Smetana learned to play and compose music at a very early age, making his first public appearance at the age of six. He later studied under Josef Proksch in Prague, and wrote his first nationalistic music during the 1848 Prague uprising. Smetana opened a music school, but after several years\' struggle to secure his reputation, he moved to G?org in Sweden. Here, he established himself as a teacher and choirmaster, and wrote several large-scale orchestral pieces. In the early 1860s a more liberal political climate in Prague saw a new upsurge of Czech nationalism, and on his return in 1862, Smetana threw himself into the musical life of the city. Encouraged by the opening of the Prague Provisional Theatre as a centre for new Czech opera, he wrote The Brandenburgers in Bohemia and The Bartered Bride, both of which were staged in 1866. That same year, Smetana became the theatre\'s principal conductor.
The eight years during which Smetana held the conductorship were controversial, as his ideas about the direction in which Czech opera should develop were challenged by the more conservative factions within the city. This developed into a full-scale feud, and a prolonged campaign to drive Smetana from his post. Although the attempt was unsuccessful it interfered with his creative work, and probably contributed to the breakdown in health that led to his resignation in 1874. By the end of that year he was completely deaf, but in spite of this he began a period of sustained activity, which resulted in the composition of several more operas, the M?last cycle, and among other works the elegaic String Quartet in E, From my life. In the last years of his life his contribution to Czech music was honoured by several public events, but a mental collapse early in 1884 led to his incarceration in an asylum, and his subsequent death.
Smetana\'s reputation as the founding father of Czech music has endured in his native country, where his eight operas remain in the repertory and his concert pieces are regularly performed. Successive champions and polemicists have raised his status above that of such as Dvoř?and Jan?269;ek from the next generation, yet few of Smetana\'s works other than The Bartered Bride and M?last are performed with any frequency outside his homeland. Nevertheless, Smetana created a style which \"crystallised the spirit of his nation in his art\", and fulfilled the desires of a country which \"thirsted for music of its own.\"" />