We tend to think of the Czech composer Antonin Dvorak as a 19th century composer—but he lived a few years into the 20th and one of his major works, his opera “Rusalka,” had its premiere in Prague on today’s date in 1901.
We mostly think of Dvorak as primarily a composer of symphonies and chamber works, but in his final years, Dvorak devoted himself chiefly to opera. In a 1904 interview, given just two months before his death, Dvorak said: “Over the past five years I have written nothing but operas. I wanted to devote all my powers, as long as the dear Lord gives me health, to the creation of opera. Not out of any vain desire for theatrical glory, but because I consider opera to be the most suitable medium for the Czech nation, and listened to by the widest audience, whereas if I compose a symphony I might have to wait years before it is performed.”
Dvorak was undoubtedly gratified that his opera “Rusalka” was a big success at its 1901 premiere, and would subsequently become one of his most popular works with Czech audiences. More recently, thanks to soprano Renee Fleming, “Rusalka” has won over a new generation of American audiences as well.
Music Played in Today's Program
Antonin Dvořák (1841–1904)O Silver Moon, fr RusalkaRenée Fleming, soprano; London Symphony; Sir Georg Solti, cond.London 455 760