Kamila Stösslová

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Kamila Stösslová with her son Otto in 1917

Kamila Stösslová (née Neumannová; 1891–1935) holds an unusual place in music history. The composer Leoš Janáček, upon meeting her in 1917 in the Moravian resort town of Luhačovice, fell deeply in love with her, despite both being married and the fact he was almost forty years older than she was. She was a profound influence on the composer in his last decade.

Kamila was living in Luhačovice with her husband, David Stössel, and their two sons, Rudolf (born 1913) and Otto (born 1916). David was in the army and assisted Janáček in obtaining vital food supplies in wartime. Probably David Stössel's army service meant he could be at Luhačovice only on some days, thus giving Janáček opportunities to walk and converse with Kamila during that first week. Janáček arrived in the resort on 3 July 1917 (he preferred Luhačovice over other spas due to its proximity to his house in Brno). By 8 July he had jotted down a fragment of her speech in his diary. His correspondence with Kamila had begun with a brief note by 24 July 1917.

Despite her ambivalence to his feelings for her, Janáček was inspired by her to create the lead characters of three of his operas; Káťa in Katya Kabanová, the vixen in The Cunning Little Vixen and Emilia Marty in The Makropulos Affair.[citation needed] Other works that were inspired by his passion include The Diary of One Who Disappeared, the Glagolitic Mass, his Sinfonietta and the String Quartet No. 2 (subtitled Intimate Letters).

While many of these works reveal a realization that the composer's love for her was unrequited, she was nonetheless the subject of intense correspondence. There are over 700 letters (and the aforementioned string quartet which was inspired by them) that bear witness to his intense obsession with this young woman. Although she always remained emotionally aloof, she was with him when he died in 1928. During the final year of his life, he wrote to Kamila almost every day.

In the award-winning TV film In Search of Janáček, written and directed by Petr Kaňka, her character was performed by Zuzana Vejvodová.

Further reading[edit]

  • John Tyrrell, Intimate Letters: Leoš Janáček to Kamila Stösslová, Faber and Faber, (2005), ISBN 978-0-571-22510-1.