Emil František Burian

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The Voiceband of E. F. Burian at a festival in Siena in 1928.

Emil František Burian (June 11, 1904 – August 9, 1959) was a Czech poet, journalist, singer, actor, musician, composer, dramatic adviser, playwright and director. He was also active in Communist Party of Czechoslovakia politics.


Burian was born in Plzeň, Czechoslovakia, where he came from a musical family. His father, Emil Burian, was an opera singer. E. F. Burian is the father of singer and writer Jan Burian. In 1927, he graduated from the Prague Conservatory, in the class of J. B. Foerster, but he began participating in cultural life much sooner. E. F. Burian was a member of Devětsil, an association of Czech avant-garde artists. In 1926–1927 he worked with Osvobozené divadlo, but after disputes with Jindřich Honzl, he and Jiří Frejka left the theatre. Later they founded their own theatre, Da-Da. He also worked with the Moderní studio theatre scene. In 1927 he founded the musical and elocutionary ensemble Voiceband.

In 1923, he joined the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia. His work, strongly influenced by communist ideas, bordered on political agitation. In May 1933 he founded the D 34 theatre, with a strongly leftist-oriented program.

In 1941, Burian was arrested and spent the rest of World War II in Nazi concentration camps at the Small Fortress Theresienstadt, Dachau and finally in Neuengamme. He helped to organize illegal cultural programs for the inmates. In 1945, he survived the RAF attack against the prison ship Cap Arcona, and returned to Czechoslovakia, where he was already presumed dead. After the war, he founded D 46 and D 47 theatre, and led theatres in Brno and the operetta house in Karlín. After communist putsch in 1948, he worked as a member of the Czechoslovak communist parliament. In the post-war time, he became one of the leading promoters of the communist cultural nomenclature. He attempted to reorganize theatres, with a goal of placing communists into leadership posts of theatres.

Burian died in 1959 in Prague.


His work, deeply influenced by dadaism, futurism and poetism, was leftist-oriented. After the war it proved to agitate Communist ideas. He had a strong influence on Czech modern theatre, and his innovative staging methods (work with metaphor, poetry, and symbols) and inventions (theatergraph, voiceband) are inspirational for the theatre even now.


  • Česká divadla. Encyklopedie divadelních souborů. Prague: Divadelní ústav, 2000. ISBN 80-7008-107-4
  • Čeští skladatelé současnosti. Prague: Panton, 1985.

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