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Janácek beyond the Borders

Janácek beyond the Borders

Derek Katz
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: NED - New edition
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 190
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  • Book Info
    Janácek beyond the Borders
    Book Description:

    Leos Janácek is increasingly recognized as one of the major operatic masters of the early twentieth century. In Janácek beyond the Borders, Derek Katz presents an interpretive and critical study of Janácek's major operas that questions prevailing views of the composer's relationship to the Czech language and to Slavic culture and demonstrates that the operas are deeply indebted to various existing operatic traditions outside of the Czech-speaking realm. Katz discusses the implications for Janácek's operas of the composer's notorious "speech-melody" theories and of his fascination with Russia. He also points out revealing and persuasive parallels to certain major operas in non-Czech traditions -- French, Italian, and German -- that deserve notice and that demonstrate how the composer developed a practical operatic aesthetic through emulation and creative adaptation. In this fresh and novel approach, Katz goes beyond the normal evidentiary record (letters, sketches, and published writings) and allows Janácek's works to speak for themselves. Derek Katz is Associate Professor of Music History at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He has written about Czech music for American and European academic journals and for the New York Times.

    eISBN: 978-1-58046-726-1
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Chapter One Finding a Context
    (pp. 1-12)

    During an intermission feature in a January 2000 Metropolitan Opera broadcast ofRigoletto,participants were asked what names they would remove from, or add to, the pantheon of opera composers once enshrined on the facade of the old Met. The eliminations were fairly predictable, with Gounod taking a particular beating (the Met is clearly the “Faustspielhaus” no longer). The proposed additions were more surprising. One participant nominated Strauss, Puccini—and Leoš Janáček.¹ A long-obscure Moravian with a name bristling with diacritical marks, born in a town too small to be listed in most atlases, may seem an unlikely candidate for...

  5. Chapter Two Beyond the Czech Language: Janáček and the Speech Melody Myth, Once Again
    (pp. 13-29)

    In Karel Čapek’s 1929 story “Historie dirigenta Kaliny” (The Orchestra Conductor’s Story), a Czech orchestra conductor named Kalina finds himself in Liverpool. Although he speaks no English, he is able to communicate with the local orchestra through an international vocabulary of physical gestures. As he explains, “[F]or example, when I dothiswith my arms, everyone knows that it means a mystical soaring and redemption-from-the-burdens-and-sorrows-of-life sort of thing.”¹ When he first arrives in Liverpool, Kalina wanders through the city, finally getting lost at dusk among the dock pilings. There, he overhears a conversation between a man and a woman. Although...

  6. Chapter Three Beyond the Czech Lands: To the East
    (pp. 30-50)

    The standard narratives of Janáček’s compositional career tend to stress the astonishing fecundity of its last decade. Between 1918 and his death in 1928, Janáček wrote nearly all the major works for which he is now known, including both string quartets, the song cycleThe Diary of One Who Vanished,the Concertino, the Capriccio, the Sinfonietta, the Glagolitic Mass, and the operasKát’a Kabanová, The Cunning Little Vixen, The Makropulos Case, and From the House of the Dead.This outpouring of masterworks is generally attributed to a coincidence of professional, personal, and political factors in Janáček’s life in the years...

  7. Chapter Four Beyond National Opera
    (pp. 51-75)

    Chapters 2 and 3 attempted to apply critical pressure to two central assumptions of Janáðek reception: that the inflections of Czech speech were a significant influence on his compositional practices and that the founding of an independent Czechoslovak state in 1918 marked a turning point in his compositional career. Similarly, this chapter will deal with another facet of Janáček’s passionate but problematic relationship with Czech culture and with the ways the contours of his career were shaped by the materialization of a Czech nation. In this case, the relationship to be problematized is that between Janáček’s operas and earlier Czech...

  8. Chapter Five Beyond Western European Opera
    (pp. 76-103)

    If, in the case of Janáček’s interaction with Czech opera, the guiding interpretive assumption has been that he detached himself from national traditions after the war, the analagous assumption about his relationship with Western European opera is that he cannot have meaningfully engaged with music in styles that greatly differed from his own. The ways Janáček’s interest in verismo opera have been the occasion of a delicate interpretive dance, in which the dramatic characteristics of verismo are carefully separated from its musical language, were alluded to in chapter 1. In general, it seems as if positing too strong a connection...

  9. Chapter Six Beyond the Operatic Stage
    (pp. 104-120)

    Janáček’s putative status as a modernist ahead of his time is generally defended on the grounds of musical style. The question of this relationship to contemporary theatrical and literary trends, though, has received considerably less attention. If any of his operas were to be considered as challenging dramatic tradition, presumably his final opera,Z mrtvého domu(From the House of the Dead), would be the most obvious candidate. A deeply strange work, both dramatically and musically,From the House of the Deadhas many anomalous features. This chapter will use one episode from that opera to explain some of those...

  10. Chapter Seven Harmony and Mortality in The Makropulos Case
    (pp. 121-136)

    Chapter 6 revolved aroundFrom the House of the Dead.That is Janáček’s final opera, and it is tempting (and logical) to end the book there. One Janáček opera of the 1920s, though, has been conspicuously slighted in the previous chapters, and that isVěc Makropulos(The Makropulos Case, first performed in 1926). This is not only a lacuna in the book but an embarrassing oversight for me, as it is my favorite Janáðek opera. Back in my graduate school days, I was inspired by the productions at the Metropolitan Opera starring Jessye Norman and Catherine Malfitano, and I had...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 137-154)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 155-162)
  13. Scores
    (pp. 163-164)
  14. Discography
    (pp. 165-166)
  15. Index
    (pp. 167-175)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 176-179)