Forgotten Opera Singers

Forgotten Opera Singers
Singers of the San Carlo Grand Opera Company

Mar 23, 2014

Vilém (Wilhelm) Zitek (Bass) (Praha 1890 – Praha 1956)



                                                        Ferrando in ''Trovatore''

                                                   Figaro in ''Le nozze di Figaro''

First he studied singing at the Conservatoire Pivoda in Prague, then in Milan under G. Binettiho. In 1911 he made his deubt at the National Theatre in Prague and remained up to the end of his career a member of this opera house. In 1914 he had a sensational success as Gremin in Tchaikovsky’s ‘’Eugene Onegin’’ and from this performance up to his retirement from the stage in 1947, he was one of the most significant Czech singers of his epoch, equally prominent in the Czech, Russian, Italian and German repertoire. On 23. 4. 1920 he appeared at the  National Theatre in the premiere of Leoš Janáček’s opera ‘’Výlety pana Broučka’’. Guest performances with significant success brought him also abroad: In 1926 he appeared at the Teatro Regio of Turin.  In the 1928-29 season he sang at Berlin. In 1933 he performed in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Arturo Toscanini engaged him for the Teatro alla Scala. Here he sang in the 1926-27 season the roles of Fasolt and Hunding in Wagner’s ‘’Nibelungenring’’, from 1929 to 1931 he appeared as Gessler in ‘’Guglielmo Tell’’ of Rossini, the Commendatore in Mozart’s ‘’Don Giovanni’’, the Fafner and Hunding. In 1928 he made guest appearances at Paris under Bruno Walter singing the Mozart's parts. In 1936 he again appeared at the Grand Opéra as Commendatore in Mozart’s ‘’Don Giovanni’’. In 1946 he became the National Artist  and at this time he counted as the biggest living Czech singer. He made 6 records for Parlophon (1927).

Chronology of some appearances

1914 Prague National Theatre Eugene Onegin (Gremin)
1920 Prague National Theatre Výlety pana Broučka (-)
1927 Milano Teatro alla Scala  Don Giovanni (Commendatore)
1936 Paris Grand Opéra Don Giovanni (Commendatore)


RECORDINGS FOR SALE








Parlophon, Berlin 1927-10-07
Ernani (Verdi): Che mai veggio P8902 2-20376
Juive (Halévy): Se oppressi ognor P8903 2-20377
Don Carlo (Verdi): Ella giammai m'amo P8902 2-20378
Mefistofele (Boito): Son lo spirito che nega P8903 2-20379
Prodana Nevesta (Smetana): Kazdэ jen tu svou P60010 2-20380


9 comments:

  1. Zitek also created the role of Adam in a new one-act opera 'Před východem slunce' (composed by Emil F. Burian, libretto by Bedrich Belohlavek). The premiere was held on the 24th October, 1925, at the National Theatre in Prague. It was the only one of Burian's several operas to be premiered there. The role of Eva was taken by soprano Gabriela Horvatova who had, a few years earlier, had a torrid affair with the composer Leos Janacek, and been the cause of his wife's attempted suicide.

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    1. Thanks for your interesting comment

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    2. A pleasure. My father was the librettist. He was also music critic for Rude Pravo, a prominent Czech newspaper.


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    3. He wrote about opera singers too?

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    4. He was I think the first to do a radio feature on Emmy Destinn (for BBC Radio 3 in about 1980.) The quality of available recordings rather let the whole thing down, but the script was hugely entertaining.
      You can see a bit more about him on my blog at:
      www.franciswright.wordpress.com

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    5. Thank you, I will add the link of your blog in my links' section.
      All the best
      Ashot

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  2. An update for you: I have been researching 'Pred Vychodem Slunce' a bit more. It turns out that Vilem Zitek never sang the role of Adam. He had to withdraw from the production (I think for health reasons) and Adam was sung for all performances by Emil Burian (the composer's father.) The original poster for the opera is correct, but the published text of the libretto credits Zitek as Adam. My apologies for this error. But it all adds to the story!

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    1. Thanks a lot for your interesting information
      All the best
      Ashot

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