King and Charcoal Burner

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King and Charcoal Burner (Czech: Král a uhlíř), Op. 14, is a three-act (23-scene) comic opera by the Czech composer Antonín Dvořák.

The first version of the opera was written in 1871 to a libretto by Bernard J. Lobeský. That same year the composer offered the finished opera to the Czech Provisional Theatre in Prague. Bedřich Smetana, who was in charge of the opera at that time, returned the work to Dvořák the following year, claiming it was unperformable.

Dvořák created entirely new music to the same libretto – without using any of the original material. This new version was finished in 1874 and the première took place on 24 November 1874. By that time, Smetana already was no longer the chief conductor. (He became deaf in 1874.) Despite a good reception from both critics and audience, the opera was withdrawn after only four performances. Dvořák made another substantial revision in 1887, the premiere of which was conducted on 15 June 1887 by Adolf Čech. The libretto was partially refashioned by Václav Juda Novotný and Dvořák made modifications particularly to the third act.

An edition of the opera prepared by Karel Kovařovic exists, and is the basis for a recording on Supraphon.

Roles[edit]

Role Voice type Premiere cast, 24 November 1874
(Conductor: – )
King Matyáš baritone Josef Lev
Jindřich, Burgrave of Křivoklát tenor Jan Sára
Matěj, coal-burner in the Křivoklát forests bass Karel Čech
Anna, his wife contralto Betty Fibichová
Liduška, his daughter soprano Marie Zofie Sittová
Jeník, young charcoal burner tenor Antonín Vávra
Eva soprano Ema Maislerová-Sáková
First knight tenor
Second knight bass

Synopsis[edit]

The theme of the opera is from old legend of the rescue of a Czech ruler (probably prince Jaromír of Bohemia of the Přemyslid dynasty, or his brother Oldřich of Bohemia) who gets lost in the woods of Křivoklát. One of the main characters – the charcoal burner Matěj – was taken by Lobeský from the puppet theatre play Feast Day in Hudlice (based on the same theme). Lobeský also replaced the Přemyslid king with the Habsburg Emperor Matthias (and thus shifted the action from the 11th to the 17th century). As Matěj is the familiar form of Matthias in Czech, Dvořák gained two characters with the same names – one poor, one rich. The king mingles incognito among the common folk (a frequently recurring theme in Czech culture of that time), so the plot is based on the merging of the worlds of the aristocracy and the common folk.

Recordings[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]