Leoš Janáček is the most performed Czech opera composer in the world

The 1854-born Czech composer is best known for his seminal operas Jenůfa, The Makropulos Affair, and From the House of the Dead.

Expats.cz Staff ČTK

Written by Expats.cz StaffČTK Published on 02.07.2024 10:06:00 (updated on 02.07.2024) Reading time: 2 minutes

According to new research, Leoš Janáček is the most performed Czech opera composer globally, although Czech composer Antonín Dvořák’s Rusalka remains the most frequently performed Czech opera, according to Operabase, the world's most extensive performing arts database. Renowned for his operas Jenůfa and Káťa Kabanová, the Czech music world celebrates the 170th anniversary of Janáček’s birthday on July 3. 

A history of famed works

Janáček’s Jenůfa premiered at Brno Mahen Theatre in January 1904. Following its Prague debut in 1916, it achieved international acclaim, with performances at the Vienna Court Opera in 1918 and the Metropolitan Opera in New York in 1924. King Albert of Belgium honored Janacek with the Knight of the Order of King Leopold after Jenůfa’s success in Antwerp.

Two other well-known works from Janáček are The Makropulos Affair, an opera made in 1926 that explores the themes of immortality and the human condition, and From the House of the Dead – this was the Czech composer’s last work (made in 1930), which offered a portrayal of life in a Siberian prison camp.

The enduring cultural impact of Janáček manifests through the continuous performance of his works to this day. In 2025, a production of Jenůfa will take place in Ohio, USA. The National Theater in Brno originally staged Janáček's The Cunning Little Vixen on Nov. 6, 1924; upcoming performances are scheduled for Heidelberg, Germany, and Oslo, Norway. 

The Brno National Theater premiered Káťa Kabanová three years before that. This opera, exploring "the tragic fate of a sensitive woman," will be presented at the UK’s Glyndebourne Festival in 2025, Opera Ballet Vlaanderen in Liege, Belgium, and Grange Park Opera in Surrey, UK.

Dvořák’s impact

Meanwhile, Dvořák’s romantic fairy-tale opera Rusalka, which premiered at the National Theatre on March 31, 1901, will be featured next year at the opera house in Massy, France. Rusalka is widely regarded as a highlight of Czech opera. Other works the Czech composer is famed for are his orchestral piece, Symphony No. 9, "From the New World,” the Slavonic Dances, and Cello Concerto in B minor.

In 2019, BBC Music Magazine compiled a ranking of the 50 greatest composers of all time, based on originality, cultural impact, and enjoyablity. Janáĉek ranked 24th, whereas Dvořák did not feature on the list. 

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