Josef Václav Myslivček:  Il (divino) Boemo

Josef Mysliveček

Josef Václav Mysliveček was a famous 18th century Czech composer and a friend and teacher to Mozart. He spent most of his life in Italy, where he achieved enormous success, composing nearly thirty operas that were performed in the most famous venues across the country. Because his Slavic surname was difficult for the Italians to pronounce, he became known there as ‘Il Boemo’.

A hundred years later, Czech writer Jakub Arbes dedicated a short novel to him, called Il divino Boemo. Since then, Mysliveček has figured in the Czech national consciousness as "the divine Czech".

Mysliveček’s operas were performed in Milan, Rome, Venice, Bologna, Parma and Florence. But the most important event in Mysliveček's career was the performance of his opera Il Bellerofonte, written for the Real Teatro San Carlo in Naples, the most prestigious venue in Italy at that time.

It became an instant success with the Spanish King Carlos and the Court and helped to establish Mysliveček as one of the most sough-after opera composers in Italy. However, his popularity did not last long.

As a result of an unspecified disease, most likely syphilis, Mysliveček’s face became disfigured, and he ceased to be a welcome guest at the royal and princely courts, gradually losing his commissions. He died in Rome in 1781 in utter poverty and isolation.

But let’s return to the days of Mysliveček's greatest glory and listen to Act 3 of his opera Il Bellerofonte performed by the Prague Chamber Orchestra, featuring US soprano Celina Lindsley.