Hommage à Smetana, Kovařovic, Ostrčil
The National TheatreApproximate running time
1 hour 35 minutes, 1 intermission (20 minutes) minutes
We would like to inform the audience that the concert will be filmed by Czech Television. By purchasing a ticket, 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 concert or part thereof.
Bedřich Smetana: Pražský karneval | Prague Carnival
Otakar Ostrčil: Osiřelo dítě | The Orphan's Tale, Op. 9, ballad for mezzosoprano and orchestra
Otakar Ostrčil: Balada česká | Czech Ballad, Op. 8
Bedřich Smetana: Má vlast | My Country – Blaník
Karel Kovařovic: Concert for piano and orchestra in f minor, Op. 6
The National Theatre Opera’s October concert, conducted by Robert Jindra, the new music director, pays tribute to remarkable Czech music figures who had a crucial impact on the National Theatre Opera company, either as artistic directors or composers.
Although Bedřich Smetana (1824-1884) held the position of first Kapellmeister, de facto artistic director, back during the time of the Provisional Theatre, he greatly influenced the development of the opera company that would become the basis for the extended ensemble at the newly built National Theatre in Prague. And when, due to serious illness, Smetana could no longer continue theatre and concert activities, he kept working for the institution as a composer. All his operas were premiered by the National Theatre Opera, and even the cycle of tone poems My Country was first performed by the Ancillary Society of Members of the Chorus and Orchestra of the Royal Regional Czech Theatre, i.e. the National Theatre, helmed by Adolf Čech, Smetana’s successor and a leading National Theatre conductor. By performing Blaník, the last of the six symphonic poems, which sums up the fundamental motifs, we mark the 140th anniversary of the complete set’s premiere, on 5 November 1882. The Introduction and Polonaise are the only parts Smetana managed to complete of Prague Carnival, which he had intended as a large-scale cycle. The first performance, by the National Theatre Orchestra conducted by Mořic Anger, marking Smetana’s 60th birthday, met with a lukewarm response. Only later would the piece attract deserved attention, owing to Josef Theuer, who corrected errors in the score and aroused interest on the part of Karel Kovařovic (1862-1920), who drew up his own score and presented it to acclaim at a National Theatre matinée on 28 April 1907. Our concert features Smetana’s original version, which was reconstructed in 1918.
Karel Kovařovic occupies a unique position in National Theatre history. He was the harpist of the Provisional Theatre Orchestra from 1879 and of the National Theatre Orchestra between 1881 and 1885. From 1900 to 1920, he served as the director of the National Theatre Opera, while also playing a significant role as a conductor and dramaturge. A composer in his own right, Kovařovic enriched the repertoire with his own ballets and operas, with the most renowned and most popular of the latter being Psohlavci (The Dogheads), regularly staged between 1898 and 1988. Kovařovic’s 1887 Concerto for Piano and Orchestra in F minor was first performed on 19 November 1893 at a noon concert at the Žofín Palace in Prague, organised for the benefit of the retirement association of members of the National Theatre Chorus and Orchestra, by the 20-year-old Vilém Kurz, who would later on become one of the most distinguished Czech pianists and music educators. The National Theatre Orchestra was probably conducted by the composer himself. Tonight, the virtuoso solo part will be performed by the superb Czech pianist Marek Kozák.
During his illustrious two-decade tenure at the National Theatre, in 1919 Kovařovic engaged as a dramaturge the composer and conductor Otakar Ostrčil (1879-1935), an exceptional artist possessing tremendous erudition and outstanding organisational skills, who from 1920 to 1935 would further develop the Opera company as its director. Kovařovic and Ostrčil considerably elevated the level of Czech opera in Prague in terms of the National Theatre repertoire, presenting numerous new works of Czech and international provenience, as well as in terms of performance quality, engaging top-notch artists, including Emil Pollert, Theodor Schütz, Vilém Zítek, Marta Krásová, Hanuš Thein, Ferdinand Pujman, and many others. As a composer, Ostrčil mainly focused on music drama. In addition to five complete operas, he created several melodramas, two of which are on the programme of today’s concert: Czech Ballad, set to a poem by Jan Neruda; and The Orphan’s Tale for mezzo-soprano and orchestra, dedicated to Gabriela Horvátková, a feted National Theatre singer who, along with the Czech Philharmonic, conducted by František Neumann, premiered it on 5 December 1906 within a concert at the Rudolfinum in Prague. The latter ballad will be sung tonight by Štěpánka Pučálková, a soloist of the Semperoper in Dresden and one of the most celebrated contemporary Czech opera singers.
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Where to buy tickets
The National Theatre sells tickets up to 6 months in advance. On 1 October at 9am we selling tickets for performances of Drama, Ballet, Opera and Laterna magika until the end of March 2024.
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