Josef Mysliveček

Today we disclose the identity of November’s mystery Czech and announce the names of the four listeners who will receive small prizes for their correct answers. Listeners quoted: Imo Obong Umana, Mogire Machuki, Prasanta Kumar Padmapati, Henk Poortvliet, Hans Verner Lollike, Jana Vaculik, K.Thiagarajan, Francesco Reda and Irena Knos, Krzysztof Borski, Constantin Liviu Viorel, Colin Law, Christine Takaguchi-Coates, Christopher Larkosh, Mark Schiefelbein, Charles Konecny.

Welcome to Mailbox. The time has come to reveal the identity of the mysterious Il divino Boemo from our November quiz. The question inspired twice as many answers compared to the previous month, but unfortunately there are only so many quotes we can fit in our time slot.

Let’s start with Imo Obong Umana from Nigeria:

“Your mystery Czech composer is Josef Mysliveček. He was born in Prague and lived between 1737 and 1781. He studied philosophy before developing a flair for music. He was based in Italy and became known as ‘Il divino Boemo’ ('the divine Bohemian) and ‘Venatorini’ ('the little hunter'). He is often described as the father of Czech opera and wrote twenty opera serie but his operatic idiom was lacking a Czech characteristic and was very much like an Italianate opera seria. He died impoverished in Rome.”

Mogire Machuki writes from Kenya:

“The Czech personality you are out for is Josef Mysliveček... who not only made a name for himself but his legacy still thrives. His remains are buried at St. Lorenzo Church in Rome.”

Prasanta Kumar Padmapati lives in India:

“The Mozart family mentioned Mysliveček about 40 times in correspondence, which is the source of most of the personal information about him.”

Henk Poortvliet listens to Radio Prague in the Netherlands:

“The name you have asked for must be the Czech composer Josef Mysliveček, known as Il divino boémo (‘The Divine Bohemian’) because of the sublime beauty of his music. His admirers included no less a figure than Mozart himself, whose own name, Amadeus, means ‘beloved of God’ (which might have qualified him to know a thing or two about the divine).”

Hans Verner Lollike writes from Denmark:

“The divine Bohemian is a name given in Italy to Josef Mysliveček. He was the first Czech opera composer but he wrote operas in the Italian style. He is mostly known because he had quite some influence on Mozart, whom he met in Bologna in 1770.”

Jana Vaculik follows our programmes in the United States:

“I do not hear any of his pieces on our classical music station because Dvořák is more popular and well known among Czech composers.”

K.Thiagarajan lives in India:

“In the year 1770 he met Mozart and he became a member of Accademia Filarmonica. Mozart greatly appreciated him for his devotion to music. His works were very famous in Italy, Munich and Portugal.”

Francesco Reda originally from Italy and Irena Knos born in Czech Republic are writing to us from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

“Mysliveček gained his fame not in his native country but in 18th century Italy, where he came to be known as ‘Il divino Boemo’ and ‘Venatorini’ – the latter being a literal Italian translation of his surname. ... In addition to his operatic output, Mysliveček also wrote over 200 other pieces, including oratorios, symphonies, concertos, and some of the earliest known string quintets. It is interesting to note that Josef had a younger twin brother – Jáchym, who helped fund his initial trip to study opera in Venice in 1763. Although Josef Myslivecek attained incredible fame in Italy and saw his operas produced by all of the famous opera houses, including La Scala, he died penniless in Rome in 1781, at the young age of 44.”

Krzysztof Borski lives in Poland:

“The name of Myslivecek is also known in the outer space... it was given to Asteroid 53159.”

From Romania, Constantin Liviu Viorel writes:

“In all Il Divino Boemo wrote over 20 opera serie including Idomeneo, Abramo et Isacco and Il Bellerofonte.”

Colin Law listens to Radio Prague in New Zealand:

“For the court of Portugal his operas were copied in longhand for performances and now the collection at the Ajuda library includes eighteen scores, the largest collection of his operatic scores. However, his last three operas were failures ... In later years Mysliveček inspired several novels, and an opera, ‘Il Divino Boemo’ (1912), by the Czech composer Stanislav Suda who was blind from the age of 6 months and composed by dictation.”

This is what Christine Takaguchi-Coates from Japan wrote in her answer:

“I was most interested to find out about Josef Mysliveček. I married into a musical family, my husband being a professional musician, and my two daughters are also studying music. I therefore take a great interest in all things musical, but I have to confess that I had never heard of Josef Mysliveček before! I am very happy to have increased my knowledge!”

Another music lover, Christopher Larkosh, lives in Rhode Island:

“I am a great fan of 18th-century music and so I was happy to hear your latest quiz question: Which Czech composer was known as il Divino Boemo? The answer is Josef Mysliveček. His symphonies are beautiful, and hope to hear his music as part of your program.”

Mark Schiefelbein listens in Montana:

“This month's Mystery Bohemian, I mean ‘Divine Bohemian’, is the opera composer Josef Mysliveček. He achieved quite a measure of fame in the mid-to-late 18th century for his works, but it seems somehow unfortunate that he had to leave Bohemia and move to Italy before he could truly become famous. I researched online, hoping he had perhaps at least written an opera in Czech, but that was after his era: Mysliveček died in 1781, and the first Czech-language opera wasn't performed until 1826, paving the way for the likes of Dvořák later on.”

And last but not least, Charles Konecny from Ohio writes:

“Going from a flour milling master to a composer of classical symphonies and operas takes a great deal of talent. He took his talent to Italy where his compositions were so well received that the Italians called him the ‘Divine Bohemian’ which gives credit to his Czech background. You can also tell a lot about a person by the admirers he had (W. A. Mozart being one of them). But like others in that classical time, misfortune comes and he died impoverished and forgotten and lies in an unmarked grave in Rome. Some say he died from a rather strange surgery of having his nose removed because of having syphilis but most say the surgery was due to infection from a face injury in a carriage accident. Czechs are well represented in the classical age and Josef Mysliveček is one of them.”

Thank you very much for all your interesting and detailed answers. The four listeners who will receive small gifts this month are: Mukesh Kumar from India, Christopher Larkosh and Mark Schiefelbein from the USA and Peter Fredsbo Andersen from Denmark. Your prizes will be mailed first thing on Monday morning. Many thanks to everyone for taking part and if you haven’t been lucky this time, here is another chance:

“This month we would like to know the name of the Czech doctor who first classified human blood groups into today's four types.”

In order for you to be included in the lucky draw, your answers need to reach us by the end of December. The address is [email protected] or Radio Prague, 12099 Prague. Those are also the addresses for your questions and comments. Until next week, happy listening.