The Czechs have limited personal experience with foreign non-European cultures, people of different appearances and other religions. Apart from the not always latent xenophobic attitude towards “other” cultures, Czechs are known to have an almost paranoid fear of the decisions of larger nations. These are two complementary factors that determine the cultural profile of the Czech nation. Czech history, rich in moments and periods of the nation's failure, its humiliation and frustration, provides numerous examples serving to explain this situation. Everything foreign, new and unknown attracts an audience and at the same time repels it. This study demonstrates, using several examples from Czech music, how ambivalent the perception of “the other” can be: as something that fascinates but at the same time evokes fear and a feeling of threat. This experience with the ambivalent meaning of “the other” is surely not only characteristic of Czechs. Other nations also view “the other” as a projection wall of their desires and fantasies as well as fears. One can find similar motifs in other art works of a different provenience. In the case of small nations, however, these themes can be accentuated by the influence of particular historical situations and viewed from the perspective of established interpretations.
In 1830, a new theater building was opened in the Olomouc Upper square. The stable theatrical life enriched enormously the cultural life of the city and encouraged the development of publishing activities in the field of music journalism and publishing. The public debates on the artistic value of theater performances, on abilities of particular artists and on other subjects gained new quality after the 1860 October diploma because Czechs living in and around the traditional German town put pressure on theater directors and demanded Czech plays on the stage. The fights for the national repertoire on the stage of the Olomouc Provincial Theater are demonstrated in this essay in two contrary ways: at first, the introduction of Czech dramas into the German scene during the 1860s is discussed, then the intensive promotion of German operas during the 1880s and 1890s when internationally played Slavonic operas were performed in all theaters. The director Carl König (1862–1868) offered a contract to many artists who were able to speak both German and Czech, so he could open an independent subscription for the Czech public. The relatively tolerant atmosphere allowed König’s company to give performances in both languages and connect the Olomouc theatrical life to the Prague Provisional Theater. However, Czech nationalism was getting stronger during the 1870s and provoked competitive and unfriendly reactions on German side. The arguments for refusal of Smetana’s and Tchaikovsky’s operas by the directors of the Olomouc theaters are discussed on the basis of archival sources as well as articles published in contemporary periodicals.