Conductor Rafael Kubelík, born on June 29, 1914, is not often one of the names often associated with the operatic greats. And he never quite got the opportunity to build that legacy due to a number of mitigating circumstances with two of the great opera companies in the world.
Here is a look at his career at those major companies.
Royal Opera House, Covent Garden
Kubelík became musical director of the famed British company in 1955, his tenure lasting until 1958. He did have quite a few successes during that short time, including the first complete production in any opera house of Berlioz’s “Les Troyens.” Among the other operas he led were “Otello,” “The Bartered Bride,” “Jenufa,” “Carmen,” “The Queen of Spades,” “The Magic Flute,” “Die Meistersinger,” “Aida,” “La Bohème,” and “Peter Grimes,” among others.
He never renewed a contract due to internal issues with Sir Thomas Beecham, who was holding a campaign against the engagement of foreign artists.
When Göran Gentele became the new General Manager of the Metropolitan Opera, Kubelík was brought on to be the company’s music director. He took on the role and immediately brought Berlioz’s “Les Troyens,” giving the opera its Metropolitan Opera premiere. He would perform the opera nine times with the company and would also lead performances of “Götterdämmerung” throughout the 1973-74 season.
But unfortunately, his time as the music director of the company would be cut short by the untimely death of Gentele in 1972 and the music director ultimately opted for a short six-month stay with the company.
He would lead a number of other symphonic orchestras and make sporadic opera recordings, but his legacy in the opera world is a rather short and unfortunate one.