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Sbor Státní opery

State Opera Chorus


A list of the Artists in the State Opera Chorus

The history of the State Opera Chorus dates back to the 5 May Theatre, which was established after the Second World War in the former New German Theatre. In the 1945/1946 season, the choir was a component of the May 5th Opera, which performed in the theatre together with the drama company. After one season, the drama left the theatre and the opera, under the changed name of the Grand Opera of 5 May, became the sole user of the building from the 1946/1947 season. The ballet was also an integral part of the opera company and its importance grew considerably in later years. As a result of organisational changes, the Grand Opera of 5 May was merged with the National Theatre in 1948 without any existential impact on the artists. From then on, the National Theatre Opera sponsored both its orchestra and the orchestra of the newly named Smetana Theatre, and the same applied to both choirs. Already at the Grand Opera House on 5 May, the choir was led by choirmaster Vladivoj Jankovský, who continued his work with the choir for the next forty years and became a legend. The joint work reflected mutually correct and even friendly relations and the Smetana Theatre Choir achieved excellent results under Jankovský's leadership.

This coexistence persisted until the period after the revolution in 1989, when the relaxed political and social situation made it possible to return to the model of the pre-1948 institutions and from 1 April 1992 a separate State Opera Prague was established, independent of the National Theatre. This brought with it new challenges and demands for the choir. The predominantly international repertoire, until then performed in Czech, began to be studied in original languages, and artists were more and more often presented with foreign stagers who brought a new style of work. The number of foreign tours (mostly to Japan) increased significantly, the financial return of which was of great importance to the theatre's economy. Even in the very early days of the Prague State Opera, Vladivoj Jankovský, the first choirmaster, assisted the newly established institution in its studies. After the final termination of his activity, he was gradually replaced at the Prague State Opera by other choirmasters, among whom Pavel Pokorný took exemplary care of the choir for several years. Others who left a significant mark on the choir included Tvrtko Karlovič, Miriam Němcová and Michael Keprt. From the 2001/2002 season Adolf Melichar took over the position of choirmaster of the Prague State Opera. In 2012, the State Opera Prague was reunited with the National Theatre and Melichar became the Chief Chorus Master of the State Opera Prague as an autonomous ensemble in the National Theatre since the 2015/2016 season.

The number of members of the choir has varied over the years (with a maximum of close to seventy members), and new members have been and continue to be recruited on the basis of regularly organised auditions. If necessary, the in-house choir is supplemented by members of the external choir for demanding productions. A typical example of a so-called large-scale production is Verdi's opera Nabucco, which the choir has been responsible for in Prague since its modern premiere at the Smetana Theatre in 1965, through the State Opera Prague production with its premiere in 1993, which reached 405 performances, through the production at the State Opera in 2018, to the new production in 2024. The famous chorus of the Jews in this opera has in itself ensured the privileged position of the chorus over the soloists; another example from recent years is Boito's opera Mefistofele, in which the chorus achieved phenomenal success, singled out by professional critics as the first choice. The chorus also provides smaller solo roles in a number of operas through its members, and in some cases has become a springboard for subsequent soloist careers.

The quality of the choir is evidenced by offers to guest performances outside of Prague, for example in summer productions in Gars am Kamp, Austria, at the open-air stage in Hradec Králové together with the Californian company Opera Viva, or in a co-production project of the Prague State Opera and the opera festival in Macerata, Italy, where the SOP choir performed in 2005 to great acclaim in a performance of Francis Poulenc's Les mammeles de Tirésias, transferred to Prague in 2007. In 2018, the State Opera Chorus and the National Theatre Chorus jointly received the Classic Prague Awards for their performance in Hector Berlioz's La damnation de Faust.