The Zdeněk Fibich Society in the years 1940 – 1977
The Zdeněk Fibich Society (SZF) was founded in autumn 1940 in Prague on the occasion of the 90th anniversary of the birth and the 40th anniversary of the composer’s death. The constituent General Assembly was held on October 6, 1940 at the Smetana Museum in Prague, where the Society was headquartered until 1996. The first chairman was Otakar Jeremiáš. The aim of the Society was to “preserve and spread Zdeněk Fibich’s artwork, document his artistic era, including Fibich’s peers and pupils, to keep his personal memory alive and in the spirit of his artistic progress, to support new efforts in our artistic life.” The SZF’s content consisted mainly of extensive concert and editorial activities.
The Zdeněk Fibich Society as a component of the Czech Music Society in 1978 – 2005
In 1978 the SZF was incorporated into the restored Czech Music Society (ČHS), which since 1973 has transformed itself into an umbrella organization of interest music associations and until 1989 was relatively generously supported by the state. In these years, the SZF focused on promoting and initiating Zdeněk Fibich’s work as one of three founders of Czech national music (Smetana – Dvořák – Fibich).
The expansion of the SZF’s activities took place between 1996 and 2000 under the chairmanship of Prof. PhDr. Jaroslav Jiránek, DrSc. and Vice-Chair PhDr. Věra Šustíková, in connection with the preparation of the double jubilee of the composer (1850 – 1900), which fell to the year 2000.
The SZF Committee was enlarged and in April 1997, a branch of the SZF in Olomouc was established, with Prof. PhDr. Vladimír Hudec, CSc. as chairman. In 1998, an International Honorary Committee for Zdeněk Fibich’s Celebrations for 2000 was created, composed of our and world personalities, chaired by Prof. Jaroslav Jiránek, and a working committee for Zdeněk Fibich’s Celebrations in the year 2000, chaired by PhDr. Věra Šustíková. On their initiative, the UNESCO Cultural Commission included Fibich’s anniversary between the UNESCO World Anniversaries in the 2000/2001 season. The “Zdeněk Fibich International Celebrations in Prague” project, which was commissioned by Dr. Šustíková was included in the calendar of events Prague 2000 – European City of Culture.
The major events of the project, involving many other institutions, were:
The previous participation of SZF representatives at the Stanford University’s International Melodrama Conference in 1996 and Boris Krajny’s and Věra Šustíková’s concert tour in the USA and Canada with Zdeněk Fibich’s melodramas in the same year aroused efforts to revive interest in melodrama at home as well.
Since 1998, the SZF has implemented the project by PhDr. Věra Šustíková “Revival of Concert Melodrama”, which follows on from her scientific research task at the Czech Museum of Music. It organizes annually Melodrama Artistic Workshops (today called Melodrama Creative Workshops) as a methodical help for those interested in the field. In autumn, the International Festival of Concert Melodrama Prague is held and, at the end of October, the International Zdeněk Fibich Competition in Interpretation of Melodrama, the only competition of its kind in the world. SZF cooperates with publishers to release notable materials, CDs, professional publications; encourages musical bodies and media to present Fibich’s work, initiates new works of Czech composers in the field of melodrama, cooperates on exhibitions, concerts, literary and musical programs, etc. Intensively cooperates also with foreign partners.
In 2001, on the proposal of the outgoing President, PhDr. Věra Šustíková took over the management of the SZF. Until 2005, the Czech Music Society, led by Míla Smetáčková, helped SZF in its activities as the umbrella body. When this institution announced the termination of its activities, the SZF became in 2006 an independent civil association with its own legal personality.
The Zdeněk Fibich Society in 2006 – 2017
The independent SZF, chaired continuously by PhDr. Věra Šustíková, resided until the end of 2017 in the Czech Museum of Music. The company has transformed into a purely professional association which brtngs together leading artists, scientists, educators and cultural workers with an interest in activities aimed at spreading the art reference of the composer Zdeněk Fibich and in supporting new efforts, especially in the field of melodrama. Under the new conditions, the SZF has expanded its musical program on literary, theater and visual arts activities, the link of which is melodrama.
The systematic activity of the SZF in the field of concert melodrama is quite unique not only in our country but also abroad. Twenty years of existence of the International Festival of Concert Melodrama Prague has shown that the concert melodrama, this unique combination of lyrics and music, is a valuable interdisciplinary artistic form, vivid and necessary. This is evidenced by the interest of contemporary composers and performers as well as the attention of foreigners (e.g. the establishment of International Melodrama Verein in Vienna 2004, the creation of Melodamen in Germany, the achievement of melodrama in France, Belgium, Germany, Austria, USA, Portugal, etc.).
Looking back at the festival’s twenty years, it is clear that the original experimental output from the scientific project has grown into a separate artistic activity. On a quantitative basis, this festival of melodrama brought 125 premiere programs, including 3 scenic performances. Dramaturgy and directing were attended by specialized stage directors Lubomír Poživil (35 festival programs), Věra Šustíková (85 festival shows and all non-Prague and extraordinary concerts) and invited guests (a total of 5 festival concerts). There were presented works from 260 composers of all periods, of which 63 were foreign. There were presented 317 lyrics and 68 authors of the translations. A total of 530 melodramas and melodramatic cycles were studied. A total of 40 chamber compositions and songs was added. A total of 225 original Czech novelties were created for the festival. A number of so-called new premieres, i.e. newly reconstructed archive works unjustly forgotten, were performed and many Czech premieres of the world repertoire, mostly with new translations into Czech. A total of 10 different orchestras, 4 singing and 2 recitative choirs, 29 foreign and 326 Czech music artists (including special ensembles and prominent singers such as Eva Urbanová, rappers James Cole and Oto Klempíř) and 21 foreign and 191 domestic actors and reciters. Forty celebrities from the ranks of performers and composers have long been the core of the festival and Zdeněk Fibich Society’s membership base.
The Zdeněk Fibich Society since 2018
Since 2018, the SZF, which was transformed by law into a registered association in 2016, changed its registered office and statutory representative. At the proposal of the current chair Věra Šustíková, a long-time member of the SZF committee and the main conductor of the festival MgA. Jiří Petrdlík, Ph.D. took over as chairman.
Since the pioneering stage of the melodrama in domestic and foreign concert life has been completed and the festival has become an established cultural event of paramount importance, the new management of the SZF has decided in line with the emerging trends to change the name of the International Festival of Concert Melodrama Prague to Melodramfest. At the same time, a change in the Zdeněk Fibich International Competition was prepared; from 2019 it is abandoned from the Czech round of the interpretation competition and the composition competition has been introduced.
The Director of the Composition Competition was appointed Prof. Jiří Bezděk, Ph.D. , the Director of the Interpretation Competition after ten years of competition management by MgA. Marta Hrachovinová is again PhDr. Věra Šustíková, Ph.D. The vision of the new chairman of the SZF builds on a rich tradition of artistic, scientific, research and pedagogical activities, and at the same time it aims at new target groups both at home and abroad.