Thursday, June 3, 2010

Janáček (ヤナーチェック)

Janáček is a famous Czech composer that everyone knows. And, he became even more popular among the younger generations in Japan and Asia because of the recent novel called "1Q84" by my favorite author Haruki Murakami. In the novel, Janáček's Sinfonietta is mentioned several times.

Anyway, as I was walking down the street with Jana, she pointed one of the buildings and told me it was the Janáček Theater. I didn't know about it of course and got interested in it immediately. So I decided to do a bit of research about the connection between Janáček and Brno.

Janáček was born in a town called Hukvaldy (close to Ostrava), in the middle of Moravian land. As you may know, Czech Republic consists of three regions; Bohemia in the west, Moravia in the south-east, and Czech Silesia in the north-east. I will write more about it some other time, but basically Brno is a part of Moravia as well as the town where Janáček was born.

Janáček came to Brno in 1865, at the age of 11. He was enrolled as a ward of the foundation of the Abbey of St. Thomas in Brno, the same abbey to which Mendel belonged and where he conducted his experiments on peas between 1856 and 1863!! Maybe Mendel heard Janáček's singing back then (Janáček was a choirboy and played the organ occasionally).

In 1874, Janáček enrolled in an organ school in Prague. After graduating, he returned to Brno and started a career as a music teacher at Brno's Teachers Institute. There, he taught his future wife Zdenka Schulzová. He moved to Germany in 1879 and studied piano, organ, and composition at the Leipzig Conservatory for approx. half a year. He eventually left the conservatory with disappointment. He returned to Brno and married his former student Zdenka in 1881, at the age of 27.

According to this site, he and his wife had their first child, Olga in 1882. Their second child, a son, Vladimír was only two when he died of meningitis in 1890. During the first decade of the 20th century, Janáček choral church music such as Otčenáš (Our Father, 1901), Constitutes (1903) and Ave Maria (1904). Around that time, Janáček took his daughter Olga to St. Petersburg, where she studied Russian. But, only 3 months later, she got sick and returned to Brno. She was weakened day by day, and Janáček expressed his painful feelings for his daughter in a new opera Jenůfa. The suffering of his daughter was depicted as Jenůfa's suffering, and he himself cast his love towards his daughter to the other character in the opera Kostelnička.

Olga unfortunately died the following year in 1903. Janáček dedicated Jenůfa to her memory. The opera was performed in Brno in 1904 with success. Janáček decided to take it to the more influential Prague opera, but Jenůfa was refused there by the director of the National Theatre in Prague, Karel Kovařovic, whom Janáček had a dispute before and has had a bad relationship with since then. In fact, Jenůfa was never performed in Prague opera until 1916 under Kovařovic’s own orchestration. The Prague premiere brought Janáček a huge success.

However, at the same time, he started to have an affair with Gabriela Horvátová, who played Kostelnička in the Prague premiere of Jenůfa. The incident led his wife Zdenka to an attempted suicide and their informal divorce. This site shares Zdenka's side of story from the book called "My Life with Janáček," which gives you more perspectives about their relationship and Janáček's personality. In my observation, Janáček was just an innocent old-kid who completely went blind with a very aggressive and forthcoming actress.

Eventually the affair ended, but in 1917 when Janáček visited Luhačovice spa, he meets Kamila Urválková, a 26 year old woman married to an antique dealer from Písek who was 38 years younger than Janáček. It was the beginning of his lifelong, inspirational and unrequited passion towards Kamila. According to wiki, he sent 730 letters to her!

Janáček was inspired by her to create the lead characters of three of his operas; Katya in "Katya Kabanová" (the first played in Brno on 23 November 1921), the vixen in "The Cunning Little Vixen" (premiere performance on 6 November 1924 in Brno), and Emilia Marty in "The Makropulos Affair" (world premier in Brno on December 18, 1926 - 2 years before Janáček's death).

Also, she was the inspiration for other works such as "The Diary of One Who Disappeared" (premiered at the Reduta Theatre in Brno on 18 April, 1921),  "The Glagolitic Mass" (first performance in Brno on 5 December, 1927 - 1 year before Janáček's death), his "Sinfonietta" (first performance in Prague on 26 June, 1926 ) and the "String Quartet No. 2" with the subtitle "Intimate letters" was created in 1928, which has been referred to as Janáček's "manifesto on love." The first performance took place on 11 September 1928, a month after Janáček's death.

Kamila didn't seem to either accept or neglect Janáček. They continued their relationship without consummating it, and it said that Kamila was with Janáček when he died on August 12, 1928.

Most of his 730 letters were kept, and Janáček scholar Svatava Přibáňová published them as "Hádanka života: dopisy Leoše Janáčka Kamile Stösslové", which was translated into English by John Tyrrell and published as "Intimate Letters: Leoš Janáček to Kamila Stösslová" in 1994. You can also read some story behind Janáček's obsession to Kamila here.

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