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toufar

Toufar – The Torture Games / Toufar

National Theatre Opera, Prague, Czech Republic

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The Číhošť miracle, similarly as many other inexplicable phenomena in the history, had become the subject of many interpretations and power dealings which had cost at least one hero, in this case the “adversely affected” participant of the event, his life. According to eye witnesses the cross behind the priest’s back moved just at the time when he said: “Here, in the altar is your Saviour”. This happened on 11 December 1949 in a small village of Číhošť in the Vysočina district during a mass celebrated by a Catholic priest Josef Toufar on the 3rd Advent Sunday. The church authorities as well as the ŠtB (Secret Police) and the top state and party officials including the President Klement Gottwald got interested in the village which had been quite inconspicuous until then and its small church. Father Toufar was imprisoned in Valdice and in less than a month died as a result of torture. ŠtB commissioned a staged short documentary film Woe unto them that draw iniquity as with a long cord (directed by Přemysl Freiman) in which they tried to prove that Toufar had constructed a mechanism with a suspender belt and a windscreen wiper by which he was secretly moving the cross during the mass. The plan failed, however, because Toufar had died during the shooting of the film and also because the director had not got the liturgical details of the mass right and so the believers could see that the document was a fake. Therefore they accused Toufar of homosexual and paedophile behaviour. Children were forced to make false statements by Ludmila Brožová-Polednová, the prosecutor known from the lawsuit with Milada Horáková.
To open the analysis of the Číhošť situation and take it back to the even more remote past, the driving spirit of the staging, author of the text and music Aleš Březina finds a parallel to the story of Josef Toufar in the martyrdom of St. John Sarkander who lived at the turn of the 16th and 17th centuries and whose fate also illustrates a harsh encounter of church and secular power. The event labelled as the Číhošť miracle happened at a time when the communist power in Czechoslovakia tried to liquidate the Catholic Church definitely. They vehemently tried to abuse the situation for their own benefit in order to slander the church and prove its dirty tricks by which they are enticing the believers. They produced a version according to which the priest wanted to make the little church famous with the miracle and get rich on the influx of tourists (the event is described in such a way in the poem The Číhošť Little Church published in the weekly The Little Radio and signed by a fictitious child author and many other contemporary caricatures commissioned by the regime). On the other hand, the Catholic Church had set up a “miracle commission” and tried to achieve Josef Toufar’s canonisation.
In his documentary opera, composed exclusively on the basis of archive materials, Aleš Březina is analysing the struggle for power by institutions and puts questions about the essence of human faith, truth and miracle. In this case, the philosophical issue of the miracle is of no lesser significance – the inability to clarify this phenomenon, its potential to mediate something from the supreme being, from the world “above” or even about the human desire to reach such a world as well as the issue of our need of saints, martyrs and heroes. And also the issue of an inexplicable event in a rationally structured system, such as a work of art. The anti-illusionary staging approach by the director Petr Zelenka, reviving the props and the space and revealing the staging procedures, supports the line of an art work illusion analysis as well as that of a possibility of a power struggle for the so called “truth” or rather the correct, or the only valid interpretation of it.

Ján Šimko

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Premiere:
Saturday 28 September 2013, 21:00 – 22:20; Sunday 28 September 2013, 19:30 – 20:50, Andrej Bagar Theatre – Studio

directed by Petr Zelenka
music: Aleš Březina
conductor: Jiří Štrunc
motional co-operation: Klára Lidová
choreography: Petr Louženský – choirmaster
dramaturgy: Pavel Petráněk
set design and lighting: Nikola Tempír
costume designer: Vladimíra Formínová
produced by Martina Anna Hostomská
direction assistant, stage manager: Ondřej Slavík
cast: Soňa Červená, Jan Mikušek, Petr Louženský, Kühn’s Children choir, instrumental ensemble

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