Schwanda the Bagpiper

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Schwanda the Bagpiper (Czech: Švanda dudák), 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; and the first German production followed (in the translation by Max Brod as Schwanda der Dudelsackpfeifer), at Breslau on 16 December 1928. After that success, German-language productions proliferated around the world, with over 2000 performances taking place during the next decade.[1] Aside from those in Germany and Austria, these included:

At the time the opera, with its occasional use of Czech folk material, enjoyed considerable success, with translations into 17 languages.[2] The opera fell from the repertory when the composer's music was banned by the Nazi regimes of Austria and Germany during the late 1930s; and although it is still revived occasionally, orchestral performances of the "Polka and Fugue" drawn from the opera are more regularly heard in concert and on record.


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


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.


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
  • Schwanda, der Dudelsackpfeifer (sung in German); Hermann Prey, Lucia Popp, Siegfried Jerusalem, Gwendolyn Killebrew, Alexander Malta, Siegmund Nimsgern, Karl Kreile, Albert Gassner, Heinrich Weber, Georg Baumgartner, Anton Rosner, Peter Lika; Bavarian Radio Chorus; Munich Radio Orchestra; Heinz Wallberg, conductor; CBS M2K79344[2]
Polka and Fugue


  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. ^ Casaglia, Gherardo (2005). "Schwanda, the Bagpiper, 27 April 1927". L'Almanacco di Gherardo Casaglia (in Italian).