Musicologica Olomucensia 27 (2018)
THE FINANCIAL SITUATION OF BEDŘICH SMETANA IN THE LIGHT OF HISTORICAL SOURCES
The study investigates the financial situation of Bedřich Smetana and the fluctuations in the individual phases of his life. It is based especially on a detailed analysis of the composer’s financial records preserved in various types of written sources (diaries, catalogues of his music institute, records of revenues from opera performances, correspondence, and other individual documents). With a few exceptions, Smetana kept regular and systematic records of his revenues from as early as the 1850s; as of the 1860s, his records also included family expenditures. These overviews provide rather detailed and credible information about the amount and structure of Smetana’s finances in the individual periods. Apart from investigating the changes in the value and proportions of the incomes and expenses, the study also uses the above described sources to analyse the circumstances determining Smetana’s financial situation and the way in which they interacted with his artistic and social activities, and to determine his actual economic situation in general. The supplemented tables summarize his annual income and expenses in the individual years, including the main items constituting their structure.
SMETANA’S IMPORTANCE FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF MUSICAL LIFE IN GÖTEBORG
At the time of B. Smetana’s stay in Sweden (1856–1861), Göteborg was a rather small city and also the residence of several very wealthy families. The city a had good institutional basis for the development of music life. The standard for the audience as well as the level of musicians was influenced in particular by the experience with classicist musical works only sporadically influenced by new styles of the first half of the nineteenth century. With his intensive involvement in the organization of a musical life, and also as a teacher, piano virtuoso and a composer, Smetana gave Göteborg incentives that brought fruits already during his stay and were apparent even after his departure and deep into the nineteenth century. The inspiration was, however, mutual: the environment of Göteborg influenced Smetana and provided him with a wealth of rare life and artistic experience.
PORTRAITS OF BEDŘICH SMETANA: ON THE NATIONALITY AND COURAGE OF VISUAL ARTISTS
The rich collection of iconographic materials connected to the figure of B. Smetana, assembled by Bedřich Smetana Museum in Prague, requires professional interpretation for two reasons. Firstly, our objective is to determine the actual physical appearance of B. Smetana, and secondly, to interpret the features attributed to B. Smetana in the historical context and with regard to the particular visual style. The aspects taken into account include the rotation of Smetana’s head when photographed, his clothes, the colour display of the portraits, etc. Apart from two-dimensional depictions, the study also involves three-dimensional objects including busts.
BEDŘICH SMETANA’S PHYSIOGNOMIC APPEARANCE
The reconstruction of Smetana’s grave and exhumation of the virtuoso’s remains in 1987 promoted research on Smetana’s physical appearance. A relatively large team of experts in various fields of medicine (anatomy, pathology, phoniatrics, dentistry, etc.) was established. The results of the research were compared to contemporary visual materials and written documents (especially Smetana’s diary records), including the memories of Smetana’s friends. The results are divided into sections concerning the individual features, for instance facial asymmetry, myopia, pigmentation and diseases.
BEDŘICH SMETANA’S DEAFNESS
The study reconstructs the sequence of events leading to B. Smetana’s deafness. It re-examines the autopsy report and analyses the preserved bones of Smetana’s middle ear for the possibility of an infectious disease. The study considers the maximum number of factors, including the exceptional surge in creative activity in the last decade of Smetana’s life, in order to draw a definite conclusion in the form of a medical image – deafness as a consequence of a veneric infection.
ON THE UNITY OF THE SONATA CYCLE IN THE PIANO TRIO IN G MINOR, OP. 15 BY BEDŘICH SMETANA AND THE PIANO TRIO IN F SHARP MINOR, OP. 1, NO. 1 BY CESAR FRANCK
Smetana’s Piano trio in G minor ranks among the first elaborate works by its author, but was received with a critical distance from its very beginning. The study investigates the historical context of the trio’s birth, and based on a comparative analysis, aims at emphasizing Smetana’s original solution of the sonata cycle and the form in the scope of a chamber ensemble. In order to read the text, a simultaneous study of the scores of both these chamber works by Cesar Franck and Bedřich Smetana would be needed.
THE LULLABY SCENE IN SMETANA’S OPERA HUBIČKA [THE KISS]
An analysis of one particular scene from the opera Hubička verifies the validity (or merit) of the statement by Gustav Mahler, who compared the compositional masterpiece in the first act of Hubička to the first act of Wagner’s Die Walküre [The Valkyrie]. The scene in which Vendulka puts the baby to sleep is embedded in the context of Smetana’s other operas, where simple song forms are employed. Although Smetana used very simple musical acts connected to folklore, he managed to incorporate them in elaborate structures: in the case of the analysed scene, it is a two-part aria in the Italian bel-canto opera style.
NATURE – COUNTERPOINT – RECEPTION. ON SMETANA’S SYMPHONIC POEM Z ČESKÝCH LUHŮ A HÁJŮ [FROM THE BOHEMIAN MEADS AND WOODS]
Analytical commentaries on Smetana’s symphonic poem Z českých luhů a hájů are based on the development of the non-musical programme presented by the composer himself, which was later elaborated on by his admirer V. V. Zelený. The problematic relationship between the musical structure and the non-musical programme is viewed from the perspective of variable reception. Although Smetana assumed that the listeners would work specifically with their own fantasy, the study points out receptive approaches standing in contrast to the original intention and as such being a sad example of the reception of the symphonic poem.
THE DEVIL IN THE OPERA. ON THE MOTIF AND THE HISTORICAL BACKGROUND OF ČERTOVA STĚNA [THE DEVIL’S WALL]
Various types of music theatre (for instance, singspiel, magic opera, or operetta) serve to reveal how new motifs emerged in opera librettos, presenting unusual challenges for composers. These included non-specified choirs of demons and creatures of the underworld in seventeenth century opera to the individualized character of the devil. Although the interest was preserved until the nineteenth century (K. Penderecki, A. Schnittke), the basic repertory foregrounding the demonic powers was created in the eighteenth century (Meyerbeer’s Robertus Diabolus [Robert the Devil], Weber’s Der Freischütz [The Freeshooter], or Boito’s Mefistofele). The character of the devil is not always frightening. Some works intentionally emphasize the comic and fairy-tale features: this being typical in Czech opera (Smetana’s Čertova stěna and Dvořák’s opera Čert a Káča [The Devil and Kate]).
ON THE CONCEPTION OF SMETANA’S DALIBOR
The first critiques of the performance of the opera Dalibor already pointed out its long-term poor acceptance and major problems with dramaturgy. Although Smetana continued to emphasize the quality of his third opera, he did not succeed in promoting it, and this lack of understanding became the author’s life disappointment. Dalibor was considered a Wagnerian work that did not correspond to any type of Czech national opera (one of the reproached aspects was the lack of choir and dance acts which were typical for local culture). The study reveals the intentions of the librettist Adolf Wenzig, who focused on a story of tragic love burdened by history and causing deadly vengeance. Smetana’s interpretation of the libretto was different, emphasizing the motif of friendship and love. The tension between reality and the visions of the main characters in Dalibor is fully manifested at the end of the third act, which was reworked several times. In spite of the problematic solution, Dalibor remains a work of exceptional quality reacting in a distinct way to the contemporary situation in tragic opera of the second half of the eighteenth century.
ON THE RECEPTION OF OPERAS BY BEDŘICH SMETANA IN PRAGUE IN THE YEARS 1884–1892
The period between Smetana’s death (1884) and the International Exhibition of Music and Theatre in Vienna (1892) represents a specific phase in the reception of Smetana’s work. Smetana’s operas were already a stable part of the repertory of the National Theatre even before he became internationally renowned. The Czech critics established Smetana’s works as a benchmark to which all new compositions were compared. Many of Smetana’s admirers expected his opera works to succeed even beyond the borders of the Czech Lands and they intensively encouraged Czech institutions and listeners to maintain their interest in Smetana’s compositions.
NO COMPROMISE BY NOTES – PRODANÁ NEVĚSTA [THE BARTERED BRIDE] IN VIENNA IN THE YEARS 1893 AND 1896
The study is dedicated to the reception of the first German performances of the opera Prodaná nevěsta by Bedřich Smetana in Vienna – in 1893 in the Theater an der Wien, and later in 1896 in Hofoper. Smetana’s comic opera came to the Viennese stage as late as almost thirty years after its birth. The work, which was already perceived in Bohemia as part of autonomous Czech music culture as well as a prototype of the national opera of that day, was performed in Vienna during a nationally and politically tense period when Czech society still felt disillusion after the collapse of the Austro-Bohemian compromise in the 1870s. The issue of the position of the Czech Lands within the monarchy had become topical once again by that time. The year 1890 saw a new (and until the outbreak of World War I also the last) attempt at strengthening the centralism, which was rejected by the (non-uniform) opposition in the Czech Lands. In this situation, the Czech National Theatre was visiting the International Exhibition of Music and Theatre (Internationale Ausstellung für Musik- und Theaterwesen) organized in Vienna 1892, where Smetana’s Prodaná nevěsta clearly won. This performance was followed by the both above-mentioned premieres on the Viennese stages: first in Theater an der Wien, led by private lessors, and three years later on the official court scene. Based on documents from the archives of the Court Opera, the contemporary press and other sources, the study presents examples of the political context of both the premieres and their reviews by the contemporary satire.
SMETANA BETWEEN OPERETTA AND OPERA. SINGERS IN THE THEATER AN DER WIEN IN 1893 AND IN THE COURT OPERA IN 1896
The director of the Theater an der Wien Alexandrine von Schönerer and her art advisor Franz Jauner used the success of Smetana’s Prodaná nevěsta [The Bartered Bride] on the occasion of the visit of the Czech National Theatre at the International Exhibition of Music and Theatre (Internationale Ausstellung für Musik- und Theaterwesen) in Vienna in 1892. They organized the Viennese premiere of this opera, which was also its first enactment in German, in April 1893. This operetta-focused theatre thus used Smetana’s opera as a precursor to the intended change in the repertory composition directed towards the genre of comic and later also serious opera. With the same intention, the Theater an der Wien presented a comic one-act opera by Vilém Blodek V studni [In the Well] in the following year. Two Czech operas were thus intended to stand at the beginning of the dramaturgy representing higher ambitions in theatre management. Three years later, the premiere of Prodaná nevěsta in the Court Opera (Hofoper) took place. The study is dedicated to biographies of the artists who participated in both of the premieres in Theater an der Wien and the Court Opera, and provides a further context.
Jan Panenka – Taťána Opatová Součková
PRODANÁ NEVĚSTA [THE BARTERED BRIDE]: A UNIQUE CULTURAL-POLITICAL ISSUE (A TOPIC FROM THE BOOK PRODANÁ NEVĚSTA NA JEVIŠTÍCH PROZATÍMNÍHO A NÁRODNÍHO DIVADLA 1866-2004 [THE BARTERED BRIDE ON THE STAGES OF THE PROVISIONAL THEATRE AND THE NATIONAL THEATRE IN 1866-2004])
Although B. Smetana designated his opera Libuše for representation of the Czech nation, it was Prodaná nevěsta that became a representative work whose performances indelibly illustrated contemporary conflicts. In this respect, it is possible to perceive the individual performances of Prodaná nevěsta as political issues and society-wide events. Apart from information about the main protagonists of the individual performances, including stage designers or directors, the study also provides commentaries on possible motivations within the particular social conditions which led to conflicts around performances of Prodaná nevěsta. Public discussions were often (and continue to be) led in the entire spectrum of media coverage, from expert reviews to interference by politicians.
THE MOTIF OF VYŠEHRAD AS A WIRELESS SIGNATURE TUNE ON THE WAVES OF PRAHA RADIO STATION AND IN FEATURE FILMS
The opening bars of Smetana’s symphonic poem Vyšehrad found “a new life” in the form of a signature tune on the radio station Praha used since 1933. Radio signature tunes are often inspired by famous works that have the potential to represent a certain cultural circle (such as Leipzig and the tones B♭-A-C-B). It is a music emblem that is easy to remember and has been entering various contexts, particularly thanks to sound in film, in the form of a memento (for instance the Munich Agreement of 1938 or the war events) as well as by means of high explanatory power revealing actors’ attitudes, creating comic situations, etc.
OPERAS BY SMETANA ON THE STAGES OF GERMAN-SPEAKING COUNTRIES
The reception of Smetana’s operas in the German-speaking environment is intensive, but very unsteady. Smetana’s opera work is not known as a whole (for instance, the first opera Braniboři v Čechách [The Brandenburgers in Bohemia]), but plays such as Prodaná nevěsta [The Bartered Bride] or Dvě vdovy [The Two Widows] returned to German stages on a regular basis. The study provides a detailed image of notable performances of Bedřich Smetana’s operas on German stages in the 1900s. It monitors the changing approaches in directions, and lists leading artists who enriched performances of Smetana with idiosyncratic elements.
OPERAS BY BEDŘICH SMETANA IN SLOVAKIA IN THE YEARS 1920-1939
Smetana’s operas were brought to the territory of Slovakia thanks to visiting Czech opera companies as early as before the First World War. With the emergence of Czechoslovakia and the establishment of the Slovak National Theatre in Bratislava, an entirely new situation occurred: the “national” programme was gaining ground in the multi-cultural environment. The meaning of the adjective “Slovak” in connection with theatre was, however, mainly territorial, thus Oskar Nedbal was called to Bratislava as an artistic authority. Nedbal worked as the director of the opera in the years 1923–1930. Smetana’s work became the core repertory.
M. R. Cherkashyna-Hubarenko
OPERAS BY BEDŘICH SMETANA ON THE UKRAINIAN STAGE
The last decades of the eighteenth century and the beginning of the nineteenth century saw an intensive development of theatre life in Ukraine. The core repertory consisted of plays with a high proportion of incidental music. Motifs from rural life were particularly popular. The plot of Smetana’s Prodaná nevěsta [The Bartered Bride] matched the traditional repertory well. What is more, it was possible for the local theatre companies to perform Smetana’s score at an appropriate level. Smetana became one of the most frequently performed opera composers thanks to his second opera and was regularly included in the programme of Ukrainian theatres before the First World War, along with S. Moniuszko, P. Mascagni, W. Zeleński, S. Gulak Artemovsky or M. Lysenko. At the time of the establishment of Ukrainian opera stages after the World Wars, Smetana was still a popular author, as documented in detail by the study. Apart from Prodaná nevěsta, his Dalibor also began to be performed.