In the Footsteps of Bedřich Smetana
Bedřich Smetana is one of the most world-famous Czech composers. His music is still played all over the world, from London to Tokyo to Buenos Aires. He was born in 1824 and died 60 years later. This year, we commemorate the 195th anniversary of his birth and 135 years since his death. What kind of life did he live? And what places in the Czech Republic relate to him?

Who was Bedřich Smetana?

The composer-to-be was born on 2 March 1824 in the East Bohemian town of Litomyšl. He was born in an apartment next to a chateau where his father worked as the beer brewer and lived with his wife and several daughters. The chateau is now protected by UNESCO as an excellent example of Renaissance architecture. If you visit Litomyšl, you can take a tour of the chateau as well as the home of Bedřich Smetana – both of which are worth seeing.

Young Bedřich had musical talent that his parents encouraged. He could play the violin before he started school, and he started composing when he was only eight years old. He then moved to Prague to study music and later opened a music school. In 1856, he moved again to Sweden, where he taught music, gave concerts as a piano virtuoso, and composed music. However, Prague was his true home and he spent most of his life there. He was deaf for the last ten years of his life, but that did not stop him from composing operas and other music (including The Secret, The Kiss, The Devil’s Wall, and a series of Czech dances for piano). By that time, he lived with his daughter in a hunting lodge in Jabkenice, near Mladá Boleslav, north of Prague. The house he lived in is now a memorial building where you can learn about his personal life and see his study. Smetana is buried in Prague at Vyšehrad Cemetery, where the greatest creative minds of the Czech Republic – composers, writers, and other artists – are laid to rest.

Even though his work was not always received with admiration, Bedřich Smetana became the leading representative of Czech national music and Czech culture as such during his life. The most famous works that are still performed on stages all over the world include The Bartered Bride, an opera, and My Fatherland, a cycle of symphonic poems. In Prague, he is commemorated by the Bedřich Smetana Museum near the Charles Bridge, where you can learn about his life, accomplishments and failures, and his most famous compositions.

Smetana’s Litomyšl Music Festival

One of the oldest music festivals in the Czech Republic – Smetana’s Litomyšl – is probably the greatest commemoration of the life and work of Bedřich Smetana. This year, it takes place from 13 June to 7 July in Litomyšl. The organisers have prepared opera performances, gala concerts, cantatas, and evening programmes with songs. The festival programme is diverse, and you can find events for families with children as well as adventure evenings. The festival takes place at the Litomyšl Chateau, in the nearby Church of the Raising of the Holy Cross, in the monastery gardens behind the church, and at the Nové Hrady Castle near Litomyšl.

20 years of Litomyšl in UNESCO

You won’t regret a trip to Litomyšl. It is a small scenic town nestled in the beautiful and pure landscape of East Bohemia. The town has always been in the borderlands between Bohemia and Moravia, the two historic regions that make up the modern Czech Republic. The town’s Chateau Hill, including the chateau itself, has been reconstructed thanks to the efforts of many institutions and the owners, and is celebrating 20 years on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The programme offers dozens of events, and the celebrations will climax on the second weekend in September with the kick-off of the European Heritage Days. Part of this event will also include an Italian Festival celebrating the Italian Renaissance, the style in which the chateau was built.