Music in Prague

With its rich musical tradition, Prague was a great place to visit. I had known that Dvořák was Czech as well as Smetena and Janáček. With the relative proximity to Vienna, Mozart not only composed the Prague Symphony, but he premiered his opera Don Giovanni in this city at the Estates Theater.

Buying opera tickets in Prague is very inexpensive. For about $12 a person, we purchased tickets to see a matinee of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro at the Estates Theater. For the first time this sabbatical I got to wear my dress-up clothes.

What a thrill for me to be in the same place where one of the childhood idols conducted his music. The theater is small – I think it seats just under 500 people. The decor takes you back to the 1700s and my heart raced a little as we entered. Photography is allowed before and after the show.

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This is the view from our seats. There was one balcony above us, and we were on the front row (of two rows) on our balcony. There is a ledge for resting your elbows as you lean in to get a great view.

The opera was sung in the original Italian with Czech and English supertitles. We’d reviewed the plot before we went and I explained to Hal that the role of Cherubino (a young page) is always played by a woman in what is called a “pants role“.

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I would say that this was a major highlight of our entire trip.

Even though we had the opportunity to buy tickets to any one of a number of other concerts, we declined. There are plenty of concerts with “fan favorites” of music I’ve heard too many times, including Pachelbel’s Canon.

However, we heard plenty of buskers on the streets with quite a broad range of musical styles, and I have to say I admire and respect the people who were making music outside in the winter weather. I made a video which you can watch here which puts together some of the sights and sounds we heard over the week. It includes these guys – Bohemian Band.

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In 1962, a huge statue of Stalin was destroyed on top of a hill, and in 1991 a large metronome took its place. During our stay the metronome did not move, but I don’t know if it stays put in the winter or all the time.

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The plaza around the metronome is a skateboarders paradise, and for 20 years skaters have thrown their shoes over the wire attached to the metronome.

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European cities have statues and busts everywhere, and as we rounded one corner, we saw one of this guy – Mysliveček – who I heard about when I was in grad school. During our music history library course (long before google) we were sent on a scavenger hunt to find “the only composer without a nose” using only books. Well, you see this statue is pre-nose-removal. It seems that a quack doctor burned off the nose while treating a “mysterious illness” (probably syphilis). His name has always stuck with me, and seeing his statue gave me not only a grin, but a reason to read more about him. Seems he was pretty good friends with Mozart.

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Smetana’s The Moldau was inspired by the Vltava River (called Moldau in German).

One final thought about music in Prague is the Lennon Wall. After his death in 1980, young Czechs came to this wall to inscribe messages of peace and love. The wall was continually painted over until they realized that it was a futile battle. Well, here is an article from the Smithsonian Magazine that tells more about it.

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