A dramatist at heart, Leos Janácek wrote a total of nine operas. His early works (“Sárka”, “The Beginning of a Romance”) are followed by his first masterpiece, “Jenufa”, which won the composer lasting worldwide recognition. After completing the work in March 1903, the composer suffered one of the hardest periods of his life. His 21-year-old daughter Olga died as he was finishing the opera, and the National Theatre in Prague subsequently refused to stage “Jenufa”. Janácek’s retirement marked the beginning of his regular visits to the Luhacovice spa, where he met Kamila Urválková. Her life story was the subject and inspiration for Janácek’s fourth opera “Osud” (Fate/Destiny). Despite repeated revisions, the work was never performed in the composer’s lifetime.
Bärenreiter issued the first critical edition of “Osud” in 2016, which is also the first opera volume (A/5) in the Complete Critical Edition of the Works of Leos Janácek. Opera houses will no doubt find Janácek’s unique opera a dramaturgical challenge.
The successful Prague premiere (1916!) of “Jenufa” launched the 62-year-old Janácek into a compositional frenzy. He completed the sketched-out fifth opera “The Excursions of Mr Broucek” (1917) and set to work on new compositional projects with extraordinary creative fervour. The 1920s saw the creation of many masterpieces in quick succession, including key works of music drama that had a fundamental impact on the development of the opera in the twentieth century – “Káťa Kabanová”, “The Cunning Little Vixen”, “The Makropulos Affair”, and “From the House of the Dead”.
The Makropulos Case
”The Makropulos Case“, based on the eponymous play by Karel Capek, is regarded as one of the crowning works of twentieth-century music drama worldwide and is one of the most performed twentieth-century operas at the present time. It was first staged in Brno on 18 December 1926 with the composer in attendance. This premiere was performed using the second authorised copy of the score made by Jaroslav Kulhánek. This very same copy served as the main source of our Urtext edition of “The Makropulos Case”. This original “Brno version” was prepared and edited by Tomás Hanus, a prominent Czech conductor and a respected specialist on Janácek, who presented the work to great success at the Bavarian State Opera in Munich in October 2014. Hanus’s experience enriched the edition with a number of practical interpretation notes in the form of clearly marked and distinguished suggestions, which accommodate opera practice and facilitate the conductor’s preparatory work. The performance material is thus a welcome alternative to other existing editions of the composition. Another remarkable accomplishment of the edition is the completely new English and German performance translations of the libretto.
The Urtext edition of the premiere version of “The Makropulos Case” is set to be released in early 2019 as the next opera volume (A/9) in the Complete Critical Edition of the Works of Leos Janácek with an insightful preface by Milos Stedron.