The Bedřich Smetana Museum was established in 1936 in a neo-renaissance building overlooking the Vltava River, the Charles Bridge, as well as the Prague castle. The building was designed by prominent architect Antonin Wiehl and originally served as the Old Tower water station in the later part of the 19th century. The sgraffito décor on the façade was created by painters Mikolas Ales and Frantisek Zenisek, known for also painting the foyer of the National Theatre. The detail of the northern shield depicts a scene of struggle between Swedish invaders and Prague defenders on the Charles Bridge at the end of the Thirty Years’ War.
Since it’s inception, the museum has been systematically collecting relics and documents pertaining to the life and works of composer Bedrich Smetana, one of the most important creators of Czech music culturally and historically. The present permanent exhibition, which opened in 1998, introduces Smetana’s childhood and years of student life as well as his artistic beginnings as a pianist and composer. It tells of his love for the fragile Katerina Kolarova, her unfortunate fate, and about many years of his life in Goteborg, Sweden. It also presents Smetana’s activities which, after his homecoming, led to significant contributions to shaping his business life in Prague between 1862 and 1874 while he headed the Opera of Provisional Theater. Historical theatre posters present Smetana’s operas, the most famous being the Bartered Bride.
The exposition also captures the last decade of Smetana’s life when, after the loss of his hearing, he retired to Jabkenice to the family of his oldest daughter, Sophia.It was here that he created a number of his masterpieces, including four operas, some choir compositions, the piano cycle "Dreams", and the string quartet "From my life." Despite his failing health, he composed a cycle of symphonic poems My Country (My Fatherland) in 1874 - 1879, inspired by, among other things, the beauty of the Czech landscape and still considered to be a unique work of utmost cultural importance.
Bedrich Smetana became an important representative of Czech music and received many domestic and world awards. He received his greatest honor on the occasion of the opening of Prague’s National Theatre on 11 June, 1881, where his Opera Libuse was performed. Since 1952, in his honor, during each opening concert of the Prague Spring Music Festival, his cycle of symphonic poems, My Country, has been featured.