Schwanda the Bagpiper

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Švanda the Bagpiper (Czech: Švanda dudák; also known with the German spelling as Schwanda the Bagpiper), written in 1926, is an opera in two acts (five scenes), with music by Jaromír Weinberger to a Czech libretto by Miloš Kareš, based on the drama Strakonický dudák aneb Hody divých žen (The Bagpiper of Strakonice) by Josef Kajetán Tyl. Its first performance was in Prague at the Czech National Opera on 27 April 1927. It premiered in German, with the translation by Max Brod, at Breslau on 16 December 1928. Other productions quickly followed:[1]

At the time, the opera, with its use of Czech folk material, enjoyed considerable success, with translations into 17 languages.[2] Since that time, the opera has fallen from the repertory, although in orchestral performances and recordings, the "Polka and Fugue" now together form a concert work that is heard more often than the opera itself.

Roles[edit]

Role Voice type Premiere Cast,[3] 27 April 1927
(Conductor: - Helmut Seidelmann)
Švanda baritone Václav Novák
Dorotka, his wife soprano Nada Kejrová
Babinský, a bandit tenor Theodor Schütz
The Queen mezzo-soprano Ada Nordenová
The Magician bass Josef Munclinger
The Devil bass Emil Pollert
The Judge tenor Antonín Lebeda
The Executioner tenor Karel Hruška
A Familiar tenor
Captain of the Devil's Guard baritone
Two Foresters (Mercenary Soldiers) tenor and bass

Synopsis[edit]

It has been a week since Švanda and Dorota married. The robber Babinský takes refuge in their farmhouse, and immediately falls for Dorota. Babinský quickly convinces Švanda of the tedium of married life, and persuades him to go off on an adventure. They arrive at the Queen's court, where she is under the power of a wicked Magician. The Queen had made a deal with the Magician where she consented to the death of the Prince, her betrothed, in exchange for a heart of ice (and thus no human feeling) and a diamond scepter, symbolic of her power. Švanda plays his bagpipes, which breaks the spell. The Queen then offers herself to Švanda in marriage. Švanda accepts, kissing her, but then Dorota appears, which angers the Queen. The Queen, her heart now again of ice, has Švanda and Dorota imprisoned and Švanda condemned to death.

Babinský helps save Švanda by replacing the executioner's axe with a broom. Švanda plays his bagpipes again, enchanting the crowd gathered for the execution, and escapes with Dorota. Dorota herself is now angry at Švanda and questions his fidelity. Švanda retorts that if he ever kissed the Queen, may he go to Hell. Forgetting that he did kiss the Queen, Švanda immediately drops through the earth into Hell. Babinský then tells Dorota that he loves her, but she makes him promise to rescue Švanda.

In Hell, the Devil asks Švanda to play for him, since he has nothing to do, because no one will play cards with the Devil because he always cheats. Švanda at first refuses, but then Babinský appears and challenges the Devil to a card game. By cheating even more than the Devil, Babinský wins the game and rescues Švanda. (It is at this point that Švanda plays the music that forms the famous Fugue.) At the end, Švanda and Dorota are reconciled, and Babinský sorrowfully leaves, in search of new adventures.

Recordings[edit]

Complete opera
  • Švanda dudák (Švanda the Bagpiper) (sung in Czech); Matjaz Robavs, Tatiana Mongarova, Ivan Choupenitch, Larisa Kostyuk, Alexander Teliga, Nicholas Sharratt, Pavel Kozel, Alexander Teliga, Sean Ruane, Pavel Kozel, Vicenç Esteve, Richard Weigold; Wexford Festival Opera Chorus; National Philharmonic Orchestra of Belarus; Julian Reynolds, conductor (2003); Naxos 8.660146-7
Polka and Fugue

References[edit]

  1. ^ Kushner, David Z., "Jaromir Weinberger (1896-1967): From Bohemia to America" (Autumn 1988). American Music, 6 (3): pp. 293-313.
  2. ^ a b Graeme, Roland (1990). "Schwanda der Dudelsackpfeifer. Jaromir Weinberger". The Opera Quarterly 7 (2): 165–208. doi:10.1093/oq/7.3.165. Retrieved 2007-10-01. 
  3. ^ amadeusonline.net