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date: 16 September 2019


  • John Tyrrell


‘Festival’ opera in three acts by Bedřich Smetana to a libretto by Josef Wenzig; Prague, National Theatre, 11 June 1881.

Smetana’s fourth opera, Libuše, came about in the same way as his previous one, Dalibor. Wenzig’s text, Libušas Urtheilsspruch und Vermählung, was ready in the spring of 1866 and was translated into Czech by Ervín Špindler, again preserving the original syllable counts and stresses of the German. Špindler completed his work by February 1868; a few additions were written directly in Czech by Wenzig. Smetana did not date his piano sketches or mention the work in correspondence or diaries, but the full score is dated 2 September 1871 (Act 1), 18 February 1872 (Act 2) and 12 November 1872 (Act 3).

Libuše was not performed for another nine years. At the time of its composition Smetana had thought it suitable for the coronation of Franz Josef as Czech king; this (and the constitutional changes it implied) did not come about so Smetana kept the work in reserve for the opening of the National Theatre, whose building continued in fits and starts during the 1870s. ...

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