Preissova, Gabriela (1862–1946)

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Preissova, Gabriela (1862–1946)

Czech short-story writer and playwright whose Její pastorkyna was the basis for the libretto of Janacek's Jenufa and whose Gazdina roba was the basis for the libretto of Foerster's Eva. Name variations: Gabriela Preissová; Gabriela Pressova or Pressová. Born Gabriela Sekerová in Kuttenberg, Austrian Moravia (modern-day Kutná Hora, Czech Republic), on March 23, 1862; died in Prague on March 27, 1946; married twice.

Gabriela Preissova was born Gabriela Sekerová in Kuttenberg, Austrian Moravia (modern-day Kutná Hora, Czech Republic), in 1862. When she married at age 18, she moved to Hodonín in Slovácko, an area rich in Moravian folklore. Preissova was captivated by the region and began to use the tales in her short stories. In 1889, her naturalistic drama Gazdina roba (The Farm Mistress or The Farmer's Maidservant) was produced at the Prague National Theater with great success. Her second play Její pastorkyna (Her Stepdaughter), produced the following year, met with less success. Both plays were turned into operas. Gazdina Roba became the basis for Josef Bohuslav Foerster's 1899 opera Eva and Její pastorkyna became the basis for Leos Janacek's 1904 opera Jenufa. Janacek had written an earlier opera, Pocatek romanu (The Beginning of a Romance), in 1894 based on Preissova's short story of the same title. Years later, Preissova used the story of Její pastorkyna for a novel.

In her writings, Preissova criticized social prejudices and defended the right of women to live free and independently; her depictions of the harsh realities of life for the impoverished Slovak population of southeastern Moravia (Slovácko) remain valuable as both literature and historical sociology.


Cockcroft, Robert. "Janacek's Jenufa," in About the House [Friends of Covent Garden]. Vol. 7, no. 6. Summer 1986, pp. 24–27.

Evans, Sian, and Cheryl Robson, eds. Eastern Promise: Seven Plays from Central and Eastern Europe. London: Aurora Metro Press, 1999.

Graff, Yveta Synek. "Facts of Life," in Opera News. Vol. 50, no. 8. January 4, 1986, pp. 14–16, 44.

Preissová, Gabriela Sekerová. Jenufa: Opera in Three Acts after the Drama of Life in Southern Moravia. Translated by Yveta Synek Graff and Robert T. Jones. Seattle, WA: Seattle Opera, 1985.

Pynsent, Robert B., and Sonia I. Kanikova, eds. Reader's Encyclopedia of Eastern European Literature. NY: HarperCollins, 1993.

Ulbrich, Rolf, ed. Tschechische Erzähler. Leipzig: Dieterich Verlag, 1958.

Zavodsky, Artur. Gabriella Preissová. Prague: Divadelní ústav, 1962.

John Haag , Associate Professor of History, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia