Opera Scotland

Libuše

Music
Bedřich Smetana (born Litomyšl, Bohemia, 2 March 1824; died Prague, 12 May 1884)

Text
German text by Josef Wenzig, in a Czech translation by Ervín Špindler.

Source
Original.

Premières
First performance: Prague (National Theatre), 11 June 1881.
First UK performance: Edinburgh (Festival Theatre), 4 September 1998 (concert).
First performance in Scotland: As above.
Scottish Opera première: N/A.

Background
Smetana is regarded as the founder of Czech musical culture. His cycle of symphonic poems Ma Vlást has gained iconic status and he composed a group of operas which became the prototypes of folk-based comedy, historic tragedy, and heroic pageant. Libuše represents the third of these, and in many respects is more oratorio than opera. He composed it between 1869 and 1872, but it was not performed for another decade, when it celebrated the opening of the National Theatre. It has remained the opera reserved for special occasions in Prague. It is traditionally considered to be a difficult piece for non-Czech audiences.

Main Characters
Libuše, Princess of Bohemia (soprano)
Přemysl of Stadice (baritone)
Chrudoš from Otava (bass)
Št’áhlav from Radbuza, brother of Chrudoš (tenor)
Lutobor from Dobroslavský Chlumec, uncle to the brothers (bass)
Radovan from the Stone Bridge (baritone)
Krasava, Lutobor’s daughter (soprano)
Radmila, sister to the two brothers (contralto)

Plot Summary
According to legend, Princess Libuše, having inherited the throne of Bohemia following the death of her father, founded the city of Prague. The first episode features a land dispute between two brothers, the loser contesting any verdict brought about by a woman. This prompts Libuše to announce her intention to marry, and the hunt begins to find a suitable partner. The choice falls on the surprising figure of P?emysl, a farmer. The sub-plot of the warring brothers continues with their own courtship by Krasava. She loves the one who had lost out in the land dispute and pretended to love the other in order to provoke a proposal out of the chosen one. This not only has the desired effect, but also prompts him to accept Libuše’s earlier verdict with good grace. The opera then ends with a grand tableau in which Libuše has a prophetic vision of the glorious future of the Czech nation.

The Cast

Chrudoš
 from Otava, Št'áhlav's brother
First Harvester
 
Fourth Harvester
 
Krasava
 Lutobor's daughter
Libuše
 a Bohemian princess
Lutobor
 from Dobroslavský Chlumec, their uncle
Přemysl
 of Stadice
Radmila
 sister of the two brothers
Radovan
 from the Stone Bridge
Second Harvester
 
Št'áhlav
 from Radbuza, Chrudoš's brother
Third Harvester
 

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