Eliška Weissová – soprano
Daniel Čapkovič – baritone / Slovakia
The Philharmonic Hradec Králové
Jan Chalupecký – conductor
Overture and prologue from the opera I pagliacci / The Comedians
"The Eternal Gods" - Libuše scene from Act 1 of Libuše
(libretto by Josef Wenzig in a re-telling by Erwin Spindler)
"O Carlo, ascolta" - Rodrigo's aria from Act 3 of Don Carlo
(libretto by François-Joseph Méry and Camille du Locle, based on the drama by Friedrich Schiller)
"Vissi d'arte" - Tosca's aria from Act 2 of Tosca
(libretto by Giuseppe Giacosa and Luigi Illica after the drama by Victorien Sardou)
Intermezzo sinfonico from the opera Cavalleria rusticana / The Peasant Cavalier
"Nemico della patria?" - monologue by Carlo Gérard from Act 3 of Andrea Chénier's opera
(libretto by Luigi Illica)
"Voi lo sapete, o mamma" - scene and romance of Santuzza from the opera in one act Cavalleria rusticana
(libretto by Giovanni Targioni-Tozzetti and Guido Menasci after a theme by Giovanni Verga)
"Oh! Il signore vi manda" - duet of Santuzza and Alfio from Cavalleria rusticana
Overture to the opera Nabucco
"Cortigiani vil razza dannata" - Rigoletto's aria from Act 2 of the opera of the same name
(libretto by Francesco Maria Piave after the drama by Victor Hugo)
"Ambizioso spirito!... Alone! T'affretta" - scene and cavatina of Lady Macbeth from Act 1 of Macbeth
(libretto by Francesco Maria Piave after William Shakespeare)
Overture from the opera Libuše
"At such a late hour...A beautiful goal" - recitative and aria by Vladislav from Act 3 of Dalibor
(libretto by Josef Wenzig, translated by Erwin Spindler)
"Libuše's Prophecy" - the final scene from the opera Libuše
There are not many Czech representatives of the art of singing who have truly achieved world fame. The most famous among them is Ema Destinnová. When the first child, a daughter, was born to the couple Jindřiška and Emanuel Kittl on 26 February 1878, they christened her Emilie Paulina Jindřiška. Her musical talents soon became apparent; she played the violin, piano, and especially sang. She was trained in singing by the husband and wife team of Marie and Thomas Loewe, who gave their pupil an excellent foundation, but she had to make a name for herself. The nineteen-year-old opera adept presented the director of the National Theatre, František Adolf Šubert, with two excerpts from Bizet's Carmen; he rejected her, but the history of opera may be grateful to him later. From 1898, when she made her debut at the Berlin Court Opera, the opera world knew Emilie Kittl as Emmy Destinn - under the pseudonym formerly worn by her singing teacher. Her Berlin debut was Santuzza in Pietro Mascagni's nude Cavalleria rusticana. During her ten years on that stage she sang over seven hundred performances, her last role there being Milada in Smetana's Dalibor. At the invitation of Cosima Wagner, she sang twice at Bayreuth, and in 1904 she made her first appearance at Covent Garden in London - in Leoncavallo's Comediants alongside Enrico Caruso, who later partnered her at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, among others in Puccini's Tosca and in the 1910 world premiere of his The Girl from the West. In 1909, Emmy Destinn was the Gretel in the American premiere of The Bartered Bride conducted by Gustav Mahler. The year before, the National Theatre in Prague had given her satisfaction for her former director's blunder by granting her an honorary membership. She began her guest appearances on the Prague stage symbolically on 25 September 1913 as Smetana's Libuše. Her longing for home brought her back home after the First World War; she no longer wanted to live abroad. In the following years she made guest appearances at the National Theatre, most recently on 20 March 1924 as Elisabeth in Wagner's Tannhäuser. Her stardom faded, perhaps by her own choice. She loved her residence in Stráž nad Nežárkou, where she lived in seclusion. She died on 28 January 1930 in České Budějovice.
Two works by Bedřich Smetana (1824-1884) occupy a prominent place in the programme of famous operatic arias and duets. He composed the opera Libuše to a libretto by Josef Wenzig in a setting by Erwin Spindler in 1872. He originally intended it to honour the coronation of Franz Joseph I as King of Bohemia. However, the coronation never took place and Smetana intended the performance of the work for the opening of the Czech National Theatre. This solemn moment occurred on 11 June 1881. After a tragic fire in August of the same year, the event was repeated on 18 November 1883. It was not until 1924 that foreign audiences were able to see Libuše for the first time in Vienna, on an opera tour from Olomouc. Smetana's Libuše became a symbol; the fanfare of the overture rang out at solemn moments associated with the presidency, Libuše's final prophecy cheered in difficult times and uplifted in solemn moments.
The opera Dalibor was premiered on 16 May 1868 at the Provisional Theatre, during the period of the emancipation efforts of the Czech nation, which aimed, among other things, to build its own theatre building and Czech opera repertoire. The story, based on the legend of the rebellious knight Dalibor, is set in the reign of Vladislav II. Jagiellonian times. In Act 3, the king reflects on what should be the task of a righteous ruler.
The premiere of Nabucco by Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901) took place at the Scala in Milan on 9 March 1842. The motif of the famous chorus of the Jewish captives in Babylonia, which almost became an anthem and became a message of freedom, is heard in the overture. Verdi's opera Macbeth, based on William Shakespeare's play, first performed in Florence in 1847, is a landmark in the composer's oeuvre. In composing it, he was acutely aware that opera is not just beautiful singing, but drama with music. It is no coincidence that the character of Lady Macbeth bears many of the characteristics of Ortrud from Richard Wagner's Lohengrin, which was written in the same time period. In his pursuit of stage truth, Verdi shared Wagner's convictions; they reached their goal each in their own way. Verdi found his dramatic truth in the second version of Macbeth, which premiered in Paris in 1865. Verdi's opera Rigoletto, based on Victor Hugo Melodrama's drama Le roi s'amuse (The King Amuses Himself), the story of a despised court jester who wants to avenge the dishonour of his daughter by a commoner duke and accidentally becomes her murderer, premiered at the Teatro La Fenice in Venice on 11 March 1851. In an aria in Act 2, he gives vent to his anger over the manners of the court. Verdi's opera Don Carlos was written specifically for Paris. A love story set against the backdrop of a power struggle, it premiered in 1867, with an Italian version (under the title Don Carlo) in Milan in 1884. Rodrigo, the Marquis de Posa and confidant of the Spanish infante Carlos in the quest to liberate Flanders, pleads with Carlos at the moment of his death to keep fighting for freedom.
In the operatic life of 19th century Italy there was a strong link between impresarios, composers and music publishers, who mediated themes, made contracts with theatres, sought librettists and new talents among composers. Success or failure often rested on their commercial acumen. In 1883, the Milanese publisher Edoardo Sonzogno announced for the first time a competition for new operas, with a limit of one act as a condition. The response among composers was not overwhelming; of the participants in the first edition, only the name of Giacomo Puccini is now known, who entered his later several times revised Les Villiers (Le Willis), but did not win the prize. Nevertheless, Sonzogno did not give up and five years later announced the competition again. The winning entry was Pietro Mascagni's (1863-1945) Cavalleria rusticana, first performed in Rome on 17 May 1890. The story, which ends tragically, is set in a Sicilian village. Santuzza, who is cheated on by her lover Turrido with Lola, married to Alfio, tries to save her love and confides her grief first to Turrido's mother. When she reveals his wife's infidelity to Alfio, Turrido dies by Alfio's hand. Ema Destinn recorded the Santuzza scene on a gramophone record. The poignant Intermezzo sinfonico foreshadows the tragedy to come.
In the year of the premiere of Mascagni's Briefcase, Sonzogno announced the third edition of the competition. Fourteen composers took part and their names are now forgotten. But it did create a kind of by-product. The name of Ruggero Leoncavallo (1857-1919) was not among the competitors, as his I pagliacci did not meet the requirement of a single act. Sonzogno, however, had good judgment, accepted the work "out of competition" and published it immediately (and Leoncavallo was happy to leave Ricordi, the publisher), and on 21 May 1892 the premiere took place at the Teatro Dal Verme in Milan. The Prologue sums up the essence of the style of Verismo, which no longer wanted to perform false tears and feigned pain on stage, but truth (vero).
Umberto Giordano (1867-1948) was also a Verist. His Andrea Chénier, first performed on 28 March 1896 at the Scala in Milan, is set during the French Revolution. Carlo Gérard, one of the revolutionary leaders, loves Madelaine, as does the poet Chénier, whom Gérard turns over to the revolutionary tribunal. By the time he realizes the shamefulness of his act, it is too late; Chénier dies under the guillotine and Madelaine enters the scaffold willingly with him.
The opera Tosca by Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924) premiered on 14 January 1900 in Rome, the city where the opera is set. The title character's aria, "Vissi'da arte, vissi d'amore" (I lived to art, I lived to love), is a stop in the dramatic situation of Act 2 before Tosca kills the police chief Scarpia, who wants to win her at any cost and orders the torture of her lover Cavaradossi. This aria has also been published several times on record in Emma Destinn's interpretation.
Eliška Weissová studied singing at the Brno Conservatory and at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague with René Tuček. She also attended master classes with Nadězda Kniplová and Peter Dvorský. She is currently working with Prof. Irmgard Boas. In 2004, she won the International Antonín Dvořák Singing Competition in Karlovy Vary, participated in the Competizione dell'opera in Dresden and the Boris Christoff Competition in Sofia. Since 2006 she has been a regular guest of the National Theatre in Prague, Pilsen, Ústí nad Labem, Opava, Brno, Ostrava and Košice. Abroad, she has been a guest in Wexford, Ireland, in the role of Martine (Hubička), in the French Opéra de Rennes, Opéra-Théâtre de Limoges and Grand-Théâtre de Reims in the role of Kostelnička (Her Pastor), at the Slovene National Theatre she sang The Foreign Princess and Ježibaba (Rusalka), at the Slovak National Theatre Ortrud (Lohengrin), and during a guest appearance at the Bayreuther Festspiele in Abu Dhabi she appeared as Rossweisse (Walküre) directed by Katharina Wagner. In 2018, she switched to dramatic soprano. She embodied Smetana's Libuše at the North Bohemian Theatre in Ústí nad Labem, and in 2020 she made her debut as the title role in Puccini's Turandot, Abigail in Verdi's Nabucco at the National Theatre in Prague, and in 2021 as Isolde (Tristan and Isolde) at the North Bohemian Theatre in Ústí nad Labem. In March 2022 she created the role of Kostelnička in Her Shepherdess at the Welsch National Opera and in the 2024/25 season she will play the role of Milada (Dalibor) at the same festival. She has also appeared as the Bonesetter at the Vienna State Opera, and returns as the Foreign Princess in Rusalka in the 2023/24 season.
Daniel Čapkovič studied at the Bratislava Conservatory and at the Faculty of Education of Comenius University. He is a laureate of several international singing competitions. In the 2003/2004 season he completed a study stay at the University of Music in Graz, where he trained with Gottfried Hornik. He is currently a soloist of the Slovak National Theatre Opera in Bratislava, where he has created a number of roles in the baritone section, such as Papageno in Mozart's The Magic Flute and Guglielmo in Così fan tutte, Belcore in Donizetti's The Love Potion, Scharplesse in Puccini's Madame Butterfly, in Charles Gounod's operas Valentina in Faust and Marguerite and Merkutia in Romeo and Juliet, Tonio in Leoncavallo's Les Comediennes, from Verdi's operas the title role of Rigoletto and Rodrigo in Don Carlos, Marbuelo in Antonín Dvořák's The Devil and The Cuckold, etc. In 2015 he guest starred as Marcello in Puccini's La Boheme in Leipzig and in 2019 as Enrico in Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor in Regensburg. He has also worked with the Teatro dell'Opera di Roma and the Salzburger Festspiele.
The Hradec Králové Philharmonic Orchestra was founded in 1978 under the name of the Hradec Králové City Orchestra, a year later it was renamed the Hradec Králové Symphony Orchestra, and in 1987 the Hradec Králové State Symphony Orchestra. Since the establishment of the Czech Republic (1 January 1993), the orchestra has borne the name of the Hradec Králové Philharmonic Orchestra, reflecting the historical continuity from the Sokol Philharmonic Orchestra in Hradec Králové (1921-65) to the Philharmonic Unity active in the city since 1887. A significant period of the ensemble's artistic flowering is connected with the name of Prof. František Vajnar, who worked as chief conductor with the orchestra continuously from 1991 until 2001. Ondřej Kukal served as the ensemble's chief conductor from 2001 to 2012, and Andreas Sebastian Weiser from 2012 to 2018. Since the 2018/2019 season, the FHK's chief conductor has been the distinguished Swiss conductor Kaspar Zehnder. The FHK has appeared on major European stages (Musikvereinssaal in Vienna, Gewandhaus in Leipzig, Victoria Hall in Geneva, Queen Elizabeth Hall in Antwerp, Tonhalle in Düsseldorf, Neue Flora in Hamburg, KKL in Lucerne, etc.), and has performed in Belgium, France, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, Austria, Spain and Murten, Switzerland. Her concerts are broadcast on television and radio, she performs at major festivals (Prague Spring, Smetana Litomyšl, Janáček Hukvaldy, Český Krumlov, etc.), and her quality is documented by recordings. Since 2005, the FHK in cooperation with Czech Radio Vltava has been organising the unique festival Musical Forum Hradec Králové.
Conductor Jan Chalupecký graduated in cello at the Prague Conservatory and started as a conductor in 1990-93 at the Prague Chamber Opera. In the 1993/1994 season he joined the National Theatre in Prague as assistant conductor to Zdeněk Košler. Since 1994, he has conducted a number of operas at the National Theatre and the State Opera, and has conducted Mozart's The Magic Flute, Verdi's Macbeth, Jan Bedřich Kittl's Bianca and Giuseppe and the world premieres of Martin Smolka's Nagano and Miloš Orson Štědron's Don Hrabal. He has repeatedly performed with the National Theatre Opera ensemble at the Prague Spring Festival and on many domestic and international tours (including Japan, Hong Kong, Slovakia and Hungary). He has also collaborated with Opera Mozart and the Municipal Theatre in Ústí nad Labem. In 1997-99 he was the chief conductor of the Pilsen Philharmonic Orchestra, and has collaborated with other Czech orchestras. For the Loket Cultural Summer Festival he staged Dvořák's Rusalka, Verdi's Rigoletto and Nabucco, Bizet's Carmen.