Personalities | Bedřich Smetana | High Romantic | Opera

1824–84, Czech

In 1866, the Czech composer Bedřich Smetana won a national competition with his first of eight operas, The Brandenburgers in Bohemia. In this work, written for the National Theatre in Prague where he was conductor, he revealed his skill in writing orchestral music, his strong dramatic sense and his understanding of the cadences of the Czech language. From the start, therefore, Smetana was all set to become the first great nationalist composer of distinctively Czech music. Just how ‘nationalist’ he was remained in doubt for some critics, who charged him with taking too much of a cue from Wagner’s operas. This was an accusation Smetana had to face throughout his career, and it bothered him so much that in the first version of his comic masterpiece, The Bartered Bride (1863–66), dialogue was spoken, not sung. The fact was that Smetana was very much a nationalist composer, taking for his model Czech folk dances and rhythms typical of Czech folk songs, all of it laced with Czech lyricism. His use of leitmotif and chromatic harmony, both Wagnerian characteristics, did nothing to detract from the Czech character of his music.

Introduction | High Romantic | Opera
Major Operas | The Bartered Bride by Bedřich Smetana | High Romantic
Personalities | Teresa Stolz | High Romantic | Opera


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