Beno Blachut wasa born into an impoverished mining family and obtained his initial musical training through singing from an early age at his local church. When he was fourteen he began working in an iron foundry, but later joined the chorus of the opera company of Ostrava-Vítkovice. As a result of this experience, in 1935 he gained a place at the Prague Conservatory, where he studied with Luis Kadeřábek for four years. His operatic début came in 1939 with Jeník/The Bartered Bride at the Olomouc Opera. Here he learnt eighteen parts, including Lača/Jenůfa and the Prince/Rusalka, under the company’s musical director Karel Nedbal.
In 1941 Blachut joined the Czech National Opera, based at the Prague National Theatre, once again making his début as Jeník. Gradually he extended his repertoire, moving from lyric parts to more dramatic rôles, notably in the operas of Smetana, Dvořák and Janáček. He took the title part in the first performance (by Czech Radio in 1942) of František Škroup’s Columbus, composed in 1855; and fully established himself as the Czech National Opera’s leading tenor in 1945 with his interpretation of another title part, Smetana’s Dalibor.
Other rôles which Blachut sang with the Czech National Opera, with which he was closely associated throughout his career, included Alfredo/La traviata, Cavaradossi/Tosca, Don José/Carmen, Ferrando/Così fan tutte, Florestan/Fidelio, Hermann/The Queen of Spades, Lensky/Eugene Onegin, Pierre Bezukhov/War and Peace, Radamès/Aida, Walther/Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, and the title rôles in Faust (Gounod) and Otello. He also toured widely with this company, visiting Austria, Belgium, Germany, Hungary, Poland, and Russia. Following a highly praised appearance as Boris in Janáček’s Kát’a Kabanová at the Holland Festival in 1959, his performance of Luka Kuzmič in the Czech National Opera’s production of Janáček’s From the House of the Dead at the 1964 Edinburgh Festival received great acclaim, as did his portrayal of Mathias Brouček in Janáček’s The Excursions of Mr Brouček, also at the Edinburgh Festival, in 1970. In the same year he participated in the first performance of Jiří Pauer’s The Imaginary Invalid (Zdravý nemocný) in Prague.
Blachut appeared as a guest with several major opera companies outside his homeland, including the Vienna State Opera; the Komische Oper, Berlin; La Fenice, Venice; Finnish National Opera and Netherlands Opera. He was also active as a concert singer, in works such as Dvořák’s Stabat Mater and Janáček’s Glagolitic Mass, and his realisation of Janáček’s The Diary of One Who Disappeared was considered by many to be definitive. He left a large recorded legacy, mainly with the Czech record company, Supraphon.
© Naxos Rights International Ltd. — David Patmore (A–Z of Singers).