnis from Riga bring together Latvian artists and the German music theatre collective “Hauen und Stechen” to reinterpret the dramatic message without nostalgia. Baņuta’s struggles invoke the collective experience of women who have suffered through the wars of Eastern Europe and are suffering again today in Ukraine and across the globe. A contradictory sense of humour seeps into the tragedy, while characters stuck deep in the centuries strive to break the fourth wall.

Made during the covid crisis, the production rips the opera out of its traditional space and is filmed both outdoors and in a post-industrial venue. Applying methods of exuberant deconstruction, the creators open this classic work up to a contemporary audience.

View the trailer (with English subtitles).

Franziska Kronfoth

Franziska Kronfoth, Director 
Franziska Kronfoth, born in Berlin, is considered a leader in contemporary music theatre in Germany. She is an opera director who merges music and drama with art, philosophy, film und performance which meet in a wild, colorful and opulent theatre experience. She is a co-founder of the music theatre collective “Hauen und Stechen” which has been working in in opera houses as well as in caves, cars, clubs and museums. (The name ‘Hauen and Stechen’, which literally means ‘beating and stabbing,’ is a popular term for fierce competition.) Among her projects are versions of Carmen, Tristan and Isolde, Salome, Lulu, Saint Matthews Passion, as well as various experimental creations. Recently, she directed a movie of the Latvian opera Baņuta. Franziska puts the danger and the fun back in opera and has just been nominated for the prestigious German theatre award ‘Der Faust’ for her opera co-direction of The Condemnation of Lucullushauen-und-stechen.com/bios/

Evarts Melnalksnis

Evarts Melnalksnis from Riga, Latvia is deeply engaged in music theatre dramaturgy and is an innovator and idea generator in music theatre and performance art, including an outstanding event in the elephant stables of the Riga circus. He focuses on post-dramatic theatre strategies, contemporary music theatre, interdisciplinary and international cooperation. He studied at the Hamburg University of Music and Theatre, and was awarded a DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service) scholarship as well as the "Musiktheater heute" scholarship for young music theatre professionals (2016 - 2018). He is the founder of the Latvian theatre troupe KVADRIFRONS and dramaturg of its several performances, including "The Spring" which received the national theatre prize (2019). His special skill is taking apart a classic work (like ‘Baņuta’ or ‘Spring Awakening’) and finding its current urgency. He is the initiator and dramaturg of the Latvian opera film Baņuta

The artists will also be hosting two Opera and Music Theatre Workshops sessions on November 18 and 20.

Supported by the Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies, University of Toronto; the Latvian National Federation in Canada; Daugavas Vanagi (Latvian Relief Society of Canada); and the Latvian National Opera Fund.

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