Blodek was born into a poor family and was educated at a German Piarist school in Prague. After studying with Dreyschock (piano) and at the Prague Conservatory (1846–52) with Antonín Eiser (flute) and Johann Friedrich Kittl (composition), he became a music teacher Lubycza, Galicia (1853–5). On returning to Prague, he worked as a concert pianist and music teacher and, briefly, as second conductor of the Prague Männergesangverein, for which he wrote a number of patriotic choruses. In 1860 he succeeded Eiser as professor of * flute at the conservatory, and, as a basis for teaching, he wrote his own flute tutor (1861). He was active as a writer of incidental music for the German and Czech theatres: from 1858 onwards he wrote music for 60 plays and collaborated with Smetana on music for the tableaux for the 1864 Shakespeare celebrations. In 1865 he married his pupil Marie Doudlebská. Overwork caused a nervous breakdown, and after a spell in a mental home in 1870, he returned there permanently in May 1871.
Blodek began composing at the conservatory at the age of 13 (wind sextet, 1847) in a style that owed much to his teacher Kittl, to Mendelssohn, and to the early German Romantics. His Symphony in D minor (1858–9), his most ambitious work at the time. His Flute Concerto (1862) is a brilliant and attractive flute work.
Blodek’s best-known work is his one-act opera V studni (In the Well), first performed at the Provisional Theater in November 1867. One of several comic village operas written to Sabina librettos (The Bartered Bride is the most famous), it has a cast of four characters and is made up of a handful of closed numbers: five solos, two duets, one quartet, an overture and an intermezzo, and three brief ensembles for chorus and soloists. It was the first Czech comic opera to replace spoken dialogue with recitative. Blodek’s opera is often considered to be one of the most ‘Czech’ operas after those of Smetana – it was written shortly after the première of The Bartered Bride. Blodek’s next opera, Zítek, again to a Sabina libretto (a historical comedy set in the 14th century), was a more ambitious work both in its musical vocabulary and in its operatic form. A full-length three-act opera with a large cast, it made some attempt to break down the divisions between the closed numbers of its predecessor, using arioso and a chorus more integrated into the action. Blodek completed only one act and part of the second before his death; Smetana, already ill, declined to finish it, but it was eventually completed by F.X. Vaňa and was performed for the first time in 1934 on the 100th anniversary of Blodek’s birth.
Principal publishers: Urbánek, Vilímek, E. Starý, J.A. Christophe & Kuhé, Český hudební fond
Biography based on article by John Tyrrell in Grove Music Online (Cambridge, 1988)