- Leoš Janáček ed. by Jiří Zahrádka
Fate, or as often known by its Czech title Osud, is the only opera by Janáček that the composer never saw on stage: it was first performed as recently as 1958, on the thirtieth anniversary of his death. Together with the early and unrepresentative Počátek románu (The Beginning of a Romance) it was until recently the only Janáček opera still unpublished, available only for hire (three different piano-vocal hire scores were issued between 1964 and 1985, a full score in 1978). So the publication of Jiří Zahrádka’s full score for Bärenreiter is an important event, at the same time inaugurating the first of the publisher’s opera scores in the Complete Critical Edition. In its red cloth boards, with over four hundred pages of musical text, it is a handsome production. Over one hundred pages are devoted to Zahrádka’s historical preface tracing the opera’s checkered compositional and attempted performance history. Then follow side-by-side Czech-English and Czech-German librettos. These are not literal translations, but the earlier singing translations by Rodney Blumer and Claus H. Hennenberg supplied with the music text but now shorn of repetitions.
Why has it taken so long for Fate to appear in print? Once Janáček achieved his breakthrough in Prague with his third opera Její pastorkyňa (Jenůfa) in 1916, [End Page 773] Universal Edition was quick off the mark, publishing a Czech piano-vocal score with a German translation, and continuing this practice for all his subsequently staged operas (full scores were also issued for three of them). Universal has been exemplary in keeping the piano-vocal scores in print and, from 1993 onward, began issuing high-quality study scores, a process that continues with the recent appearance of Zahrádka’s edition of Věc Makropulos (The Makropulos Affair [Vienna: Universal Edition, 2016]). Even Šárka has not been forgotten. Janáček was touchingly proud of his first opera, which he extensively revised after the success of Jenůfa, and it was only his death in 1928 that let Universal Edition off the hook. Universal Edition finally published it in 2002, again edited by Jiří Zahrádka. Two operas escaped the Universal Edition net: The Beginning of a Romance, not much more than a folksong compilation that the composer himself rejected after conducting a few performances; and Fate, an opera, on the other hand, that Janáček desperately believed in.
Years later, in an autobiographical sketch, he recalled his fourth opera with the following words: “And she was one of the most beautiful of women. Her voice was like that of a viola d’amore. The Luhačovice Slanice was in the scorching heat of the August sun. Why did she walk about with three fiery roses and why did she relate the story of her young life? And why was its end so strange?” (p. xxi). One of the problems with Fate (but also one reason why Janáček clutched on to it so tenaciously) was its autobiographical nature. The “she” that Janáček does not further identify here was Mrs. Camilla Urválková, whom Janáček had met in the summer of 1903 at the Moravian spa of Luhačovice, where he had gone to get over the death of his daughter Olga. With his third opera Jenůfa recently finished and awaiting its Brno premiere the next season, his mind was open to new impulses. Urválková provided one. Hearing that Janáček was a composer, she told him about her encounter with another composer, Ludvík Čelanský (better known as...