Pamela Howard font

“The Marriage” / Zenitba

Press Reviews

Note: This production was revived on Friday June 2nd; Saturday June 23rd; Sunday June 24 (2 performances)

in a new staging at the Janacek Theatre BRNO. Seating for 200 spectators was on the stage,

and the performance area was in the side and back stage area.

Conductor: Jakub Klecker

Orchestra of the National Theatre Brno

Tereza Merklová as Agafya


National Theatre Brno Czech Republic

Co-Production ARS/KONCERT (Brno International Music Festival Brno - Moravian Autumn)

Performed in the Mozart Sal Reduta Theatre Brno

October 2009: Revival June 2010: Tour 2010/2011

Contact: www.ndBrno.cz

Production Photos

Please click image  to enlarge.

Comic Chamber Opera by Bohuslav Martinů from the play by Nikolai Gogol written and performed in English, with surtitles.

Originally commissioned in 1953 by NBC TV USA in 1953 as part of the series “Opera for the Millions”.


The story is simple yet universal. A professional Marriage Broker, Fyokla, tries to find a potential husband for 29 year old Agafya Tikhonova. Agafya dreams of a handsome American (embodied in the persona of The Conductor) but the sad reality is that the only suitors Fyokla can find are Old Russian émigrés, each one more horrific than the last. Herein lies the comedy and the tragedy.


The Opera is scored for 17 musicians, who will normally be recruited locally. There are 9 singers and 2 speaking parts. The conductor, in this version is also a performer. The Marriage plays approximately 1hr 10 mins without interval.


This production is conceived, directed and designed by British theatre artist Pamela Howard. It updates Gogol's St Petersburg of 1850 to the émigré Russian world in New York in 1953, that Martinů may have known. Its aesthetic is to use recycled objects imaginatively to create a modern innovative experience in regenerated spaces.


“The Marriage” normally plays in a ‘chamber/room’ approx 30 metres by 12 metres. There is flexibility in the staging, and is adaptable for different venues.


There is no ‘scenery’ as such, but the chamber is an installation of ‘vignettes’ using furniture and objects from the world of the Gogolian characters dislocated from their old world, but living in the new world as if they were still ‘in the old country’. The artefacts travel in one container. There is a 1 day technical get-in and unload. 1 day rehearsal with evening performance.


Ideally the installation is open to the public during the day, and there is an accompanying exhibition. This affords good opportunities for Education days for secondary school students.

  • The Brilliant Marriage

    in America

    The dramaturgical and artistic highlight of the (Moravian Autumn) Festival was the performance of the opera By Bohuslav Martinů...The opera was played in the untraditional venue of the Mozart Sal in Brno's Reduta, the border between the audience and the actors was nearly eliminated...singers were flowing in and out through space in the middle of the audience, the chamber orchestra situated on the left...A strong emphasis was put on Gogol’s realism and the comicality of each scene...The audience was thrilled with The Marriage, and I have to say that is reasonable...

    Boris Klepal

    Opus Musicum 05/10/2009 - translation by Blanka Saffková

  • The production had no dead parts; everything worked…

    …unaffected, the audience could not notice change from singing to speaking. The soloists from the National Theatre Brno were singing very well, but also because they were good actors with spontaneous humour...the production was well done also because of the good job of Jakub Klecker (conductor) and orchestra

    Alena Borková

    translation by Blanka Saffková


  • Two outstanding evenings

    in fifteen average ones

    The program of the festival...had a few highlights and two real tops. The main highlight was the premiére of The Marriage - Gogol’s comedy opera written by Martinů. The Opera of the National Theatre Brno prepared a first-rate acted drollery in the festive hall of the Reduta under the director Pamela Howard. You could see how the singers...who were brilliantly playing and singing are close to the chamber conception of opera. For opera in a smaller form it was a very special event.

    Jan Spacek

    MF DNES 23/10/09 -

    translation by Blanka Saffková

  • The National Theater stages ‘Marriage’ by Bohuslav Martinů

    Mozart Sal Reduta Theater was the scene of several performances of the comic opera The Marriage... The project aroused an extraordinary response... Creator of the chamber production of 1 hour is director and scenographer Pamela Howard.. who gave an exceptional opportunity for a number of soloists to show they can be real singing actors. The hilarious and ridiculous figures together with the irresistible scenery, props and costumes created a true ‘concert’... Conductor Jakub Klecker led the performance with confidence and grace. The area without a stage gave the opportunity and benefits of the closeness of actors and audience so that the audience were entertained with a flow of small jokes in accordance with the plot...

    Petr Veber

    Czech Radio 08/10/09

  • A Highlight was the performance of Zenitba, …

    …with Martinů’s wonderful music splendidly played and sung, against the background of an ingenious and very elaborate set which made the most of the elongated space available.

    Mrs Marian Werner

    The Dvorak Society of Great Britain 21/10/09


  • Pamela Howard came with

    a unique scene solution…

    …she situated the opera into the community of Russia emigrées. When I first heard that I was a little bit afraid - but she did not describe the Russians (as I saw it many time before) like stupid dull people from the communist regime... her staging is witty, colourful and great!!... You can find on the stage old bottles, sweaty armchairs, an old ladder, very old American fridge with dirty china inside...the repertoire of these props is really endless...

    I gained the best feeling/impression from this performance... The actors move in this mustiness, messy world with an excellent parody and overstatement. They are really comic and create their parts in the most superb way... It’s big success!! If you want to spend a really nice and enjoyable evening - Reduta is there for you.

    Vladimir Cech

    From the broadcast review

    by Vladimir Cech of the Marriage   Bohuslav Martinů:

    National Theater Brno.

    Radio Channel “Vltava” 10/10/09 morning programme MOZAIKA

  • I was fortunate to catch the final performance…

    …of Pamela Howard’s colourful and ingenious production of Martinů’s television opera The Marriage based on Gogol's comedy dating from the 1840's. A model of the stage set - she designed both scenery and costumes - had whetted my appetite when I encountered it in May on display at the opening of the Martinů Phenomenon exhibition in Prague. I was not disappointed. The production lived up to the series of beautiful sketches of the various characters. Even the audience feels itself part of the performance and the entire cast entered into the spirit of the comedy, singing with huge enthusiasm.

    Patrick Lambert

    Martinů Revue December 2009

  • Pamela Howard breathed

    life into Martinů’s…

    …The Marriage. Howard was effective in avoiding a diminutive performance. Her 'found object' aesthetic was complete from the paper bag city placed between two New York apartments to the hodge-podge assortment of chairs arranged for audience seating. The collection of characters comedically fumble, stammer and sigh as they attempt to arrange a marriage.

    Scott Englund

    Martinů Revue December 2009

  • Opera Now

    Jan/Feb 2010

Visualisation of the installation/performance space for “The Marriage” / Zenitba, Chamber Opera by Bohuslav Martinů. The vignettes show from Left to Right: Dunyashka’s quarters; Agafya’s bedroon; The women's sitting room; The Entrance Hall; New York City; Podkolyosin’s apartment; Stepan’s quarters The left front shows the orchestra space and the conductor’s podium representing the top of a wedding cake. The small skyscrapers along the front are small painted cardboard stools for spectator seating.

‘The Marriage’ Comic Chamber Opera by Bohuslav Martinů (1953) Libretto by Martinů after the play by Nikolai Gogol


The action is updated to New York 1953. (The Russians are a group of emigres living in New York as if they were in The Old Country).


Fyokla, a professional Marriage Broker determines to find a husband for 29-year-old Agafya.

Agafya, dreams of unattainable romance, but is presented with a series of elderly unsuitable suitors. Fyokla tries to introduce the dissolute bachelor Podkolyosin, but his friend the dealer Kochkaryov cuts Fyokla out. Podkolyosin is disappointed when he meets Agafya ‘she has a long nose, and she doesn’t speak French’ but finally agrees to an immediate marriage, then and there.

Agafya puts on the wedding dress that has been on a hanger for years, but when she returns. Podkolyosin has fled in fear. Agafya faints and is comforted by her old aunt Arina, and the servant Dunyashka. Dunyashka and her husband Stepan count the admission money they have made from the suitors. Fyokla is disgraced.

Flyer for the reprise at la Fabrika: Prague June 2011

Gallery of characters from “The Marriage”

Please click image  to enlarge.

FYOKLA  A Marriage Broker

ZHEVAKHIN a retired naval functionary

AGAFYA meets her suitors

IVAN a retired government official

KOCHKARYOV friend to Podkolyosin

AGAFYA an unmarried girl of 29, tells her fortune

THE CONDUCTOR Agafya's fantasy bridegroom

ARINA Agafya's elderly aunt

PODKOLYOSIN a dissolute bachelor of 45

DUNYASHKA an old Russian servant to Agafya


STEPAN an old Russian servant to Podkolyosin

AGAFYA  in her wedding dress

ANUSHKIN a retired military bureaucrat

PODKOLYOSIN the reluctant suitor

Privacy Policy
Cookie Policy