Universal Edition - Josef Bohuslav Foerster – Eva

Josef Bohuslav Foerster

Josef Bohuslav Foerster

Opus: op. 50
Year of composition: 1895-1897
Subtitle: Opera in 3 acts
Composer: Josef Bohuslav Foerster
Text Source: Drama "Gazdina roba" von Gabriele Preissová
Librettist: Josef Bohuslav Foerster
Original Language: Tschechisch
Translator: Johannes Brandt
Parts: Marja-Eva, Näherin, soprano
Manek, tenor
Die alte Meschjanowka, seine Mutter, alto
Samko, Kürschner, baritone
Susa, mezzo-soprano
Rubatsch, Arbeiter, bass
Bauern, Arbeiter, Musikanten
Instrumentation: 3 3 3 3 - 4 3 3 1 - timp, perc, hp, org, str
Instrumentation details:

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Audio Excerpt

Eva, op. 50

World Première

Location: National Theatre Prag / Czech Republic
Date: 01.01.1899
Scenery: Adolf Krössing
Remarks: Dir. Adolf Cech

Work Introduction

“The music of Josef Bohuslav Foerster, a contemporary of Janáček, has not been played for decades, even in his homeland. Yet anyone who saw his opera Eva in Wexford (15 October 2004) or heard the live recording of the performance asks amazed and bewildered, why he has been neglected all this time” (Jürgen Gahre in Fono Forum 04/06).

Foerster composed his tragic opera Eva while he was staying in Hamburg (1893–1903), where Gustav Mahler had engaged his wife Berta Foersterová-Lautererová as a soloist at the opera there. The spouses followed Mahler to Vienna, where Foerster’s wife performed under Mahler at the Court Opera (1901–1913). Both Berta and Foerster himself became important figures in Mahler’s life: in the latter’s words, “If I become an independent concert conductor, I will perform all of [your] symphonies” (Foerster, Der Pilger [“The Pilgrim”]).

Foerster took the subject for Eva from the play Gazdina roba by Gabriela Preissová, to whom we also owe the source material for Jenůfa. (Gazdina = housekeeper, landlady: roba = an opprobrious word for a woman who has left her husband). This piece made Preissová the founder of Czech realistic rustic drama. Foerster introduced a type of woman to Czech opera which Janáček subsequently perfected. The opera centres on a social conflict; Eva, a poor seamstress and Mánek, the son of a rich farmer, are in love, scorning the barriers of social status. However, in accordance with the social and religious laws of the time, Mánek’s mother and the village populace disallow their love. Desperately seeking a way out of the intolerable situation, Eva drowns herself in the waters of the Danube.

This tense, dramatic mood prevails through the entire opera. For Foerster (who also wrote the libretto), it was important “to capture the individual characters and events in all their psychological veracity and ultimately to omit all minor figures” (Der Pilger); thus he retained only six of the original 20 roles. Premièred in 1899 at the National Theatre in Prague, Eva remained in the Czech repertoire (255 performances in Prague alone by 1983). When it was first given in Vienna at the Volksoper in 1915, it was known as Marja, not least due to the coincidence with the eponymous Lehár operetta.

Translation: Grant Chorley

View the study score of Act 1

1 Ensemble that has played this work:

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