Culture

What to see in the National Theatre in Prague

Feb 16, 13:01 Filed under culture

The National Theatre in Prague has three artistic divisions – Ballet, Opera and Drama. As dramas featured here are in Czech language, for those who cannot speak Czech would be interesting just Opera and Ballet, but anyway in those two fields the theatre has a lot to offer.

Operas are sung mostly in Italian and are accompanied with both Czech and English subtitles. This season you can visit Giuseppe Verdi´s La Traviata and Aida, Vincenzo Bellini´s Norma or Camille Saint-Saens´ Samson and Dalila, Giacomo Puccini´s Lafanciulla sel West (The girl from the West) and Tosca or very popular Georges Bizet´s Carmen. If you want to see something by Czech authors, there is Bedrich Smetana´s Hubicka (The Kiss), Čert a Káča (The Devil and Kate), Tajemstvi (The Secret) and famous Rusalka, but there is also Bohuslav Martinu´s Recke pasije (The Greek Passion) or contemporary piece Dobre placena prochazka (A walk worthwhile) by Jiri Suchy and Jiri Slitr.

Another scene of the National Theatre is the Estates Theatre. On this stage are featured four pieces by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart´s – La Clemenza di Tito, Don Giovanni, La nozze di Figaro (The marriage of Figaro) and The Magic Flute and also Gaetano Donizetti´s Don Pasquale.

And what you can see if you prefer the Ballet? In the building of the National Theatre: Adolphe Charles Adam´s Giselle, Sergej Prokofjev Romeo and Juliet or Onegin, Pert Iijic Tchaikovski´s Louskacek (The nutcracker) or project Solo pro tri (Solo for three) – dancing on music by a Frenchman Brel, a Russian Vysockij and a Czech Kryl and the project called Ceska baletni symfonie (The Czech ballet symphony).

On the stage of the Estates Theatre are featured Petr Iljic Tchaikovski´s Sipkova Ruzenka (Sleeping Beauty) and Zlatovlaska (Goldilocks) by a Czech contemporary author Vladimir Franz.

Both of the buildings are very nice, performances are well prepared, done by the best Czech and sometimes even world dancers and singers, prepared by great directors, choreographers and so on. Also the musicians and they conductors who are taking care about the music during the piece are very skilled. So if you like Opera or Ballet, it is worth to visit the National Theatre, as it can be a great cultural experience, and a way how to spent a pleasant evening.

The Post-1989 Music Boom

Feb 1, 14:59 Filed under culture

Following the 1989 collapse of the regime, new trends came in place. Naturally, the presence of foreign institutions and companies has increased since the republic was open to various influences from abroad. Among the cultural institutions set in Prague in 1993 were The British Council, Goethe Institute and The French Institute. The Republic already split in the mentioned year, The Slovak Institute was also founded, underlining the fact that the two countries were now on their own paths. The first years also brought many world- famous bands that were forbidden and/or unwilling to have a concert in a communist state.

The presence of the likes of Frank Zappa, The Rolling Stones, Nick Cave or Velvet Underground had certain symbollic power, given the fact that the previous experience was so sad. There was one famous occasion when two West German bands, industrial pioneers Einsturzende Neubauten and confrontational punk band Die Toten Hosen were allowed to get on stage. The concert was, however, halted during the Toten Hosen performance and the angry crowd was supposed to cool down and cheer up as they were given the Czech disco star Michal David instead. The concert ended with the police stepping in.

The first half of the 1990s was a period of founding new music clubs in the city centre. Rock and pop clubs of various kind were on the rise, though the majority promoted conventional musical styles. There was some kind of counter- music to be heard in the squats ( Ladronka, Milada, Papírna ) and the more open- minded music clubs or theatre buildings.

There was an increase in the activities of opera houses and classical music ensembles. To great extent due to a rise in investments and a general shift of the West’s attention towards the „liberated“ East. Stars and ensembles came to visit and helped promote local artists. The rise in attention was very substantial. Firstly, lots of people were eager to see the land, but were forbidden to do so. Secondly there was the post-1989 enthusiasm. The Republic, thought of as a rigid socialist state with heavily polluted environment and backward, unfasionable technology, now seemed to be of interest after all. This was to some extent supported by the fairy tale of a peaceful old land, which got rid of its opressors without a drop of blood and embraced Václav Havel, „the philosopher king“. But that is another issue.

The situation now is more diverse. There are various clubs and the range of musical styles on offer is satisfactory even for those in search for unconventional walls of sound. Only these have to look more carefully, since the promotion is, like elsewhere, naturally dominated by the profitable.

Do you want to learn Czech?

Jan 29, 13:01 Filed under culture

czech rep If your answer is: Yes, I do want to learn Czech! Maybe an experience of some other student could come in handy. Web czechmatediary.com published a guest-post, which is contagious with its enthusiasm. An American Michal talks about his studies of Czech:

If I had to choose my favorite Czech word, “pokoj” comes to mind immediately. With its double meaning of ‘room’ and ‘peace of mind’, it is, to me, the perfect example of why one should learn the language to know the culture.

Everyone has something he/she loves on Czech Language. I remember my own American teacher loving the word “šprt” (meaning a nerd) or “ufon” (meaning an alien, because he comes from the UFO) or “jezisek” (meaning baby Jesus who brings presents to kids on Christmas instead of Santa).

But Michal also talks about the dark side; evey language is somewhere difficult, in English it is about that 12 tenses; in Czech it is the endings: “Learning case endings (koncovky jsou moc tezky!) is a daunting task, almost depressing.” If you want to learn Czech, you can use any knowledge of Latin/Slavic/Romanian languages. If you don’t know any so called inflectional language, well, good luck!

Read on at czechmatediary.com

Famous Prague people - Milos Forman, Madeleine Albright, Alfons Mucha

Jan 26, 17:32 Filed under culture

Almost every film lover knows the world-famous director Milos Forman, but when I told my American friend that Forman comes from Czechoslovakia, he was quite surprised. The director of One Flew Over the Cuckoo´s Nest, Hair, Man on the Moon, Amadeus, The People versus Larry Flynt or most recently Goya´s Ghosts was born in Caslav but studied in Prague at the famous FAMU film school, then he made some successful films, of which Loves of the Blonde and The Fireman´s Ball were nominated for prestigious Oscar – American Film Academy Award. At the time when Prauge was invaded by USSR and Warsaw pact allies to end the Prauge Spring, he was in Paris and decided not go back to occupied country. He went to the U.S. and made there the jewels of world cinematography.

And did you know that Madeleine Albright, who was the first woman to become United States Secretary of State was born in Prague in 1937 as Marie Jana Korbelova? She was raised as a Roman Catholic by her Jewish parents, who converted to Christianity in order to avoid persecution. Her father was a diplomat and during the war they survived because being in London, but three of Madelaine´s grandparents died in concentration camps. In 1948, when Communists took rule over Czechoslovakia, the family decided to leave the country for good. So 11 years old Madeleine found herself in the U.S., in 1957, aged 20, she became the citizen and started to work on her political career.

Art lovers probably know Alfons Mucha, a very famous Art Noveau painter after whom is secession sometimes known also as “the Mucha style”. He was born in 1860 in small town Ivancice, close to Brno in Moravia, and later lived in Vienna and especially Paris, where he became famous for his advertising posters with famous theatrical actress Sarah Bernhard, and magazine illustrations. But later he came back to his homeland and settled in Prague. After the First World War, when Czechoslovakia got its political independence, he designed banknotes and post stamps for the new Republic. He painted the Slav Epic, a series of paintings celebrating Slavic People and designed a window for Saint Vitus Cathedral. In 1939, when Nazis took over Czechoslovakia, he was arrested by Gestapo to be interrogated for his anti-German opinions, and even he was soon released, he did not recovered from the damages caused by interrogations and died the same year. He is buried in the Slavin cemetery in Vysehrad. The name of the cemetery “Slavin” is derived from “slava” which can be translated as “fame” or “glory”. This cemetery was established in 1869 to be the place of final rest for the most prominent Czech artists, scientists and politics and public life.

Beside Alfons Mucha, there are also graves of painters Mikulas Ales, Max Svabinsky or Antonin Chitussi, football player Josef Bican, writers Josef Capek, Karel Hynek Macha or Jan Neruda, opera singer Emma Destinova, or composers Antonin Dvorak and Bedrich Smetana. In Paris, they have Cimetiere du Pere Lachaise, in Prague, there is, obviously much smaller, but also interesting Slavin.

Traditional Czech Vegetarian Food

Dec 5, 16:37 Filed under culture

Czech fried Cheese
Everybody knows that the typical Czech dish is pork with dumplings and sauerkraut. Other traditional dishes include meat again: usually pork or beef, with dumplings or potatoes, served with heavy but delicious cream sauces. Yes, this is the typical Czech cuisine that goes so well with the famous Czech beer. So the question is, is there any traditional vegetarian food in the Czech Republic at all?

The answer is yes, of course. Nevertheless, a food which is vegetarian, does not necessary have to be dietary, does it? This is the case of the traditional vegetarian food in the Czech Republic. There are at least two meatless dishes about which Czechs have been mad about for centuries. The first is “smazeny syr” and the second is “ovocne knedliky”. And yes, you should definitely try it.

“Smazeny syr”, in English fried cheese, is really popular among Czechs. Actually, it is so popular that many Czechs claim now the Czech Republic needs a trademark on it. Typical pubs as well as good restaurants have “smazeny syr” on their menus. It is served mostly with potatoes or fries. Czechs like to add Tartar sauce or ketchup. I would recommend it even to hearty eaters since this food is really filling.

“Ovocne knedliky”, in English fruit dumplings, are not the same dumplings as those you know from the dish: pork, dumplings and sauerkraut. Oh no! Those fruit dumplings are sweet! They are all round, and filled with fruit – most favorite are strawberry, apricot or plum dumplings. Sweet dumplings are served with chocolate or sweet cottage. Hmm, yummy! It is really great!

I do recommend those dishes although I admit that they are not really low-caloric. But once in a while it is harmless, moreover, it is delicious.

Dispute about “Octopus” the New National Library by Kaplicky

Oct 20, 15:35 Filed under culture

blob prague The word octopus is mentioned in the title, but this article is not about a cephalopod, the creature who inhabits many diverse regions of the ocean, but it is about new concept of the National Library in Prague which resembles an octopus. You must have heard about the famous architect Jan Kaplicky and his concept of the new building for the National Library. He won the international architectural competition, which was declared by the International Union of Architects (UIA). Jury compound of world famous architects, the Mayor of Prague Pavel Bem and the Director of Library Vlastimil Jezek. The Czech architect Eva Jiricna lives in Great Britain and was a jury foreman.

The National Library needs a new building, because it doesn’t have a place for its books. Every year the number of books increases for more than 56 000.

Kaplicky’s project counted with new depositories with capacity of 10 million books that would solve the problem for next 50 years. The library should have been built on Letna in 3 years, with costs estimated at 1,8 billion CZK (60 million €).The project criteria includes: 200 study places on 9 floors, a system for expedition of books, which would provide getting any book in 3 minutes, and a depository for 10 million books underground. “The building has fabulous colour, which begins as colour of champagne, yellow-gold and nose-up continues as almost white colour. The building has a big eye, which looks at the city – on the one side there is the Prague Castle and on the other side there is the Old Town Square”, says Kaplicky.

Now the possibility that this futuristic building of the National Library will be built decreases. The Director of the National Library Vlastimil Jezek permitted that he will have to declare a new competition. Why? ODS representatives blocked sale of land on Letna which the city detached for the building one year ago. The most of ODS representatives do not like an “octopus” or they do not want it on Letna nearby the Prague Castle. The Mayor Pavel Bem (ODS) suggests he will find a new place for it, for example at Pankrac plain. However, it is not possible to build it somewhere else, because the architect created the plan for Letna as it was submitted in the competition. “If it was another place it would be a new competition”, says Jezek. Kaplicky said he had no reason to move the building. It must be remarked that the President Vaclav Klaus does not like the building as well.

And what about people? How do they like it? The most of experts and ordinary people do not agree with this concept. They do not like location of the building, height or they think the building is not dignified for the function of the National Library. On the other hand people who like it say that time for courageous projects has come. They say Prague miss a new building of the world significance.

Beer, beer… and another one.

Oct 10, 15:34 Filed under culture

Czech Republic is well-known for beer production as well as beer consumption. Czech people are probably doing even better with the consumption since Czech Republic is the number one nation in the world known for beer consumption.

If you come to Prague, you should try Czech beer. You should experience the great refreshening taste of a golden colour brewed beverage. In Czech Republic you can choose in between draft or bottled beer. Draft beer is always of a very good quality. If you come to a typical Czech pub and indulge yourself into a glass of beer, you will definitely experience friendly atmosphere of the environment.

The best place in Prague to experience “the friendly beer atmosphere” is the restaurant U Fleku. This restaurant offers 13 degree draft beer (rather a strong beer). This beer is prepared according to the traditional brewing process and its taste is incommutable. The brewery U fleků was founded in 1499 and ever since, people came to this place to enjoy the taste of U Fleku Pub delicious beer as well as Czech cuisine specialties. Beer is a delightful temptation and before you finish your first glass, there will be another one in front of you. While you are smoothly drinking the second glass of beer, waiters will start bringing typical czech herbal spirit Becherovka. If you get hungry by that point, you can order a typical czech dish for very inexpensive prices. The atmosphere of this place is very friendly, and you will get chance to talk to interesting people while sipping your third or fourth beer.

There are other places where you can try the taste of a Czech beer such as Pilsner Urquell or Budweiser Budvar. If you come to Prague, don’t forget to try the Czech beer. Your visit would be incomplete without indulging yourself into one glass…

Czech Philharmonic Orchestra

Oct 9, 14:36 Filed under culture

“Music washes the dust of everyday life away from the soul.”  ~Berthold Auerbach

The Czech Philharmony‘s very first concert was on 4th January 1896 at the Rudolfinum and was conducted by Antonin Dvorak. In 1901, Ludvik Celansky became the first Chief Conductor. Then Vaclav Talich took up the Chief Conductor’s baton. He was the first internationally known conductor and conducted totaly 924 concerts and he is considered the founder of its interpretational tradition. After Talich’s great sucess, other outstanding conductors came. The period from 1950 to 1968 is considered the orchestra’s greatest period of artistic development. It was under Karel Ancerl’s leadership.

The orchestra gained a reputation as a first-class ensemble of the world. Karel Ancerl continued in his plan in the tradition of his forerunners, it means that he continued in the Czech repertoire, but enriched it by works of foreign composers. For example by works of Stravinsky, Strauss, Bartók, Shostakovich, and Prokofiev. At the beginning of the 2003/2004 season, Zdeněk Mácal became the tenth Chief Conductor of the Czech Philharmonic. Philharmony’s reputation has been furthered by internationally-esteemed guest conductors since the beginning of its existence – Edvard Grieg, Eugene Ysaye, Sergey Rachmaninoff, Artur Nikisch, and Gustav Mahler.

Czech Philharmonic Orchestra also performed abroad and it contributed to its international renown. The orchestra’s reputation within Europe was built already before the war. They performed in Great Britain where they guest to this day. Above all in the prestigious BBC Proms and at the Edinburgh Festival. In the first concert overseas in 1959, the Orchestra performed in Australia, Japan, New Zealand, China, India, and the Soviet Union.

On January 4th, 2006, Czech Philharmonic Orchestra celebrated its 110th year of existence in the best state of artistic well-being imaginable, and is about to launch its 111th concert season. Concernig the newest orchestra’s released CD – recordings made for the Japanese market has met big acclaim. Czech Philharmony and Zdenek Macal together with Octavia Records have been progressively working on record the complete symphonies of Antonín Dvořák, Gustav Mahler, P. I. Tchaikovsky and Johannes Brahms.
Everything concernig Czech Philharmonic orchestra, other informations, prices, tickets and concert schedule, you can find at the websites.

Tiesto’s “Elements of life” in Prague T-mobile arena

Oct 2, 16:53 Filed under culture

dj_tiesto_in_Prague On March 2007, Tiesto released his third author album called “Elements of life” and started his worldwide tour over totally 56 capitals and Prague is going to be one of the stops. The tour “Elements of life” is considered a professionally perfect and giant show, which is able to satisfy the most demanding fans. A concept of the tour is built on four basic elements of life: air, water, earth, and fire. Every of these elements appears in the show so you will have unforgettable experience.

Tiesto is the very first Dj in the world who twice sold off the stadium for 25.000 thousands of people. His remix Delerium in which Sarah McLachlan sings is the first house composition broad-casted by North America radios during the day. Above all it became the national anthem and was 8 weeks at the top of British Top 10. Tiesto performed in front of one milliard viewers.

Born in Holland, he became a Dj because he liked to share music with other people. At the beginning he traveled all over the Netherlands, later he performed at student parties and then regularly three days a week at a club. Tiesto was especially successful in the field of trance, but in his style there are also house and techno. Except for the usual club successes, his shelves are groaning under the weight of numerous awards – TMF-Awards, MTV, Dutch DJ – and gold discs…

And now the most important thing – when will this one of the best Djs of the world come? On 24th November, 2007. Tickets are available at ticketpro.cz and for more informations about Tiesto look at www.djtiesto.com.

Moscow City Ballet in Prague

Sep 27, 21:17 Filed under culture

Moscow City Ballet An amazing spectacle – classical music, wonderful choreography, perfect technique of dance and unique artictic presentment. You can see the best ballet pieces from the notable Russian masters.

The ensemble was established by Victor Smirnov – Golovanov and it is one of the best ballet ensembles of the world. Victor Smirnov – Golovanov’s international career began in 1989 in Soul (South Korea), where he appeared for the first time in front of a foreign audience. Thanks to their great success, they are the most often performing ballet ensemble of the world. Since 1989, Moscow City Ballet has performed in Belgium, Egypt, Germany, Ireland, Japan, USA and other countries all over the world. In Great Britain they have performed even 1600 times; since 1991. And now we can see them in the Czech Republic.

Moscow City Ballet is going to introduce the best three performances of its repertoire. The first one is Romeo and Juliet, with ballet created according to William Shakespeare’s play. You will see the story full of passion, jealousy, hate and especially full of love. The atmosphere of the tragedy is underlined by Prokofjev’s music, which in one moment thunders and fades out in second. The perfect link between dance and music is almost unbelievable and you can get an unforgettable experience.

The second performance is Don Quixote, with music by Ludvig Minkus, the composer originaly from the Czech Republic. Choregraphy was created by a genius choreographer Marius Petipa. Ballet is created according to Cervantes’ novel. One of the most impressive part of the ballet is Don Quixot’s dreams. The scenes together with perfect ballet of Smirnov – Golovanov’s dancers accent beauty and uniqueness of the performance.

The third performance is Giselle – a romantic story about tragic love between a beautiful village maiden and a nobleman Albrecht who dissembles his identity and impersonates ordinary villager. When Giselle discovers the deceit, she is inconsolable and goes mad, then dies of a broken heart. Albrecht is condemned for his lies to live in solitude without the loved woman.

Moscow City Ballet performs during October in the Czech Republic. Don’t hesitate for a long time and go to buy the tickets at www.ticketpro.cz. Romeo and Juliet you can see on 23th October and Don Quixote on 22th October. These two performances will take place in Kongresove Centrum, Prague 4. Prices of the tickets are 770CZK – 1,490 CZK. Giselle will be performed only in Liberec.

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