The Makropulos Affair is a Czech opera in three acts, with music and libretto by Leoš Janáček, composed between 1923 and 1925. It combines existentialist drama with elements of fantasy.
Staged for the first time by the Greek National Opera, Janáček was one of the 20th century’s leading European opera composers and was deeply interested in folklore and inspired by the traditional music of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and by Slavic music in general. He developed his one distinctive musical language which blends contrasting themes, and reflects the entire gamut of human emotions.
Emilia Marty, a famous singer, is in fact a 300 year old woman. The secret of her eternal youth is an elixir made in the 16th century by the Cretan alchemist, Hieronymus Makropulos, who was then in the service of Emperor Rudolf II, which he tested for the first time on his daughter Elina Makropulos.
Elina survived the centuries as Eugenia Montez, Elsa Müller, Ekaterina Myshkin, and Ellian McGregor, only ever keeping the first letters of her original name. Now as Emilia Marty, she comes to realise the cynicism and indifference that her eternal youth has created and grasps how many things, like the sense of a life’s purpose, are determined by the fact that one knows one’s life has a clear end, and so decides to let death take her.
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