In the last dozen years of his life, Leoš Janáček, who was married, pursued unrequited relationships with younger, unavailable women, most prominently Kamila Stösslová. Herself married, Stösslová never yielded to Janáček, but neither did she turn him away. Her presence in his life can be felt through several of the composer’s greatest late works, including the operas Katya Kabanová and The Cunning Little Vixen; the String Quartet No. 2, “Intimate Letters;” and the song cycle The Diary of One Who Disappeared.
The cycle is a narrative that comes out of a poem Janáček found in the May 14, 1916 edition of the Lidové moving newspaper. In the story, a young man sees a gypsy girl in the fields, falls in love with her, follows her into the woods and disappears. Writing for a tenor voice, accompanied by an alto, three additional singers, and pianist, Janáček made the kind of fervent, gripping, and mysterious setting that only he could produce.
Rarely performed or recorded, Cantata Profana will present a two-night run of Diary this Friday and Saturday, in the Leonard Nimoy Thalia at Symphony Space. Tenor William Ferguson and alto Avery Amereau sing the lead parts in a staged performance directed by Sara Holdren. Amereau will sing about love in the other work on the program, Bach’s beautiful Cantata No. 170, “Vergnügte Ruh’ beliebte Seelenlust,” accompanied by baroque instruments.
Cantata Profana performs The Diary of One Who Disappeared and Bach’s Cantata 170, 7:30 p.m.,Friday and Saturday, at Symphony Space cantatprofana.com