Jan Ludvík Lukes

Jan Ludevit Lukes was a Czech tenor, born on November 22nd, 1824 at Ústí nad Orlicí [Wildenschwert]. Jan was from a poor family and his original name was Jan Evangelista Lukesle. After studying at the academic high school in Brno, he went to Vienna as an apprentice shoemaker.

But his love for singing was stronger and he got enrolled at the Akademie der Tonkunst, where he also studied Italian besides singing. After his studies and stints in several provincial theatres, Jan Ludvík Lukes (he changed his middle name 'Evangelista' to 'Ludvík', sometimes also 'Ludevít') came to the Stavovské divadlo in Prague in 1853.

He left three years later because of differences with that theater's principal conductor, Czech composer František Škroup (the title character in whose Dráteník was one of Lukes' most famous roles), and spent the next few years traveling Europe, and studying chemistry and brewing technology. Upon his return to Prague in 1860, he ran a brewery and sang in occasional concerts. In 1864, he returned to the operatic stage, first in Brussels, Budapest and Dresden, and in 1865, he was hired by the Provisional Czech National Theater in Prague, where the conductor was Bedřich Smetana.

Smetana engaged him for such roles as Dalibor (he sang the world premiere on 11 May 1868), Jeník and Warneman in his new opera Braniboři v Čechách. He was also involved in establishing the well-known Czech choir 'Hlahol' and was the one who sang for the first time the Czech national anthem on the stage of the Czech Opera. His voice was warm, soft and had a beautiful color.

Lukes retired in 1873. He continued to work as an important voice teacher (Vilém Heš and Bohumil Benoni were among his students).

He died on February 24th, 1906 in Prague and was buried in Ústí nad Orlicí.

Reference 1; reference 2: Kutsch & Riemens

I wish to thank Lynn Samohel for the picture.

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