Czech Republic Magazine

On this Day, in 1921: Leoš Janáček’s opera Katya Kabanova premiered in Brno


On November 23, 1921, the opera Katya Kabanova by acclaimed Czech composer Leoš Janáček was first performed in Brno, Czechoslovakia.

Inspired by the resounding success of his first opera Jenůfa, which established his reputation on the world stage, Janáček started working on a second one, based on the play The Storm, written by Russian playwright Alexander Ostrovsky in 1859 as a stinging critique of Russia’s merchant class.

He wrote the Czech libretto himself and changed the title, instead using the name of one of the two main characters, soft and romantic Katarina.

The opera, sometimes considered one of the most mature pieces of the composer and which artfully mixes Janáček’s distinctive “speech melodies”, orchestral beauty and emphatic lyricism, premiered at the National Theatre in Brno on November 23, 1921.

Regularly performed on prestigious stages all around the world, Katya Kabanova now stands at the heart of the Czech Republic‘s classical repertoire.

The composer, who was aged 67 at the time of the premiere, would go on to compose three other operas and two string quartets, among other noteworthy works from his later period.

Along with Antonín Dvořák and Bedřich Smetana, Leoš Janáček is considered one of the greatest Czech composers of all times, and a key figure of the Czech cultural and artistic revival of the late 19th and early 20th century.

He became known for developing a highly unique Czech style intimately connected with the subtle variations and melodic characteristics of the Moravian language and the region’s folk music.

He died in Ostrava in 1928.

Find out more about Central European history in our On this Day series.

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