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Report on the condition of opera in the Czech Republic.

In 1770 and 1772 the English music historian Charles Burney travelled through Europe in search of a better understanding of the musical culture of different lands on which to base his History of Music. On his journeys he visited the Bohemian Lands, and expressed surprise at the musicality of the population there and its knowledge of instrumental play. In these circumstances it is no wonder that the catch-phrase "Every Czech is a musician" dates back to the 18th century when music and musicians were major "export items" for Bohemia and the country had the reputation of being the "conservatory of Europe".

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In this small survey we shall try to show the situation in the "conservatory of Europe" today. 17 years after the fall of the totalitarian regime and the return of the Czech Republic to the ranks of democratic states, we shall try to suggest how these political and social changes have influenced music theatre--opera. Even for the visitor to the Czech Republic today, especially the overseas visitor, the breadth and intensity of opera production in the Czech Republic can come as a surprise. The sophisticated opera-lover may sometimes have reservations about its quality, but can hardly be dissatisfied with its quantity and accessibility.

The Network of Opera Companies

The Czech Republic can boast one of the most concentrated national networks of opera companies proportionate to surface area (78.860 [km.sup.2]), and population (10 mil.). Ten professional companies regularly present operas. They are the National Theatre and the State Opera in Prague, the National Theatre in Brno and Ostrava, and opera companies in Plzen, Olomouc, Ceske Budejovice, Usti nad Labem, Liberec and Opava. All the theatres outside Prague are easily reached from the capital within a few hours by public transport or by car, and so in practice you can attend any opera performance in the CR and get back to Prague without having to find somewhere to stay for the night.

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The spine of this basic opera network dates back to the 19th century and Austro-Hungarian times. It is the result of long-term historical development and despite various changes of ownership and name in the case of individual theatres, it has survived and serves its purpose to this day. One very important aspect of the historical birth and development of permanent theatres/opera houses and their organisational structure was the co-existence of ethnic Czech and German communities in the country, and so we need to make a distinction between opera on Bohemian territory as such and the different Czech and German companies that operated on it. Before the First World War independent Czech opera companies existed in parallel with German companies in Prague, Brno and Plzen. In other towns the opera was German-run and Czech opera productions were either not staged at all or were allocated a limited number of dates in the German opera houses. Following the establishment of the independent Czechoslovak state in 1918, Ostrava and Olomouc joined the first wave of permanent Czech opera houses by setting up their own. The development of the Czech opera network culminated with the end of the Second World War and the post-war expulsion of the German community. The originally German theatres in Liberec, Usti nad Labem, Opava and later in Ceske Budejovice were taken under Czech management, definitively ending the tradition of parallel opera programmes in two languages.

The post-war decades of "building socialism" in Czechoslovakia brought no fundamental change as far as the extent of the theatre/opera house network was concerned. For example, repeated attempts to set up an opera house in East Bohemia, particularly in Hradec Kralove, ended in failure. Of course, the theatre network was nationalised and the content of theatre and opera productions and repertoire changed radically, culture in the country was brought under the total control of the state and subjected to strict ideological censorship intended to prevent the penetration of "western" opera influences and new trends in production. The theatres were relatively well funded by the state, because culture was supposed to be the "shop window" of socialist successes.

After the fall of the regime in 1989 the scale of the opera network remained unaffected. Despite a wave of stormy debate especially in the mid-nineties no local authority abolished an opera house, but nor did any authority set up a new one. The Prague State Opera, which has been operating independently since 1992, is not in reality a newly founded company, but a company that came into existence by being separated off from the National Theatre complex.

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Opera Companies as Part of Theatre Complexes

Theatres are administrated by statutory local municipal authorities, apart from the two Prague theatres with opera companies administrated by the state through the Ministry of Culture. In legal terms they are publicly-funded organisations with power over their own budgets. The local authorities appoint the directors and provide basic funding. The director then appoints the heads of the individual companies. The opera companies have their own permanent orchestras which also perform for the theatre's ballet productions and occasionally give concerts of their own. They do not offer continuous concert cycles, which in the larger towns are usually provided by the local independent symphony orchestras. While Czech musicians predominate in the opera orchestras, in terms of nationality their composition is diverse, and more and more musicians from countries to the east of the Czech Republic are joining them. The situation is the same with choirs. The companies also have their own workrooms. With the increasing trend towards temporary contracts, the engagement of guest artists and external collaboration it would seem that the previously almost impenetrable walls surrounding core ensembles (ensured by permanent contracts not only for conductors but also for soloists, directors and stage designers) are breaking down--to the benefit of the diversity and quality of productions.

A tripartite pattern, with theatres having opera, theatre and ballet companies under a single managerial and physical roof, continues to be the norm among theatres. There are, however, exceptions--the Prague State Opera and the Usti na Labem theatre have no drama companies (in Prague there are a number of theatres devoted to spoken drama and in Usti nad Labem spoken drama has a separate institutional structure). In Ceske Budejovice a marionette company is part of the South Bohemian Theatre. In Plzen and Ostrava the theatres have operetta companies in addition to the others, while in the larger cities of Prague and Brno this genre is presented by specialised theatres and in the smaller towns operetta productions are part of the repertoire of the opera companies.

Funding

Public sources (state and local authorities) provide around three-quarters of the funding for theatre activities. The degree of self-sufficiency of theatres (calculated in terms of the ratio of own earnings to the non-investment costs) has been successively rising and today it is on average 33%, but as much as a half in the case of some opera companies (the Prague State Opera). It is estimated that every ticket is effectively subsidised to the tune of an average 500 crowns. Ticket prices for ordinary opera productions vary from 50 to 2.000 crowns, and the larger the town the higher the prices.

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On average every second citizen of the CR (i.e. 5 million people) attends a theatre performance once a year. All the theatres have regular subscription schemes--or season tickets--offering discounts and other advantages for subscribers who can choose between cards valid for different periods, for specific ensembles, genres or age groups, or cards covering all productions on the frequent-theatregoer principle. Ordinary tickets can now be purchased via the Internet and not only at the theatre box offices.

In addition to box office earnings, companies derive some income from hire of their premises and other economic activities. Tours are not only artistically important but economically significant. The opera companies of the National Theatre in Prague and Brno, but also for example the Plzen Opera, are regularly invited for a month's tour of Japan. The Opera of the National Theatre has been a guest more than once at the Savonlinna Festival in Finland, and opera companies also make one-off guest appearances, mainly in Germany.

Companies are also trying to obtain money in the form of Ministry of Culture grants or other economic programmes, European Union Funds and from the regional authorities as well, arguing that opera companies play for audiences from the whole region. Managements are turning theatres into prestigious social centres in towns and regions and are striving for sponsorship support. Another way of improving the bank balance is of course to make savings, whether by reducing the number of employees and exploiting external services or by looking for co-productions with companies at home and abroad and other partners. Overall, however, the companies are clearly involved in a struggle with minimal budgets, which on the one hand is a spur to creativity, but on the other hand often leads to tolerance of halfway solutions, carelessness and even sheer sloppiness, which corrodes the foundations of the craft of opera and is the undoing of even the best idea.

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Buildings

Most of the permanent opera companies perform in classic town theatre buildings of proscenium arch type, which were usually constructed in the 19th or earlier 20th and are among the grandest buildings in the town centres. Only one new building has been built for opera (including the necessary backstage facilities) since the Second World War--the Janacek Opera House, opened in 1965. Ceske Budejovice is somewhat unusual because the historic building of 1918 is small and more suitable for older operas with smaller casts or for experiments, whereas "large" opera productions are staged in the former cinema of the socialist-style complex of the Metropol house of culture, a venue that is basically unsuitable especially in its acoustics.

Opera companies also have other performance spaces, however. The most curious and original is the outdoor theatre with revolving auditorium in the Cesky Krumlov chateau park. Since the 1950s the South Bohemian Theatre has used this venue regularly in the summer months, presenting not just opera (with an amplified orchestra located in the rococo belaria close by), but also plays and ballets. The outdoor theatre was the brainchild of the stage designer Joan Brehms, who based this rarity on the principle of a great turntable supporting ascending rows of seats for the audience; during a performance it can be rotated to offer different views of the park as backdrop. Dvorak's Rusalka, Rigoletto or The Magic Flute, for example, are operas that work very well in this setting. There have been moves by conservationists to have the theatre removed on the grounds that it is too large and upsets the historical value of the entire Cesky Krumlov chateau complex, but it now seems that a compromise solution will be found and this artistic "attraction" will stay.

In Plzen, Liberec, Ostrava and Opava the theatres use smaller or indeed studio premises as well, usually built in the 20th century and often offering flexibility in the placing of stage and auditorium. In these venues companies can enliven their standard repertory with experimental productions.

The "richest" companies, and of course not only in terms of their buildings, are the national theatres--in Prague and Brno. The National Theatre in Prague stages opera not only in its main building--known as its "historic" Neo-Renaissance building on the banks of the Vltava, built in 1881 according to designs by the architect Josef Zitek--, but also in the Estates Theatre, which was assigned to the National Theatre complex after confiscation from the Germans in 1920 and has undergone quite a number of changes of name in its long history (originally the Count Nostitz National Theatre, from 1798 the Estates Theatre, then the Royal Land Theatre, then the Estates Theatre again, and in the years 1948-1991 the Tyl Theatre). Since it was in this Classicist building, erected in 1783 at the instigation of Count Franz Adam Nostitz-Rieneck, that the celebrated premieres of two Mozart operas--Don Giovanni (1787) and La clemenza di Tito (1791) took place, it is above all the Mozartian tradition that is cultivated here. Conversion of the attic space of the Kolowrat Palace, which is next to the Estates Theatre, has created another National Theatre venue in the form of the chamber studio stage called the Kolowrat Theatre which the opera uses for experimental productions.

In 1992 what was then called the Smetana Theatre was separated from the National Theatre complex and is now the Prague State Opera. Originally the Neues Deutsches Theater, after the Second World War it became the second opera stage of the National Theatre (with a short episode as the home of the ambitious independent company the Great Opera of the 5th of November in the years 1945-48), and was focused on operas from the world repertoire. The Nova scena (New Stage) built in the 1970s close to the historic NT building was also for a short period part of the National Theatre (today it is the home of Laterna magika).

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The Brno National Theatre Opera Company usually plays in the Janacek Theatre, but some of its productions are staged in its historic building the Mahen Theatre. The oldest Brno theatre, the Reduta, built in 1734 and since 2005 open to the public again after lengthy major reconstruction, is used for small-scale and experimental productions.

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Repertory Opera

For the permanent theatres with opera companies the season usually starts in October and finishes in June. During the summer vacation months there are generally no performances by the home companies. In the season there are performances almost daily, most of them starting at 7.00 p.m. with matinees sometimes included at the weekend. Some companies outside Prague still keep up the tradition of morning performances for schools. The programme consists of alternating opera (sometimes operetta), spoken drama and ballet (sometimes puppet) performances of the works that the theatre has in repertory that season. For some more complex and demanding productions, especially at the two Prague opera theatres or in the Brno Opera under the directorship of Tomas Simerda, a system of blocks of performances has been introduced, making it easier to maintain the standard of premieres and also often proving advantageous from the financial point of view.

Guest productions by companies from other theatres, and sometimes from abroad, can diversify the repertory programme. Foreign companies are showing a particular interest in the Estates Theatre where, for example, the Amsterdam Comabattimento Consort presented Handel's Agrippina in 2004 and in 2005 the French company Le Poeme Harmonique played as part of its world tour, enlivening the Czech opera scene with its production of Moliere and Lully's comedy-ballet Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme. Also worth mentioning is the unique guest appearance of the Triere Opera at the State Opera with the monodrama the Diary of Anne Frank.

It is generally true to say that the larger the theatre the wider its repertoire and the longer the lifetime of its productions. While in the National Theatre or State Opera with their high proportion of foreign visitors in the audience a production can remain in repertoire for as long as ten seasons, in the regional theatres, for example in Opava, it is usually for a production to be played for all the subscription groups and then to be dropped from repertory. In total the number of premieres presented by permanent opera companies in one season ranges between 50 and 60. While most opera companies maintain a traditional standard of four to five premieres distributed over the season, at the National Theatre in Prague after the arrival of Daniel Dvorak as director and Jiri Nekvasil as head of the opera in 2002, this number rose sharply as a result of co-productions and the project Beating on the Iron Curtain focused on contemporary new opera pieces; there were now as many as 15-20 new productions per season, although many of these were only presented once.

In terms of historical period, the repertory programmes of Czech opera companies are very clearly dominated by romantic opera of the 19th century, but after a dip in the 1990s contemporary opera is making a conspicuous comeback. Mozart's major operas remain a permanent part of repertoire while operas of the pre-classicist period appear only rarely and tend to be the domain of music groups specialising in "Early Music". As far as "national schools" are concerned, the Czech repertoire, with a preponderance of works by Bedrich Smetana and Antonin Dvorak, continues to take precedence over Italian repertoire (in which Verdi and Puccini are clearly in the lead) and German repertoire.

Other Opera Productions

The ten permanent opera theatres are far from being the only sources of opera activity in the country. Another substantial element consists of the summer productions in chateaus and other historic or naturally beautiful sites (Cesky Krumlov, Litomysl, Loket, Kutna Hora, Grabstejn), which are presented more or less regularly with artistic or commercial ambitions. This is a phenomenon that follows freely from the oldest traditions of opera performance in Bohemia and Moravia, when in the 17th and at the beginning of the 18th century opera was cultivated privately in noble or episcopal residences (the first opera to be partly sung in Czech--O puvodu Jaromeric [On the origin of Jaromerice] by Frantisek Vaclav Mica--was written and presented at the chateau in Jaromerice nad Rokytnou). The Baroque theatre in Cesky Krumlov (including the stage machinery and a rich collection of original props, scenery and costumes) has been preserved to this day as has the Baroque theatre at the chateau in Litomysl. The Mozart Open Festival which commercially exploits the Prague Mozart cult uses the Estates Theatre in the summer.

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Opera is also presented by alternative groups of like-minded composers and musicians, and most of these groups have a very distinctive aesthetic approach. Opera life in Prague in the years 1989-91 was stirred up by Daniel Dvorak and Jiri Nekvasil with their Opera Furore, which offered provocative "postindustrial", "post-modern" and "ultra-superficial" stagings of new pieces, and unravelled the classics into opera clips. 2004 saw the brief career of the Prague Pocket Opera. In recent years Ensemble Damian from Olomouc has made a considerable name for itself under the direction of Tomas Hanzlik and in collaboration with composer Vit Zouhar; it focuses on the modern adaptation of Baroque librettos discovered in Bohemia and Moravia, in the style of "Baroque Minimalism".

The Prague Children's Opera has the very specific focus implied by its name. It was founded in 1999 by the National Theatre soloist Jirina Markova-Krystlikova, and several important opera composers have even written new pieces for its child performers.

To this overview of opera activities we should add the opera productions of music schools (conservatories at the high school level and academies at the university level in Prague and Brno). While they occur at irregular intervals these productions are often inspiring and are a way for the young adepts of the opera genre to put their new ideas to the test. Stage play companies and also marionette companies occasionally venture into opera with interesting new angles on production, staging or adaptation of opera (for example Studio Y in Prague, Divadlo Na provazku in Brno or the puppet theatre Drak in Hradec Kralove).

Opera Festivals, Awards, and Press

Festivals of opera, or involving opera, need to be mentioned in any account of the Czech opera scene.

In 1993 the Music Theatre Union (Jednota hudebniho divadla; a voluntary professional association of people in music theatre including for example opera journalists) founded the festival Opera as a national representative biennale taking place in Prague. It has become the biggest showcase for all our professional opera companies, with school or alternative productions taking part in individual years. The festival gives opera companies a chance to present their profile productions in Prague and while it is not essentially competitive, a jury of opera critics awards a prize for the best production and a jury of emeritus soloists of the Prague National Theatre awards a prize for the best performance in a leading role and in a supporting role. A lay jury decides on a prize unrestricted to any category, and so does the director of the festival. The main benefit of the event, which enjoys a great deal of interest from the lay and professional public, is the chance it offers for comparison of the level of productions from all the opera companies in the CR.

(See the list of prizes for best production awarded by the OPERA festival at the end of this article)

At the beginning of the season the Prague State Opera holds a Festival of Italian Opera focusing primarily on the operas of Giuseppe Verdi; this represents the continuation of a tradition established by the Neues Deutsches Theater (which then owned the theatre) in the pre-war era.

Opera productions form part of the biggest Czech international music festivals, specifically the Prague Spring, Smetana's Litomysl, but also the Brno International Festival (which presented all Janacek's operas in the composer's jubilee year of 2004) and Janacek's Hukvaldy or the Prague Strings of Autumn. The Summer Festival of Early Music has initiated a search for unknown pieces and presents concerts or opera or ballet performances in carefully chosen unique Prague historical settings. This makes for a marvellous atmosphere and unusual acoustic experiences as the music of long-gone eras is played on period instruments.

National prizes in the field of theatre help to raise the prestige of opera and attract media attention to the genre. Since 1993 the Actors' Association (an actors' union) awards its Thalie Award in stage drama, dance, opera and operetta and musical for the best performances of the year. In addition a prize is given for lifelong achievement to outstanding figures in these areas.

(See the list of Thalie Prizes in the field of opera at the end of this article).

Another high profile award is the Alfred Radok Prize, given each year by the Alfred Radok Prize Foundation in collaboration with the Aura-Pont Agency. Different kinds of theatre are not separated for the purposes of these prizes, which are awarded to productions, companies, directors, stage designers and works regardless of whether these are in spoken drama, opera, ballet, operetta or musical. This makes it all the more remarkable that in competition with hundreds of premieres from all Czech theatres opera has been particularly successful--since 1998 it has won in the production category a whole four times! Opera scored another success in 2004 with the first prize in the category of original Czech new works going to the opera Nagano by composer Martin Smolka and librettist Jaroslav Dusek, while individuals--the stage designers and opera singers--also won prizes.

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(See the list of selected Alfred Radok Prizes won by opera at the end of this article).

For the sake of completeness let us add that opera premieres are regularly reviewed in the culture columns of the national dailies. There is no specialised Czech magazine for opera, but opera is the subject of systematic attention both in the music journals--the magazines Hudebni rozhledy and Harmonie, and the theatre journals--the fortnightly Divadelni noviny (Theatre News) and the quarterly Svet a divadlo (World and Theatre).

Between Junk and Luxury

After 1989 the landscape of Czech opera was rocked by tremors and rent by fissures. The staid tranquillity of operatic life under the communist regime, the suffocating calm of the average (in fact as indestructible as destructive) gave place almost overnight to a "revolutionary unrest" borne on a great wave of expectation, hope and expanding possibilities. This sudden opening up of the horizon took many by surprise and alarmed them, while others had finally been given the long awaited chance to put their ideas into practice.

The National Theatre itself was a model example of this tension. It was here that the fundamental changes were demanded most vociferously, because some people suddenly saw the "golden shrine" as nothing more than a museum with a deadening effect on living theatre. There were impassioned and bitter discussions over the question of the future form of opera companies in Prague, but the debate also touched on the rationale for the very existence of the whole opera network, and there were even calls to rent out some of the theatre buildings to private entrepreneurs. A situation strained to breaking point led in 1992 to the division of the National Theatre, with the State Opera Prague being separated off as an independent institution. The twists and turns in the opera history of this theatre from 1883 to the present have been described in an excellent Czech-English-German publication by Tomas Vrbka, which includes entirely unique illustrative material on 600 pages.

The twists and turns of the subsequent history of the State Opera Prague in fact provide a good picture of the complexity of the "post-revolutionary" development of opera houses in general. It was the members of the orchestra and choir who managed to get Karel Drgac, then a thirty-year-old energetic manager with a Vienna education and a director with international experience, appointed as chief. After four years it was the same people who instigated a rebellion and got him dismissed. The reason was that Drgac had been demolishing comfortable stereotypes with gusto. He showed that grand opera too could be done in a different way--with fire and passion, flexibly, but also in a way that took risks and was perhaps arrogant. In contrast to existing custom he saw opera not just as high art, but also as business; he pragmatically pushed through the model of co-production, and instead of accessibility to the "people" he was prepared to go for a certain snobbish exclusivity. Audaciously and unscrupulously he combined box-office hits with experiments in repertoire and staging, and started to invite directors, designers and singers to Prague from the whole world; at the same time he presented many of our rising opera talents on the stage and encouraged the export of Czech opera "commodities". He provoked a storm of emotion by daringly taking up the traditions of the New German Theatre that had played in the building up to the war and that was supposed to have been consigned to oblivion. In the hectic chaos outstanding productions alternated with total flops. Drgac's period as chief was full of paradoxes, just like the times, in which it was necessary to work very hard to find a rationale and viable path forward for opera. It should be acknowledge, however, that at the least the productions of Otello, Salome, Zemlinsky's The Birthday of the Infanta and Hans Krasa's Zasnuby ve snu (Engagement in a Dream) were achievements of European stature.

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The fundamental point, however, is that the other companies started to take up this model in terms of the basic principles of opera management, if with different degrees of thoroughness, managerial skill and success, and of course with distinct caution, so as not to undermine the basic structure of a funded organisation tied to the local authority. Some artists who had been persecuted or ostracised by the former regime simply hoped that they would now find recognition and satisfaction, but others saw a chance to grab a place in the sun and in some cases turn Czech cultural traditions into a private goldmine--from essentially legitimate exploitation of Mozartian traditions and attractive theatre venues to the mere commercial manipulation of trusting foreigners.

Italian Gloss and World Opera Hits

The "newly" discovered criterion of economic self-sufficiency for companies and the search for ways to attract larger audiences led to an explosion of productions of Italian romantic operas--indeed, the former ideological rejection of Italian verism and the mere two premieres of Italian operas in 1951 now seems quite incredible. It is above all in this repertoire that we can see most clearly the changes in the production system from the ensemble type with permanent contracts for directors, conductors, soloists, orchestral players and choir members towards relatively freer circulation, enhanced by the opening of the border in both directions. There was an immediate shift to productions in the original language and theatres acquired subtitle equipment above the stage. This has brought practical advantages in the sense that Czech opera soloists can now create a repertoire for international consumption and opera houses can engage foreign artists without worrying about the language barriers. On the other hand there are some negative effects, when the churning out of the same old titles goes hand in hand with superficiality and laziness in all those Traviatas, Trovatores and Rigolettos, Toscas and Butterflies that vainly rely on the scintillating melodies to cover up shamefully shoddy performances--even if the audience still applaud and so do the company accountants! Naturally there are exceptions that prove the rule. Parts in Italian operas have provided singers like Eva Urbanova, Ivan Kusnjer, Drahomira Drobkova, Zdena Kloubova, Vladimir Chmelo, Roman Janal and many others with opportunities to give performances worthy of the highest praise.

In the classic opera repertoire exceptional musical experiences and a real engagement with content have been provided at the national Theatre by the conductor Jiri Kout in Elektra and Rosenkavalier, and most triumphantly in Tristan and Isolde. This internationally highly acclaimed conductor is distinguished for interpretations that are inspired by a clear conception, thought out to the last note, and are not only charged with musicianship, intense musical expression and dramatic verve, but succeed in releasing this energy with respect for the depth of an opera's inner order. In the same way another Czech emigrant who managed to make a career for himself abroad, the conductor Martin Turnovsky, succeeded with director Dominik Neuner at the State Opera in creating a version of Otello that by stripping away the externals of the opera made it all the more intense as a drama of human passions. At the National Theatre the Slovak director Josef Bednarik presented Romeo and Juliet and Carmen as grand spectacular shows with abrupt cut-like changes of view, staking the production on heightened emotions and the permanent sharp pulsation of the stage. Here Dagmar Peckova was a wild, uncontrollable elemental force, driving her voice to the extreme limits in impassioned emotionalism. Among the youngest generation of directors, Jiri Herman has attracted attention with the aesthetic power of his ritualised images in his Plzen productions of Samson and Delilah and The Flying Dutchman and also with his production of Britten's The Curlew River for the Prague Strings of Autumn Festival.

Discovering the Forgotten

Opera companies have been trying to open up new views and vistas of the world opera landscape by presenting operas that were for many years forgotten or neglected in this country. One of the high points of the whole post-revolutionary period was the triumphal return of Berg's Wozzek to the National Theatre in a co-production with the Goteborg Opera. The whole team headed by conductor Elgar Horwath and director David Radok (see CM 1/06, www.czechmusic.net/cm1-06.php) managed to give striking coherence and electrifying dynamics to this cruel drama of human degradation by presenting it through a series of images developing one from another with rising urgency to the final catharsis. Another production of European stature and a model example of modern music theatre was the production of Shostakovich's Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk at the Prague National Theatre with conductor Frantisek Preisler, once again directed by David Radok.

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The 2004/2005 season saw the first ever complete performance of Wagner's tetralogy The Nibelung's Ring in a Czech theatre--at the Prague National Theatre in a co-production with the German Opera on the Rhine from Dusseldorf-Duisburg. The most striking achievement of the project was the work of the American conductor John Fiore with the orchestra, which convincingly displayed the first-rate quality of the players. With his concentrated approach, precise in every detail, Fiore managed like Jiri Kout in recent years to achieve a synergy of every element--magnificent yet simple.

A number of productions from the Prague State Opera can undoubtedly be considered exceptionally interesting and brave moves in terms of repertoire. They include Leoncavallo's La BohZme (presented with the opportunity for immediate comparison with Puccini's), d'Albert's Lowlands, Dukas's Ariana et Barbe Bleue, Weis's The Polish Jew, Joplin's Treemonisha and Bernstein's Candide. Among Brno productions the same can be claimed at least for Korn-gold's Die Tote Stadt or Giordano's Andrea Chenier. The Ceske Budejovice opera has livened up its repertoire for example with Salieri's Falstaff and the Liberec Opera has drawn attention with Tchaikovsky's lolanta. The Plzen Opera, which in the period when it was headed by Petr Kofron was one of our most progressive companies, has attracted interest with its highly individual adaptation of Bellini's I Capuleti e i Montecchi, Salieri's Catilina, Busoni's Arlecchino or Lortzing's Undine. One of its high points was a remarkable production of Purcell's Dido and Aeneas directed by J.A. Pitinsky, who with deep humility and respect for the poetics of the piece and the circumstances in which it was written presented it, in white and red, as a drama charged with playfulness, silken tenderness, fierce passion, rage, sensuality and proud possessiveness. In a similar way the Ostrava Opera under the leadership of Ludek Golat beat a path to the forefront of our operas with brilliant productions of Verdi's Giovanna d'Arco, Halevy's The Jewess and Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle. Although the Opava opera company is the smallest in the country, it has astounded audiences and critics nation-wide with its productions of Poulenc's Dialogues of the Carmelites, Bellini's Norma and Verdi's The Robbers.

The Mozart Tradition in Prague

Prague in general and the Estates Theatre in particular, where the operas Don Giovanni and La clemenza di Tito received their world premieres with the composer himself conducting, are closely identified with Mozart. The number of times that Don Giovanni has been presented on stages of the National Theatre is remarkable in itself--more than a thousand! The National Theatre celebrated the two-hundred year Mozart centenary in 1991 with a new production of Don Giovanni in the newly renovated Estates Theatre. The conductor Charles Mackerras and director David Radok organically combined the inspiration of the Baroque theatre with the production trends of the end of the 20th century and elements of authentic historical performance. The head of the opera Eva Herrmannova then reinforced the concept of Mozart operas as living, modern dramas with Radok's production of The Magic Flute and The Marriage of Figaro directed by Jaroslav Chundela. Prague made its own contribution to this year's Mozart anniversary with a production of the composer's second Prague opera La clemenza di Tito. Conducted by Alessandro do Marchi and directed and designed by Ursel and Karl-Ernst Herrmann, the production became a laboratory of the emotions, passions and loneliness of the powerful.

Of course, Prague has also been approaching Mozart in less "respectful" ways. For example, for Opera Furore Mozart became material to be "freely exploited" with a post-modern provocative audacity that juxtaposed revered musical values with the most banal kitsch. A cut version of a recording of Don Giovanni forms the basis for a puppet version of the opera with classical marionettes that thanks to untiring marketing activities has been running since 1991 mainly for the tourist public, and has now been played more than 200 times.

Czech Opera Classics--Smetana, Dvorak, Janacek and the others

In addition to attractive, and from the box office point of view reliable pieces from the world operatic repertoire, Czech opera possesses a huge treasure chest of domestic operas containing everything from authors now considered classics of the genre to composers who for various reasons have been forgotten or overlooked. Bedrich Smetana and Antonin Dvorak rightly continue to occupy leading positions, but while there have been many attempts to stage The Bartered Bride, Rusalka, Dalibor or the Jacobin in a "different" way, most of them have provoked scandals of unprecedented intensity on the domestic scene. Petr Lebl's production of The Brandenburgers in Bohemia as a kind of opera-comics combined with idyllic operatic mannerism and a spectacular show met with fierce resistance. Similarly, Milos Forman's ideas for a modified version of Dalibor encountered such a wave or resistance before it even got to the stage that the world famous film director backed off the project in disgust. When Dalibor was finally staged at the National Theatre in 2001, directed by J.A. Pitinsky, the premiere was greeted by boohs from the audience. By contrast, in 2004 Dvorak's rarely performed Dimitrij, staged by the Prague State Opera in a magnificent spectacular production directed by Michael Tarant, was well received. Rusalka at the State Opera in 2005 also went down well with the public; well-known film director Zdenek Troska used film sequences in combination with stage performance to emphasise the fairytale character of the opera. This year too the Brno opera production of The Bartered Bride directed by Ondrej Havelka managed to "hit the target" in combining modern dramatic presentation with tradition.

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After years of deficit as far as Janacek is concerned, noteworthy production started to appear. In 2002 the National Theatre presented the first ever production of Janacek's opera Fate, inviting the avant-garde American Robert Wilson to direct it with Jiri Belohlavek as conductor. The result was a ravishing production with the accent on the visual element. The National Theatre also staged the also infrequently performed Excursions of Mr. Broucek conducted by Sir Charles Mackerras and with the outstanding Jan Vacik in the title role. The difficulties of staging Janacek were clearly illustrated by the National Theatre's attempt to present Jenufa in a co-production with the Dublin Opera lreland; in terms of direction the results were awkward, but on the purely musical side the conductor Jiri Kout raised performance above the usual standard in this country. The co-production of Jenufa by the Brno Opera and Vienna State Opera was more of a success. Directed by David Pountney, it opened the international Janacek's Brno Festival in 2004 (when the festival scored a first by presenting all Janacek's operatic works). In the Opava production of Jenufa, Oldrich Bohunovsky succeeded in bringing out Janacek's animal fierceness and The Makropulos Affair at the Prague National Theatre conducted by Bohumil Gregor was also musically impressive.

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Bohuslav Martinu is relatively rarely performed, and so it was all the more a pleasure when the high point of the National Theatre 1999/2000 season turned out to be Julietta, in a version at the cutting edge of world trends in the staging of opera. This production was primarily the work of English musicians--the director David Pountney with soloists from Opera North in Leeds, and was presented as the materialisation of a dream, an illusion based on some kind of peculiar reality that the dream gradually breaks down, blurs and multiplies. The tension arising from the incomprehensibility of the world around us mounts with themes of anxiety, alienation, escape from reality and the manipulation of human memory. The Ostrava Opera radiated with the poetics of playfulness and sweetness in its production of Martinu's Theatre behind the Gate directed by Michael Tarant. In 2003 Martinu's unfinished opera, Den dobrocinnosti [The Day of Charity] proved to be a real discovery when presented for the very first time, thanks to Vaclav Nosek's reconstruction of the piece, by the opera in Ceske Budejovice. In 2005 another of Pountney's ambitious productions, this time the Greek Passion was transferred to Brno from the Bregenz Festival and this year the Greek Passion was presented by the Prague Nationa Opera, for the very first time in the historic building.

There tends to be a great deal of caution about producing Czech operas by composers other than the "Big Four". Nonetheless, here we should draw attention to the useful National Theatre project Czech Triptych, which has dusted off the pre-Smetana history of Czech opera with semi-staged productions of Kittl's Bianca und Giuseppe, Skroup's The Sea Geus and Mechura's Marie Potocka.

Among the other attempts to revive the legacy of Czech opera composers, it is worth mentioning the production of forgotten works by the interwar avant garde: E. F. Burian's jazz opera Bubu of Montparnasse, imaginatively presented by the Prague State Opera, and the Ostrava production of Burian's Opera z pouti (Fair Opera) (See CM 4/04). Fibich's Sarka in Plzen received very mixed responses, but Fibich's Smrt Hippodamie (Death of Hippodamia) in the specific genre of melodrama, presented at the Zlin theatre (which has no separate opera company) in collaboration with the Zlin Philharmonic conducted by Roman Valek and directed by J.A. Pitinsky, has been greeted by the public with enthusiasm and is consistently sold out.

The Courage for Contemporary Opera

The assumption that the fall of ideological barriers would automatically open up a space for contemporary opera, more or less a taboo under the former regime, has proved to be wide of the mark. The former filter mechanism imposed by ideology and censorship has been replaced by an economic filter and cornerstone modern works such as Lulu, the Painter Mathis, Moses and Aron or the Devils of Loudun have been pretty much lost to the Czech public ... And yet it is contemporary opera, unencumbered by stage conventions, that has the potential to open the way to a music theatre of the present.

After much cautious hesitation the National Theatre plunged into the discussion on the development of contemporary opera with a provocatively naked presentation of human instincts and sexual desire in Davies' opera mono-dramas Eight Songs for a Mad King and Miss Don-nithorne's Maggot, in which Ivan Kusnjer and Jaroslava Maxova gave excellent performances. The abandonment of the grandiose golden portal of the proscenium arch in favour of the intimate atmosphere of the Kolowrat theatre and the provocatively eccentric treatment of the theme of human consciousness and subconscious, and the uncertain, porous border between the normal and abnormal, characterised the operas Zprava pro akademii (Report for the Academy) by Jan Klusak (see CM 4/04) and The Man who Mistook his Wife for a Hat by Michael Nyman. The National Theatre also turned to one of our most important composers, Petr Eben, and the result was his first opera/oratorio composition Jeremias.

The change in the management of the National Theatre since the 2002/2003 season has indisputably brought a great many new initiatives and a fresh wind. The new director Daniel Dvorak and head of the opera Jiri Nekvasil took plenty of risks when opening up more space for engagement with international trends in opera production, pushing through interesting developments in repertoire, initiating co-productions with opera companies from abroad, encouraging Czech opera composers to create new pieces and in the project Beating on the Iron Curtain providing opportunities for young composers at the start of their careers to get their work staged. The National Theatre has also started to use unconventional venues for opera productions, and we might mention for example the Hut on the Piazetta project which found its place behind the historic NT building and beside the Estates Theatre. If earlier the National Theatre had only rarely ventured out of the lee of security, now we were often witnesses to the other extreme, with forays into dangerous and sometimes shallow waters threatening to devalue the status of the National Theatre as our leading opera company.

In our assessment of these National Theatre activities we have already mentioned the value of the "Czech Triptych". Another "triptych" was devoted to Minimalism, with the result that in 2003 there were quite successful productions of Adams' The Death of Klinghoffer and Glass's La Belle et La Bete, the main benefit being to familiarise the public with a movement in music that had hitherto been neglected on Czech stages and in this sense to build on the very effective production of Glass's The Fall of the House of Usher, already staged at the State Opera.

In April 2004 the National Theatre took another adventurous step by presenting the new Czech opera Nagano by composer Martin Smolka with libretto by Jaroslav Dusek in the Estates Theatre. It was a work that followed on from the same team's opera-dance composition using an artificial language, La Serra in the Archa Theatre, and the idea of making an opera out of the famous victory of the Czech hockey team at the Nagano Olympics was one that put paid to the idea that contemporary opera composers (and by no mean just Czechs) are stuck for strong and inspiring contemporary themes. In the case of Nagano the result was a comprehensive musical drama enhanced by Havelka's witty direction and Vrany's choreography as well as its "real" basis in the historic national hockey triumph. Nagano suggested a possible direction for contemporary opera in a more attractive and striking way than Emil Viklicky's Faidra (Phaedra) or Machuv denik (Macha's Diary) for example. The State Opera too opened its gates to the operatic ambitions of contemporary Czech composers, for example presenting La Roulette by Zdenek Merta. This is a piece that interestingly combines contemporary musical language with the canon of classical opera, but unfortunately Mosa's libretto fails to fully support and capitalise on the potential of Merta's music.

A certain "shortage" of themes can be observed in the interesting project that Dvorak and Nekvasil launched at the State Opera and took with them to the National Theatre--Beating on the Iron Curtain. Of the new productions involved, so far only Zirafi opera (Giraffe Opera) by Marketa Dvorakova, a skilful study in the expression of Prevertesque moods, in places touching and moving, has made much impact. Vit Zouhar and Tomas Hanzlik in their operas Coronide, Endymio, Yta innocens and Torso, for which they founded the Ensemble Damian, do not so much reconstruct a lost score as unconventionally construct music inspired by Baroque musical principles and use concrete preserved sections of Baroque compositions together with the techniques of 20th-century minimal music over a surviving libretto.

Thanks to Ludek Golat the Ostrava company has been making a strong contribution to the search for appropriate forms for contemporary opera. For many years the Janacek's Hukvaldy Festival has played a noteworthy role in this respect, for example presenting productions of Britten's Noah's Ark, Lubos Fiser's Lancelot, and Josef Berg's Euphrides before the Gates of Tymenas. The opera management has also not been afraid to commission its "home" composer Ladislav Matejek to compose the opera Broucci (Beetles) for the children in its opera studio.

The great quantity of new opera experiments shows that Czech opera is getting a "second wind" and there is definitely no cause to fear for the future of the genre. It would however be wise to be sparing with terms like "world" premiere in connection with there attempts, since otherwise such words risk becoming entirely empty and even ridiculous. What is fundamental is that the message of these operas should have a power of its own, not duplicable by other forms of art.

The return to the "normal order of things"

This brief account of the development of the Czech opera scene since 1989 can be optimistically summed up in the statement that despite all confusion, anxiety and iconoclastic delirium, what is basically happening is a move back towards the "normal order of things" that was built up over generations, codified, and then violently interrupted by totalitarian regimes. In the search for new models we must not, of course, forget the quite ordinary principles of the operatic "craft" which have been self-evident ever since the days when Bohemia had the reputation of being the "conservatory of Europe" and which still apply in full to this day.

Today opera houses are exposed to natural competitions. Audiences can choose in an informed way from the flood of top audio and video recordings from labels from all over the world, and it is no longer a problem for many people to make "lightning visits" to the opera in Vienna, Munich or Dresden. Opera companies trying to exploit the possibilities that developments after 1989 have opened up are inevitably taking the bumpy road that can lead to bravos but also to boohs and hisses. Yet this is beyond any doubt better than the previous situation of drab security paid for by the loss of freedom and creative adventure.

RELATED ARTICLE

The National Theatre, Prague

Head of Opera: Jiri Nekvasil

Repertory 2006/2007

Bedrich Smetana: The Bartered Bride

Bedrich Smetana: Libuse

Antonin Dvorak: The Devil and Kate

Antonin Dvorak: Rusalka

Leos Janacek: Jenufa

Bohuslav Martinu: The Greek Passion

Giuseppe Verdi: Aida

Giuseppe Verdi: La traviata

Giacomo Puccini: Tosca

Giacomo Puccini: La boheme

Georges Bizet: Carmen

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Don Giovanni

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Le nozze di Figaro

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: The Magic Flute

Gaetano Donizetti: Don Pasquale

Martin Smolka: Nagano

Premieres 2006/2007

Josef Myslivecek: Antigona

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: La clemenza di Tito

Bedrich Smetana: The Secret

Camille Saint-Saens: Samson et Dalila

Tomas Hanzlik: Lacrimae Alexandri Magni

Giacomo Puccini: La Fanciulla del West

Jiri Suchy, Jiri Slitr: A Well-Paid Walk

Bedrich Smetana: The Kiss

Pavel Drabek: Orfeus (Beating on the Iron Curtain XIII.)

Cesta Orfea--Orpheus's Journey (Beating on the Iron Curtain XIV.)

Martin Marek: II dilemma d'Orfeo (Beating on the Iron Curtain XV.)

The Prague State Opera

Head of Opera: Ingeborg Zadna

Repertory 2006/2007

Giuseppe Verdi: Aida

Leonard Bernstein: Candide

Georges Bizet: Carmen

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: The Magic Flute

Gioacchino Rossini: The Barber of Seville

Gaetano Donizetti: Lucia di Lammermoor

Giacomo Puccini: Madama Butterfly

Giuseppe Verdi: Nabucco

Johann Strauss: Die Fledermaus

Giuseppe Verdi: Rigoletto

Antonin Dvorak: Rusalka

Giuseppe Verdi: The Sicilian Vespers

Giacomo Puccini: Tosca

Giacomo Puccini: Turandot

Premieres 2006/2007

Giuseppe Verdi: La traviata

Francis Poulenc: Les Mamelles de

Tiresias Francis Poulenc: La Voix Humaine

Giacomo Puccini: Manon Lescaut

The South Bohemian Theatre, Ceske Budejovice

Head of Opera: Miloslav Vesely

Repertory 2006/2007

Emmerich Kalman: Die Csardasfurstin (The Gypsy Princess)

Giuseppe Verdi: La Traviata

Friedrich von Flotow: Martha or the Market in Richmond

Jaroslav Benes: Na ty louce zeleny (On the Green Meadow)

Smetana / Dvorak Usmevne smetanovsko-dvorakovske zastaveni v case. Operomanie aneb Nebojte se opery (A Cheerful Smetana-Dvorakian Halt in Time. Operamania or Don't be Scared of Opera)

Jindrich Feld: Postacka pohadka (Postman's Fairytale)

Antonin Dvorak: Rusalka

Gioacchino Rossini: Signor Bruschino

Jiri Suchy + Jiri Slitr: Vyveste fangle aneb

Med ve vlasech 2 (Put out the Flags or Honey in the Hair 2)

Premieres 2006/2007

Gioacchino Rossini: II barbiere di Siviglia

Alexander Zemlinsky: Der Kreiderkreis

Bedrich Smetana: The Secret

Johann Strauss: Der Zigeunerbaron

The J.K.Tyl Theatre in Plzen

Head of Opera: Jiri Panek

Repertory 2006/2007

Modest Petrovich Musorgsky: Boris Godunov

Georges Bizet: Carmen

Bedrich Smetana: Dalibor

Bohuslav Martinu: Hry o Marii (The Miracles of Mary)

Bedrich Smetana: The Bartered Bride

Giuseppe Verdi: II Trovatore

Johann Strauss: Wiener Blut

Premieres 2006/2007

Antonin Dvorak: Rusalka

Giacomo Puccini: Manon Lescaut

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: The Marriage of Figaro

Giuseppe Verdi: Nabucco

The North Bohemian Theatre of Opera and Ballet in Usti nad Labem

Head of Opera: Norbert Baxa

Repertory 2006/2007

Giuseppe Verdi: Aida

Antonin Dvorak: The Devil and Kate

Petr Ilyich Tchaikovsky: Eugene Onegin

Bedrich Smetana: The Bartered Bride

Giuseppe Verdi: Rigoletto

Antonin Dvorak: Rusalka

Giacomo Puccini: Tosca

Johann Strauss: Der Ziegeunerbaron

Johann Strauss: Die Fledermaus

Franz Lehar: Paganini

Premieres 2006/2007

Peter Stone--Bob Merril--Jule Styne: Sugar (Some Like it Hot)

Richard Wagner: The Flying Dutchman

Oskar Nedbal: Polska krev (Polish Blood)

Georges Bizet: Carmen

Leonard Bernstein--Stephen Sondheim--Arthur Laurents: West Side Story

The Frantisek Xaver Salda Theatre in Liberec

Head of Opera: Martin Doubravsky

Repertory 2006/2007

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Apollon & Hyacint

Giacomo Puccini: La Boheme

Bedrich Smetana: Dalibor

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: The Magic Flute

Giacomo Puccini: Madame Butterfly

Giuseppe Verdi: Nabucco

Johann Strauss: Die Fledermaus

Jacques Offenbach: Orpheus in the Underworld

Antonin Dvorak: Rusalka

Giuseppe Verdi: II Trovatore

Premieres 2006/2007

Guiseppe Verdi: Macbeth

Giacomo Puccini: Manon Lescaut

Charles Gounod: Faust

Richard Wagner: The Flying Dutchman

Emmerich Kalman: Grafin Maritza

The National Theatre in Brno--The Janacek Opera

Head of Opera: Karel Drgac

Repertory 2006/2007

Giuseppe Verdi: Aida

Giacomo Puccini: La Boheme

Georges Bizet: Carmen

Giuseppe Verdi: Don Carlos

Antonin Dvorak: The Jacobin

Leos Janacek: Jenufa

Leos Janacek: Katya Kabanova

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: The Magic Flute

Giuseppe Verdi: La Traviata

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov: Mozart and Salieri

Bedrich Smetana: The Bartered Bride

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Requiem

Giuseppe Verdi: Rigoletto

Antonin Dvorak: Rusalka

Operetta around the World

Premieres 2006/2007

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Don Giovanni (Janacek Theatre)

Gideon Klein: Trio (ballet)

Hans Krasa: Brundibar (Reduta)

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Idomeneo, il re di Creta (Mahen Theatre)

Johann Strauss: Der Ziegeunerbaron (Janacek Theatre)

Moliere + J. B. Lully: Jeden chce a druhy musi (Reduta) (Le Marriage force and Sicilian)

Petr Ilyich Tchaikovsky: Eugene Onegin (Janacek Theatre)

The Moravian Theatre in Olomouc

Repertory 2006/2007

Antonin Dvorak: The Jacobin

Johann Strauss: Eine Nacht in Venezia

Giacomo Puccini: Madamme Butterfly

Giuseppe Verdi: Nabucco

Premieres 2006/2007

Jerry Herman, Michael Stewart: Hello, Dolly!

Giuseppe Verdi: Attila

Franz Lehar: The Merry Widow

Gabriel Faure: Requiem

Carl Orff: Carmina burana

Jules Massenet: Manon

The National Theatre of Moravia-Silesia, Ostrava

Head of Opera: Oliver Dohnanyi

Repertoire 2006/2007

Antonin Dvorak: The Devil and Kate

Antonin Dvorak: Rusalka

Bohuslav Martinu: The Greek Passion

Emil Frantisek Burian: Opera z pouti (Opera from a Fair)

Gaetano Donizzeti: The Elixir of Love

Giacomo Puccini: Madamme Butterfly

Giuseppe Verdi: Falstaff

Giuseppe Verdi: La traviata

Giuseppe Verdi: Macbeth

Giuseppe Verdi: Nabucco

Giuseppe Verdi: Rigoletto

Leos Janacek: Jenufa

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Cosi fan tutte

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: The Magic Flute

Premieres 2006/2007

Giacomo Puccini: Manon Lescaut

Antonin Dvorak: The Jacobin

Franco Alfano: Cyrano de Bergerac

Georges Bizet--Peter Brook--Jean

Claude Carriere--Marius Constant: La Tragedie de Carmen

The Silesian Opera in Opava

Head of Opera: Dalibor Hrda

Repertory 2006/2007

Giacomo Puccini: Tosca

Rudolf Piskacek: Tulak (The Vagabond)

Bedrich Smetana: Dalibor

Jerry Herman: Hello, Dolly!

Jaromir Weinberger: Svanda dudak (Svanda the Piper)

Premiery 2006/2007

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Don Giovanni

Bohuslav Martinu: Hry o Marii (The Miracles of Mary)

Peter Stone--Bob Merril--Jule Styne: Some Like it Hot

Giuseppe Verdi: II Trovatore

RELATED ARTICLE: OPERA Festival Prizes for Best Production

1993 -- Prize awarded to the opera company of the South Bohemian Theatre in Ceske Budejovice for its production of Mozart's opera Cosi fan tutte with special reference to the direction of Jana Kalisova, and to the opera company of the Silesian Theatre in Opava for its production of Janacek's opera Jenufa with special reference to the conductor Oldrich Bohunovsky and the choir conductor Kremena Peschakova.

1995 -- Prize awarded to the opera company of the National Theatre in Prague for its production of the opera Romeo et Julie by Charles Gounod, to the Prague State Opera for the dramaturgy of the production of Engagement in a Dream--Zasnuby ve snu by Hans Krasa and to the opera company of the South Bohemian Theatre in Ceske Budejovice for dramaturgical adaptation and directorical concept of the F.L. Gassmann's opera La Notte Critica.

1997 -- Prize awarded to the production of Strauss's opera Der Rosenkavalier at the National Theatre in Prague for the conductor's Jiri Kout achievement, to the Children's Opera Studio of the National Theatre of Moravia-Silesia under the direction of Lenka Zivocka for performance in the production of Matejka's opera Broucci--Beetles, to the Silesian Theatre in Opava for the conductor's Petr Sumnik achievement and the performance of the orchestra in the production of Puccini's opera La BohZme and to the Moravian Theatre in Olomouc for its production of Mozart's opera Idomeneo (conductor Zvonimir Skrivan, director Ladislav Stros, stage design Jiri Jaroslav Janecek, costumes by Josef Jelinek).

1999 -- Prize awarded to the production of Leos Janacek's opera From the House of the Dead by the National Theatre in Brno (conductor Jan Zbavitel, director Zdenek Kaloc).

2001 -- Prize awarded to the F. X. Salda Theatre in Liberec for its production of Giuseppe Verdi's Otello (conductor Martin Doubravsky, director Anton Nekovar).

2003 -- Prize awarded to the Silesian Theatre in Opava for its production of G. Verdi's The Robbers and to the J. K. Tyl Theatre in Plzen for its production of B. Smetana's The Bartered Bride.

2005 -- Prize awarded to the National Theatre of Moravia-Silesia in Ostrava for its production of L. Janacek's opera Jenufa.

Thalie Prizes--Opera Singer Laureates

1993 -- Drahomira Drobkova

1994 -- Helena Kaupova, Ivan Kusnjer

1995 -- Ludek Vele

1996 -- Eva Drizgova-Jirusova, Ludek Vele

1997 -- Eva Urbanova, Ivan Kusnjer

1998 -- Eva Drizgova-Jirusova, Vladimir Chmelo

1999 -- Dagmar Peckova, Roman Janal

2000 -- Klaudia Dernerova, Valentin Prolat

2001 -- Simona Houda-Saturova, Ivan Kusnjer

2002 -- Regina Renzowa-Jurgens, Pavel Kamas

2003 -- Yvona Skvarova and Jan Vacik

2004 -- Katarina Jorda Kramolisova and Peter Straka

2005 -- Eva Urbanova and Jurij Gorbunov

Thalie Prizes for Lifelong Achievement in the Field of Opera

1993 -- Karel Berman

1994 -- Maria Tauberova

1995 -- Karel Kalas

1996 -- Libuse Domaninska

1997 -- Ivo Zidek

1998 -- Milada Subrtova

1999 -- Jiri Zahradnicek

2000 -- Ivana Mixova

2001 -- Richard Novak

2002 -- Ludmila Dvorakova

2003 -- Antonin Svorc

2004 -- Marie Steinerova

2005 -- Jaroslav Horacek

Selection of Alfred Radok Prizes Awarded in the Field of Opera

1998 -- production -- Henry Purcell: Dido a Aeneas, J. K. Tyl Theatre in Plzen, conductor Vojtech Spurny, director J. A. Pitinsky

1999 -- stage design -- Daniel Dvorak (E. F. Burian: Bubu z Montparnassu, Prague State Opera)

2000 -- production -- Dmitri Shostakovich: Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, National Theatre, Prague, conductor Frantisek Preisler jr., direcor David Radok + female performance--Klaudia Dernerova: Katerina Izmajlova

2000 -- stage design -- Ales Votava: G. Puccini: Tosca, National Theatre, Prague

2001 -- production -- Alban Berg: Wozzek. National Theatre in Prague with Goteborgs Opera, director David Radok, conductor Elgar Howart

2002 -- production -- Leos Janacek: Fate. National Theatre, Prague, director Robert Wilson, conductor Jiri Belohlavek + stage design Robert Wilson

2003 -- stage design -- Matej Forman, Andrea Sodomkova, Renata Pavlickova, Ondrej Masek (Ph. Glass: La Belle et La Bete, National Theatre, Prague)

2004 -- original Czech work -- Martin Smolka, Jaroslav Dusek: Nagano, National Theatre, Prague, conductor Jan Chalupecky, director Ondrej Havelka

2004 -- stage design -- Pavel Svoboda (R. Wagner: The Flying Dutchman, J. K. Tyl Theatre, Plzen)

2004 -- talent of the year -- nomination: Katerina Jalovcova

2005 -- production -- nomination -- Bohuslav Martinu: The Greek Passion, National Theatre, Brno, conductor Christian von Gehren, director David Pountney
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Author:Havlikova, Helena
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Date:Oct 1, 2006
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