Destiny (Janáček)

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Destiny (also known as Fate, Czech: Osud) is an opera in three acts by Leoš Janáček to a Czech libretto by the composer and Fedora Bartošová. Janáček began the work in 1903 and completed it in 1907. The inspiration for the opera came from a visit by Janáček in the summer of 1903, after the death of his daughter Olga, to the spa at Luhačovice. There, Janáček met Kamila Urválková, who had been the subject of an opera by Ludvík Čelanský, Kamila, where she felt that Čelanský had falsely depicted her personality. After learning that Janáček was a composer, Urválková persuaded Janáček to write another opera to counteract Čelanský's portrait of her.[1]

Janáček submitted the opera to the Brno Theatre in 1906, and to the Vinohrady Theatre in Prague in 1907, but both theatres rejected the score. The score stayed with the Vinohrady Theatre even after Janáček had threatened lawsuits against the theatre and after the Brno theatre made offers of a possible production.[1]

The work did not receive a hearing until after Janáček's death, in 1934 on Brno Radio.

Performance history

The first staging was in 1958 in Brno, conducted by František Jílek, as part of the 1958 Janáček Festival in commemoration of the 30th anniversary of Janáček's death.[2]

However, the structure of the plot was altered from the original to give the story a "flashback" format, where the story begins with Act 3 and interpolates Act 1 and Act 2 as the "flashbacks", before returning to finish Act 3.[1]

The first UK staging was in 1984 at English National Opera, in a translation by David Pountney, but with Janáček's original plot structure intact. The first US production was in July 2003 at the Bard Summerscape Festival.[3] Scholars have criticised weaknesses in the plot as the reason for the opera's neglect.[4]


Role Voice type Premiere Cast,
first staging in Brno,
25 October 1958
(Conductor:František Jílek)
Míla Valková soprano Jindra Pokorná
Živný, a composer tenor Jaroslav Ulrych
Míla's Mother soprano
Dr. Suda tenor
First Lady soprano
Second Lady soprano
Old Slovak Woman soprano
Councillor's Wife soprano
Lhotský, a painter baritone
Konečký baritone
Miss Stuhlá, a teacher mezzo-soprano
Miss Pacovská soprano


Act 1

Míla and the composer Živný were once lovers, but Míla’s mother ended the relationship in hopes of a more advantageous match for her daughter. Alas, Míla was already pregnant and is now a single mother, unlikely to marry anyone else. She and Živný meet again for the first time amid the amusements of a spa town. They sneak off together and rekindle their love, but her mother tracks them down in the crowd and predicts disaster.

Act 2

Four years later Živný and Míla are married, but her mother lives with them and has become mentally fragile. While their young son Doubek plays, the couple read through the unfinished opera Živný began during their separation. It is filled with bitterness against Míla, portraying her as faithless. Míla’s mother, losing her mind completely, repeats snatches of music from the opera before rushing to throw herself off a balcony. Attempting to restrain her mother, Míla too is pulled over, and both are killed.

Act 3

Eleven years later, Živný’s opera is at last to be performed, although it remains unfinished. He rehearses a chorus from the opera with his students, among them Doubek, now a young man. Another student, Verva, guesses that the hero of the opera is the composer himself. Through the music, Živný again relives his love for Míla and his cruelty to her. Tormented by regret, he asks Doubek to fetch a glass of water and then collapses. The end of the opera must remain in God’s hands.



  1. ^ a b c Tyrrell, John, "Janáček's Fate" (January 1972). The Musical Times, 113 (1547): pp. 34–37.
  2. ^ Amis, John, "Reports from Abroad: Janáček Festival at Brno" (December 1958). The Musical Times, 99 (1390): pp. 674–676.
  3. ^ Anne Midgette (2003-07-29). "Janacek's Search For Art In Real Life". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-05-01.
  4. ^ Hinton, Stephen, "First Performances: Osud" (December 1984). Tempo (New Ser.), 151: pp. 52–53.
  5. ^ Tyrrell, John, Review of recording of Osud (Fate) (1981). The Musical Times, 122 (1663): p. 608
  6. ^ McKee, David (1992). "Osud. Leoš Janáček". The Opera Quarterly. 9 (2): 156–159. doi:10.1093/oq/9.2.156. Retrieved 2008-01-01.

External links