King and Charcoal Burner

King and Charcoal Burner

"King and Charcoal Burner" ("Král a uhlíř"), Op. 14, is a three-act (23 scene) comic opera by the Czech composer Antonín Dvořák.

The first version of the opera was written in 1871 to a libretto by Bernard J. Lobeský. That same year the composer offered the finished opera to the Czech Provisional Theatre in Prague. Bedřich Smetana, who was in charge of the opera at that time, returned the work to Dvořák the following year, claiming it was unperformable.

Dvořák created entirely new music to the same libretto - without using any of the original material. This new version was finished in 1874 and the première took place on 24 November 1874. By that time, Smetana already was no longer the chief conductor. (He became deaf in 1874.) Despite a good reception from both critics and audience, the opera was withdrawn after only four performances. Dvořák made another substantial revision in 1887. The libretto was partially refashioned by Václav Juda Novotný and Dvořák made modifications particularly to the third act.



The theme of the opera is from old legend of the rescue of a Czech ruler (probably prince Jaromír of Bohemia of the Přemyslid dynasty, or his brother Oldřich of Bohemia) who gets lost in the woods of Křivoklát. One of the main characters - the charcoal burner Matěj - was taken by Lobeský from the puppet theatre play "Feast Day in Hudlice" (based on the same theme). Lobeský also replaced the Přemyslid king for the Matthias Habsburg (and thus shifted the action from the 11th to the 17th century). Matěj is the familiar form of Matthias in Czech. Thus Dvořák gained two characters with the same names - one poor, one rich. The king mingles incognito among the common folk (a frequently reccuring theme in Czech culture of that time), so the plot is based on the merging of the worlds of the aristocracy and the common folk.


King and Charcoal Burner. Supraphon 1989. SU 3078-2 611. (Prague National Theatre, Josef Chaloupka)


*Burghauser, Jarmil: "Antonín Dvořák". Prague: Koniasch Latin Press, 2006. ISBN 80-86791-26-2
*"New Grove Dictionary of Opera" (Stanley Sadie ed.), 1992, p. 992. ISBN 0935859926
*Tyrrell, John , 1988, "Czech Opera", Cambridge University Press, pp. 81-82. ISBN 0521235316

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