Opera in three acts (six scenes)
Libretto by J. Wenzig
Vladislav, King of the Czech Republic
Budivoj, the chief of the guard
Benesh, the jailer
Vitek, squire of Dalibor
Milada, the sister of the murdered burgrave
Yitka, a village girl,
Vassals of the King, counselors of the court, servants of Dalibor, soldiers, people.
The action takes place in Prague Hradcany in the 15th century.
HISTORY OF CREATION
The idea to write an opera on the plot of the ancient Czech legend of the glorious knight Dalibor was born at Smetana even before the creation of the
“Sold Bride”. May 13, 1863, the composer composed the main theme – the theme of the knight, passing through the whole work, but “The sold bride” for a long time pushed other ideas. Again to the idea of ”Dalibor” Smetana returns in 1865. His librettist becomes Joseph Ventsig (1807-1876), a German by nationality, a prominent figure in Czech culture. Opera is conceived as a drama of sublime passions, which in many respects echoes the Beethoven “Fidelio”. At its core is the idea of a liberation struggle.
In the Czech Republic XV century under King Wladyslaw, strife broke out, peasant uprisings broke out. One of the leaders of the rebels was Dalibor, who killed the hateful Burggraph of Ploshkovsky. The king imprisoned the knight in the prison tower, which was later named after the hero Daliborka, tried and executed him in 1498.
The opera’s libretto fused real historical events and images of folk legends. A new plot motif is glorified, glorifying the moral power of music. Dalibor avenges for the murder of his friend, the violinist Zdenka.
The musician is also the sister of the burggraf Milada – she plays Varito, an old Czech folk instrument such as gusel. Love for high art unites heroes; one of them exclaims in the course of the action: “What Czech does not like music! ..”
Work on “Dalibor” was completed in 1868. The premiere took place on the day of the National Theater’s inauguration in Prague on May 16 of the same year. She succeeded, but after several performances because of the intrigues of the reactionary circles, the opera left the stage. Universal recognition “Dalibor” won after the production in 1886, when its author was no longer alive.
“Dalibor” has a rare musical integrity. The music of the opera is invocationally marching, heroically exalted, upbeat-pathetic. She is noble and psychologically truthful. In the center is a romantic image of the protagonist, but other characters are endowed with expressive musical characteristics. The role of the choir, the active participant of events and the engine of action is great.
After a brief introduction and worried choral cues, Yitky’s sad story begins. A solemn and severe march accompanied by the departure of King Władysław. In Milada’s aria, “With me, tears” tense intonations, conveying her despair and heartache, are replaced by mournful, constrained. The first section of Dalibor’s aria “From all earthly goods” is imbued with tenderness and sadness, then in the melody there appear resolute volitional turns, an angry pathetic. Arioso Milada “Mercy” is full of excitement.
The first picture of the second act is a kind of intermezzo between dramatically saturated scenes. For the genre, sustained in light tones by the choir’s soldiers, the lyric duet of Yitka and Vitek follows.
The music of the second picture conveys the gloomy atmosphere of the prison. Dark paints thicken in the arioso of Benes “Sullen walls.” Milada’s aria “Yes, the long-awaited hour has come” – is endowed with a charming melody that is widely and freely flowing.
In the third scene of the second act, following the light, stale sounds that accompany Dalibor’s vision, his worried aria “My Zdenko” follows. The final act – enthusiastically ecstatic love duet of Milada and Dalibor.
The first picture of the third act is framed by the theme of the royal march. In the center of her ariozo Dalibor “What am I slowing down”; beginning with recitative declamation, it acquires an elegiac connotation.
The final picture opens with a wary muffled sound. Suddenly, there is a mourning bell ringing, and against its background – a measured chant of monks. The nature of the music changes dramatically: Milada’s exclamations, the excited remarks of the choir give way to the enlightened lyrics of the farewell of the dying Milada and Dalibor. For the last time the king’s theme sounds powerful and threatening; ends with an opera leitmotif of Dalibor, symbolizing the victory of light and freedom.
1 Hradcany – the Kremlin in Prague.