Jaroslav Kvapil (1868–1950)

Dramatist, poet, translator, stage director. In 1899 he wrote the libretto for the opera Rusalka, commissioned by a now unknown Czech composer living in Ukraine, Josef Jiránek. He, himself, stated that, as he was writing the libretto, he realised that he was creating a work which he would be loathe to “place in the wrong hands”. He offered the libretto successively to Oskar Nedbal, Josef Bohuslav Foerster, Karel Kovařovic and Josef Suk, however, they were engaged in other work and turned the libretto down. It was only when the National Theatre publicised the information that Dvořák was seeking a libretto for a new opera that Kvapil ventured to offer Rusalka to the much older and more famous composer. The collaboration between the librettist and composer is documented in several items of correspondence in which Dvořák requests that Kvapil make various changes to the text or that he add new verses to the original material. According to Kvapil’s memoirs, Dvořák would arrive at his apartment early in the morning to consult with him regarding a section of the libretto he had just set to music. After the successful premiere Dvořák is said to have asked Kvapil to write another libretto, and Kvapil promised to do so. However, there was no opportunity to work together again; Dvořák died three years later.