Veronika Vejvodová

World Theme in Czech Guise. Early Reception of Dvořák’s Rusalka

pp. 69–82 (Czech), summary p. 83 (English)

The first night of Dvořák's opera Rusalka, which took place at the National
Theatre in Prague on 31 March 1901, provoked a range of critical reflection from
contemporary critics. Reviews of Rusalka by prominent critics were published in
the contemporary daily press as well as specialist journals. Critics were very strict in
their evaluation of Jaroslav Kvapil's libretto, to which they applied the requirement
of "Czechness" and originality, since the author himself admitted in the preface to
the libretto that he was inspired by foreign models (Hauptmann, Fouqué, Andersen),
but also by the ballads by K. J. Erben. Dvořák's music arrangement was analysed
in terms of style (modern drama or number opera), in which individual critics
differed considerably. The greatest opponent of Rusalka, and the opponent of the
entire critical community, was Zdeněk Nejedly?. His criticism described the work
as a reactionary modern music drama, the only possible form to which Rusalka
in no way corresponds. Nejedly? thus foreshadowed the future fights over Dvořák
(1910-1914), which divided Czech cultural society and whose reverberations
are still felt today.

Keywords: Opera - reception - opening - Antonín Dvořák - Jaroslav Kvapil -
Zdeněk Nejedly?


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