Andreas Sebastian Weiser
State Opera Orchestra and Chorus
The concert performance of the opera Donna Diana will mark the second occasion in the season commemorating the first glorious phase of the New German Theatre in Prague. Angelo Neumann, one of Europe’s most influential impresarios at the time, who headed it for two full decades, brought to the Czech capital numerous artists who would later on become stellar singers and conductors, and incessantly sought out new operas. Among them was the Vienna native Emil Nikolaus Joseph von Reznicek (1860–1945), who from 1886 –1894 served in Prague as a military Kapellmeister. Neumann detected his great creative talent, and he would prove to be right. In the wake of the success of his first opera, Die Jungfrau von Orleans (premiered in 1887), Neumann offered Reznicek the post of composer-in-residence with a fixed wage and the company’s obligation to commission one opera a year. Donna Diana (first performed on 16 December 1894), was Reznicek’s fourth opera, following Satanella (premiered in 1888) and Emerich Fortunat (premiered in 1889). The piece earned Reznicek a global renown which none of his subsequent operas would attain. The work was based on the comedy El desdén con el desdén (Disdain with Disdain) by the Spanish priest and playwright Agustín Moreto y Cavana (1618–1669). Reznicek himself penned the libretto, according to the German translation carried out by the writer Joseph Schreyvogel, the first director of the Burgtheater in Vienna. Treating a subject similar to that of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, the opera Donna Diana amply employs Spanish melodic and rhythmic idiom, including bolero. Nowadays, Reznicek is a long-forgotten composer, with the splendid overture to Donna Diana having been the one and only piece of his music occasionally performed.