The Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies (CDTPS) proudly presents the screening of the feature-length opera film Baņuta, a story of a young woman fighting for love amidst the traumas of war on November 16, 2022, at the Innis Town Hall (2 Sussex Avenue) from 7:00 to 10:30pm. The director Franziska Kronfoth and dramaturg Evarts Melnalksnis will both be in attendance and participate in a short talk before the screening and a Q&A at the end.
Baņuta originally premiered in 1920 and was composed by architecture student, Alfrēds Kalniņš. After Latvia gained its independence in 1918, it became the first opera ever written in the newly established country.
Over a century later, Melnalksnis presented Kronfoth with the idea of conveying Baņuta’s story as a musical theatre project. However, as the pandemic emerged, the director and dramaturg decided to transform the project into a film.
Kronfoth explained, “Our theatre had always been influenced by film and video.” Melnalksnis added, “It was about merging together all these different layers that we have now, not only opera on the stage, but also what we can take from cinematography.”
CDTPS course instructor Baņuta Rubess felt that students would be inspired by Kronfoth and Melnalksnis’s collective approach to the film. “Kronfoth uses the language of cinema with an exuberant freedom, changing locations, wielding the power of edits, angles, agitprop, ironic quotes and cutaways,” said Baņuta. “The visual language is very exciting. I found myself laughing out loud: not what you expect at a classic opera.”
Dramaturg Melnalksnis adds that the movie includes a component of humour to contrast the heavy themes of violence and tragedy. Given the ongoing invasion of Ukraine, the themes of war and more specifically, the struggle of women in war, became increasingly relevant. Melnalksnis explains how the film demonstrates the traumas left to war-torn societies and how that compares to the current conflict in Ukraine.
Both Kronfoth and Melnalksnis discuss how literature and film can enable their audience to better understand a human being's experiences with war, especially those who are directly involved.
Kronfoth and Melnalksnis explain that the audience will find it easy to resonate with the characters in the film. By breaking down the fourth wall, the film allows the audience to share the thoughts of the actors, as well as their feelings and musicality.
Kronfoth explains that the film evokes existential and intimate questions for its audience to consider: How can you live after experiencing the violence of a war? How can you live and laugh with trauma?
Baņuta hopes that after watching the film, students will be inspired, wanting to create their own show. “Whether you are an aspiring performer, playwright, director, or critic, this opera film provides a rich seam of examples of how to deconstruct a classic,” said Baņuta.
Baņuta encourages students to visit the Front and Long Rooms at the Playhouse from 4:00 to 5:30pm the day before the screening (November 15) to have donuts with the artists while learning more about directing and dramaturgy in Germany and Latvia.
After the show, on November 18 and November 20, Kronfoth and Melnalksnis will host two workshops enabling students to explore contemporary opera through the medium of film, as well as learn to act for opera on and off camera. To learn more about these workshops, visit uoft.me/OperaWorkshops.
To find out more about the film screening of Baņuta, visit: uoft.me/Baņuta.