Libuše - Opera

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October 2022

Libuše is not only a supreme festival opera; it also represents a significant symbol of Czech national culture. Although Bedřich Smetana completed it in 1872, the work was only staged nine years later, to mark the first opening of the National Theatre. The opera is primarily intended for celebratory occasions and even nowadays the National Theatre only performs it on special occasions and state holidays. In Libuše, Smetana masterfully treated the legend of the mythical Czech Princess and the feud between two brothers resulting in conciliation and the picture of a prophecy of the joyful future of the Czech nation. Libuše is inseparably connected with modern Czech history and the history of the National Theatre, where it was staged many times in the past as a work exceptional owing to its humanistic and social message. The titular role has always been portrayed by leading National Theatre Opera soloists. In the current production, Libuše is sung by the world-renowned Czech soprano Eva Urbanová.

The opera is staged in Czech original version and English and German surtitles are used in the performance.

Photo: Hana Smejkalová

Act 1

The brothers Chrudoš and Sťáhlav are fighting over the settlement of their father's estate, with Queen Libuše as arbiter. Czech law dictates either co-management or equal division of the land. German law, which Chrudoš, the elder, favours, would demand primogeniture, where the elder sibling would inherit the entire property. Libuše decides in favour of equal division, to the anger of Chrudoš, who leaves. Because some of her male subjects, including Chrudoš, do not fully accept the idea of a woman as their ruler, Libuše then asks her subjects to choose her husband. They say that she should make her own decision on her spouse, where it turns out that she prefers the farmer Přemysl. The act ends as the subjects worry about Chrudoš and the possibility that he will sow discord.

Act 2

Scene 1

Part of the reason for Chrudoš' ill humour is revealed, in the relationship of Chrudoš to Krasava. Chrudoš loves Krasava, who returns his sentiments, but considers him insufficiently romantic in his personality. Krasava thus feigns romantic interest in Sťáhlav to make Chrudoš jealous. Her father, Lutobor, asserts his authority and demands that she reconcile the quarreling brothers. Krasava then challenges Chrudoš to either (a) forgive and embrace her, or (b) kill her with his sword. Chrudoš takes the route of forgiveness, and reconciles with Sťáhlav.

Scene 2

Přemysl is watching over the harvest on his lands. A royal escort then arrives to bring him to Queen Libuše, to be married.

Act 3

A celebration of the double wedding, of Libuše to Přemysl, and of Krasava to Chrudoš, is taking place. Přemysl devises a way for Chrudoš to apologize to the queen while still saving face. A moment of prophecy then takes hold of Queen Libuše, and she tells of future visions for the Czech nation.

Program and cast

Prague National Theatre

The National Theatre today


The historical building of the National Theatre, constructed in 1883, is generally considered the prime stage in the CzechRepublic. It is the flagship of the National Theatre institution, today amounting to five buildings and encompassing four companies. You can see there Opera, Drama and Ballet performances.


Idea of building a stately theatre for the Czech nation


The National Theatre is the embodiment of the will of the Czech nation for a national identity and independence. Collections of money among the broad mass of the people facilitated its construction and hence the ceremonial laying of its foundation stone on 16 May 1868 was tantamount a nationwide political manifestation.


The idea of building a stately edifice to serve as a theatre was first mooted in the autumn of 1844 at meetings of patriots in Prague. It began to materialise through a request for “the privilege of constructing, furnishing, maintaining and managing” an independent Czech theatre, which was submitted to the Provincial Committee of the Czech Assembly by František Palacký on 29 January 1845. The privilege was granted in April 1845. Yet it was not until six years later – in April 1851 – that the Society for the Establishment of a Czech National Theatre in Prague (founded in the meantime) made its first public appeal to start collections. A year later the proceeds of the first collections allowed for the purchase of land belonging to a former salt works with the area of less than 28 acres, which predetermined the magnificent location of the theatre on the bank of the river Vltava facing the panorama of Prague Castle, yet at the same time the cramped area and trapezoidal shape posed challenging problems for the building’s designers.

By car

To the centre (OldTown), approach on Masarykovo nábřeží (Masaryk embankment) in the direction from the Dancing House, at the crossroads in front of the National Theatre turn right to Divadelní street and then right again to Ostrovní street to the National Theatre car park. Parking costs 50 CZK/h.


By tram

By daytime trams Nos. 6, 9, 18 and 22 and night trams Nos. 53, 57, 58, 59 to the stop “Národní divadlo” – in front of the NT historical building; by daytime tram No. 17 to the stop “Národní divadlo”.


By metro

To the station “Můstek”, line B (yellow), and then by foot on Národní street; or to the station “Karlovo náměstí” and then two stops by tram No. 6, 18 or 22 to the stop “Národní divadlo”. To the station “Staroměstská”, line A (green), and then two stops by tram No. 17 to the stop “Národní divadlo”. 

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