Hudební Věda

The Portrayal of Princess Libuše in Nineteenth-Century German and Czech Opera Librettos

article summary

Michal Fránek – Ladislav Futtera

Princess Libuše as a character in Central European operas from the 17th – 20th centuries represents a remarkable phenomenon which is yet to be comprehensively charted. The focus of the present study is on three German librettos dating from the 1810s and 20s (Heinrich Eduard Josef von Lannoy: Libussa, Böhmens erste Königin, 1819; Joseph Karl Bernard: Libussa, 1823; Johann Ludwig Choulant: Libussa, Herzogin von Böhmen, 1823), and three, or more precisely, four Czech librettos (Josef Krasoslav Chmelenský: Libušin sňatek, 1832; Josef Wenzig: Libuše, 1866/1881; Ema Destinnová: Kněžna Libuše, 1913; Nastolení Libušino, 1923). Using a comparative perspective, the text concentrates on motivic analysis of the librettos which it sets into the German and Czech literary contexts.

At the same time, the study explores the differences of approach to the character of Princess Libuše between the German and Czech milieus. Whereas in the cases of the German-language librettos the main concern was with providing a thrilling and romantic plot, the Czech librettos tended towards the genre of coronation opera whose political message would address both the rulers, and even more relevantly the people and nation, as a vehicle of knowledge about themselves, their past history, present condition, and future. In this respect, Bernard's libretto is already markedly distinct from Chmelenský's text, after which the Czech tendency towards the ceremonial culminates in Wenzig's libretto as the realization of a “glorious tableau”, to ebb in Ema Destinnová's work at a time by when it was already regarded by the majority of critics (if not its audiences) as anachronistic.

Key words: opera librettos; Heinrich Eduard Josef von Lannoy; Libussa, Böhmens erste Königin; Joseph Karl Bernard: Libussa; Johann Ludwig Chulant; Libussa, Herzogin von Böhmen; Josef Krasoslav Chmelenský; Libušin sňatek; Josef Wenzig; Libuše; Ema Destinnová; Kněžna Libuše; Nastolení Libušino

Translated by Ivan Vomáčka

The complete text of this article can be found in the printed edition of Hudební věda 4/2021