Libuše (opera)

Libuše (pronunciation ) is a "festival opera" in three acts, with music by Bedřich Smetana. The libretto was originally written in German by Josef Wenzig, and was then translated into Czech by Ervín Špindler [cs]. In Czech historical myth, Libuše, the title character, prophesied the founding of Prague. The opera was composed in 1871–72 for the coronation of Franz Josef as King of Bohemia. This did not happen and Smetana saved Libuše for the opening of the National Theatre in Prague, which took place nine years later on 11 June 1881. After the destruction of the National Theatre in a fire, the same opera opened the reconstructed theatre in 1883. The first US performance was reported to have occurred March 1986, in a concert version at Carnegie Hall with Eve Queler and the Opera Orchestra of New York.[1] In the UK, it was first staged by University College Opera in 2019.[2]

Opera by Bedřich Smetana
Smetana in 1854, painting by Geskel Saloman
LibrettistJosef Wenzig
11 June 1881 (1881-06-11)

Commentators have noted the pageant-like nature of the opera and the influence of Richard Wagner in the music.[3]


Eva Urbanová as Libuše (2010)
Role Voice type Premiere cast, 11 June 1881
(Conductor: Adolf Čech)
Queen Libuše soprano Marie Sittová
Chrudoš bass Karel Čech
Sťáhlav, younger brother of Chrudoš tenor Antonín Vávra
Radmilla, sister to Chrudoš and Sťáhlav contralto Betty Fibichová
Krasava soprano Irma Reichová
Lutobor, father to Krasava bass František Hynek
Přemysl, a farmer from Stadice baritone Josef Lev
Radovan baritone Leopold Stropnický


Act 1Edit

The brothers Chrudoš and Sťáhlav are fighting over the settlement of their father's estate, with Queen Libuše as arbiter. Czech law dictates either co-management or equal division of the land. German law, which Chrudoš, the elder, favours, would demand primogeniture, where the elder sibling would inherit the entire property. Libuše decides in favour of equal division, to the anger of Chrudoš, who leaves. Because some of her male subjects, including Chrudoš, do not fully accept the idea of a woman as their ruler, Libuše then asks her subjects to choose her husband. They say that she should make her own decision on her spouse, where it turns out that she prefers the farmer Přemysl. The act ends as the subjects worry about Chrudoš and the possibility that he will sow discord.

Act 2Edit

Scene 1

Part of the reason for Chrudoš' ill humour is revealed, in the relationship of Chrudoš to Krasava. Chrudoš loves Krasava, who returns his sentiments, but considers him insufficiently romantic in his personality. Krasava thus feigns romantic interest in Sťáhlav to make Chrudoš jealous. Her father, Lutobor, asserts his authority and demands that she reconcile the quarreling brothers. Krasava then challenges Chrudoš to either (a) forgive and embrace her, or (b) kill her with his sword. Chrudoš takes the route of forgiveness, and reconciles with Sťáhlav.

Scene 2

Přemysl is watching over the harvest on his lands. A royal escort then arrives to bring him to Queen Libuše, to be married.

Act 3Edit

A celebration of the double wedding, of Libuše to Přemysl, and of Krasava to Chrudoš, is taking place. Přemysl devises a way for Chrudoš to apologize to the queen while still saving face. A moment of prophecy then takes hold of Queen Libuše, and she tells of future visions for the Czech nation.


Piccolo, two flutes, two oboes, two clarinets, two bassoons, four horns, four trumpets, three trombones, tuba, timpani, triangle, cymbals, bass drum, harp, strings. Onstage trumpets.[4]




  1. ^ Donal Henahan (14 March 1986). "Beňačková in Smetana's Libuše". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-09-06.
  2. ^ Anna Picard (19 March 2019). "Review: Libuse at the Bloomsbury Theatre, WC1". The Times. Retrieved 2019-03-21.
  3. ^ Helm, Everett, "Reports from Abroad: Prague" (1959). The Musical Times, 100 (1392): p. 97.
  4. ^ Smetana on 3,000 records, p. 136.[not specific enough to verify]
  5. ^ Graeme, Roland (1997). "Libuše. Bedřich Smetana". The Opera Quarterly. 13 (3): 186–189. doi:10.1093/oq/13.3.186.


External linksEdit