Smetana’s Libuše being staged for centenary

The National Theater has new production of Smetana’s historical opera

The National Theater is introducing a new production of Bedřich Smetana’s opera Libuše to help celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of Czechoslovakia. The premieres will be Sept. 14 and 16 at the historical building of the National Theater.

It will later be broadcast on Czech Television on Oct. 27, the eve of the actual centenary, and be available for streaming at www.operavision.eu.

The opera was first performed when the National Theater opened, and different productions been in the theater’s permanent repertoire ever since.

This new production is directed by Jan Burian with staging and movement collaboration by Petr Zuska, sets by Daniel Dvořák and costumes and Kateřina Štefková. Musical preparation is by Jaroslav Kyzlink, who will also be conducting some of the performances.

The title will be played by local soloist Dana Burešová and visiting guest Iveta Jiříková, who returns to the National Theater after a long time. The male lead role of Přemysl of Stadice will be played by Adam Plachetka, a permanent member of the Wiener Staatsoper ensemble and a regular guest at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, and Svatopluk Sem, a winner of several operatic awards.

Smetana wanted Libuše to be performed on special occasions, which is why the National Theater is making a new production for the centenary.

“Preparing Libuše for the 100th anniversary of the Czech state is something more than directing a standard drama. That's why I decided to work with an entirely new and powerful team whose members have some personal and creative connection with the National Theater. This situation is inspirational, and creative inspiration is always the best cure for all pressures. Notable personalities have significant individual views. We are working with each other well because we have a common interest in creating a good production,” director Burian said.

Libuše was a legendary princess who foresaw the history of the Czech people and helped to establish Bohemia as their home. A mural depicting Libuše can be found among the original decorations inside the National Theater.

“The story contains a strong message … [that] we have the chance to live in a harmonic world of friendship. There is a need to look for deeper meaning in legends. That’s what we’re trying to do together with Bedřich Smetana,” Burian said, adding that the opera shows that people can come together to end the chaos.

The opera was originally intended for the coronation of Emperor Franz Joseph I but was instead used for the opening of the National Theater on June 11, 1881, and again two years later on Nov. 18, 1883, when the theater reopened after being rebuilt following a devastating fire.

Since then, it has appeared in 14 different versions at the National Theater.

Conductor Jaroslav Kyzlink pointed out that in the past the lead role was played by stars including Ema Destinnová, Marie Podvalová, Milada Šubrtová, Gabriela Beňačková and Eva Urbanová. He added that the music is quite challenging for the orchestra. 

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