Janáček, Leoš (opera) [Leo Eugen ]
- John Tyrrell
[Leo Eugen ]
(b Hukvaldy, Moravia, July 3, 1854; d Moravská Ostrava [now Ostrava], Aug 12, 1928). Czech composer. He was a late developer, with his first distinctive opera (Jenůfa) given in his 50th year, and his greatest operas written after the age of 65. His reputation was equally slow in coming. He was almost 62 when Prague first performed Jenůfa, and although it became a repertory piece in Czechoslovakia and the German-speaking world during the 1920s and 30s, it was not until the 1950s that it, or any other Janáček opera, was given in Britain. Since then his reputation has continued to grow steadily throughout the world. As the 20th century draws to a close he has become accepted as one of its most substantial, original and immediately appealing opera composers.
Janáček’s family background hardly destined him for opera. Both his grandfather and his father were village schoolmaster-musicians – part of the ‘kantor’ tradition that Charles Burney much admired and that kept Czech culture alive through the lowest ebb of the nation’s fortunes. It was, however, essentially a village or small-town tradition and one that produced church and instrumental musicians rather than opera composers. In ...