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Arnold Schönberg

In Prague after 17 years, 250 musicians on stage.

The State Opera
Musica non grata
The only performance

Basic information


The State Opera

Approximate running time

2 hours 30 minutes, 1 intermission (30 minutes) minutes


In German, surtitles in Czech

Notice for the audience 

We would like to inform our spectators that the concert will be broadcast live by Czech Radio Vltava and the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation. It will be recorded by Czech Television. By attending the performance, the theatre-goer gives his/her consent to his/her image being captured during the making of an audio-visual recording of the performance and to the recording made in such a manner being used in broadcasts of the performance or part thereof.


  • 2023-2024
  • 2024-2025

Music:: Arnold Schönberg (1874–1951)
Text: Robert Franz Arnold (1872–1938), based on a poem cycle by Jens Peter Jacobsen (1847–1885)

Arnold Schönberg completed the monumental late-Romantic cantata Gurre-Lieder in 1911, and,notwithstanding that by the time he had abandoned the style in which he composed it, he branded the piece as the cue to his further artistic development. The title, meaning “Songs of Gurre”, refers to the medieval Danish legend of King Valdemar (Valdemar IV, who died in 1375 at the Gurre Castle; or Valdemar I, who lived in the 12th century) and his mistress Tove Lille (Little Tove), murdered by Queen Helvig. The tragic love story inspired Jens Peter Jacobsen, a 21-year-old history student, to write the poem cycle Gurresange (1868), depicting the Queen’s jealousy, the poisoning of Tove and her funeral procession (as described by a wood dove), as well as the grief-stricken King, who curses God and is consequently condemned to fly for ever with his dead minions through the night sky.

Schönberg scored the Gurre-Lieder for a colossal apparatus: five vocal soloists, a narrator, men’s and mixed choirs, and a huge orchestra, made up of 25 woodwinds, 25 brass instruments, four harps, a celesta, 16 different percussion instruments (including iron chains) and an extremely large string section. Each performance of the Gurre-Lieder, a masterpiece with every detail worked out, is thus a truly overwhelming experience. In his account of the work, the composer Alban Berg, a pupil of Schönberg’s, identified some 35 leading motifs depicting not only the main characters but also natural phenomena (sunset, sunrise, galloping horses, etc.) and a variety of emotional states (desire, Jupiter’s love, a peasant’s fear, the mourning for Tove, etc.). Noteworthy too is the fact that in the part of the Narrator of the Gurre-Lieder Schönberg employed for the very first time the Sprechgesang, a ”spoken singing”  technique, which he would use throughout in his 1912 melodrama Pierrot lunaire.

The Gurre-Lieder received its premiere in Bohemia on 9 June 1921 at the Neues deutsches Theater, under Alexander Zemlinsky. Schönberg’s cantata was most recently presented in our country within the 2006 Prague Spring festival. The Gurre-Lieder will thus return to a Prague stage after 17 years.

The production is part of the Musica non grata cycle. Musica non grata is the international music and cultural project of the Czech Republic and Germany, initiated and organized by the National Theatre in Prague and financially supported by the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany. Musica non grata revives the artistic legacy of male and female composers important to the musical life of interwar Czechoslovakia who were persecuted by National Socialism or for religious, racial, political or gender reasons. More information at


Practical information

Where to buy tickets

The National Theatre sells tickets up to 6 months in advance. We are currently selling tickets for performances of Drama, Ballet, Opera and Laterna magika taking place in July–December 2024.

When purchasing online, you can get an e-ticket. You can pick up printed tickets in person at the box offices of the National Theatre.

What to wear?

By their appearance, attire and behaviour, the audience is obliged to adhere to the accustomed practice expected from them when attending a theatre performance.

Parking at the State opera

While visiting the State Opera, you can take the slip road on Wilsonova street from the left lane close to the State Opera building to the Parking Centrum above-ground garage. The parking fee is 60 CZK/h.

Buffets at the State Opera

No waiting. For your benefit, please pre-order your food and beverages at the bar to minimize waiting in the queue!

Menu (PDF, 60 kB)