Research within this thematic section centres on matters relating to Prague opera houses, their repertoire and programme, the artists and composers who worked at them, and the companies’ directors, primarily Angelo Neumann and Alexander Zemlinsky, as well as the forms of expression of opera conventional during the respective historical period.
Research pertaining to persecuted composers
Musica non grata is an artistic-scholarly project seeking systematic connection between historical research and artistic implementation. In addition to containing a series of concerts and opera performances, we plan for it to encompass various scholastic activities aimed at elucidating the historical and academic aspects of Prague’s thriving culture in the first third of the 20th century. The current focus is on eight segments, which can be extended during the course of work on the project.
The results of the research will be made public and available here. Besides small-scale sectional studies, a digital compendium is being prepared – it will provide information about the composers and their works, as well as the context of life in Prague between the two world wars. The first outcomes of the research will be published at the end of 2021.
Contact person: Dr. Kai Hinrich Müller
One of the Musica non grata project’s major themes is superb female artists who lived and worked in Prague and other cities during the first Czechoslovak Republic, who included Juliette Arányi, Alice Herz-Sommer, Ludmila Peškařová, Slava Vorlova, Marie Drdova (Konstantin Constans) and Emmy Destinn. Research also pays attention to the women’s rights movement that had gained momentum by the early 1900s, and its activists, one of whom, Františka Plamínková, was murdered by the Nazis in 1942.
Another major subject of the Musica non grata project is Jewish culture in interwar Prague. Exploration will focus on the music performed in Prague synagogues, activities and work of artists of Jewish descent, as well as public debates concerning the question of what it means “to be Jewish”, and the period Antisemitism, for instance, in connection with the appointment of Samuel Steinherz as chancellor of Charles University in Prague.
A city of opera and grand Romantic masterpieces, Prague also played a significant role in the promotion of novel ideas and styles at the time when a new spirit prevailed in the wake of the Habsburg Monarchy’s collapse. Prague hosted several International Society for Contemporary Music festivals. The press was full of passionate discussions about new trends, with Der Auftakt being the leading German-language modern music journal. The apposite title of one of Erwin Schulhoff’s pieces dating from the time, In futurum, is a paradigm of Prague as a city embracing new musical ideas and idioms.
Research within this module concentrates on art in a wider context. Although the Musica non grata project is first and foremost dedicated to the music between the two world wars, it does not overlook other types of artistic expression. At the time, dance, literature, painting and other types of visual arts, radio and, above all, the new medium of film, and their blending into novel artistic formations were paid great attention too.
This thematic section follows the Czech resistance movement, raising the question of to what extent artists were part of it and how composers contributed with their music. One of the cases in point in this respect is Bohuslav Martinů’s Field Mass, a “kind of prayer for the native country and an expression of homesickness, which I convey in tones on behalf of all of us”, as the composer himself wrote.
The life and suffering of the composers imprisoned in the Theresienstadt camp-ghetto is one of Musica non grata’s main themes. This part of the project includes summer schools and collaboration with the Terezín Composers' Institute, Terezín Memorial, Jewish Museum in Prague and Eternal Hope initiative, and is devoted to the life and rich music of the Terezín composers.
Flight and exile – expulsion and “blurred identities”. Prague provided exile for many, yet it was also a place from where artists were forced to flee to safety. Research within this segment will seek artistic answers to the questions of home and exile, and map the lives of artists who were compelled to leave their countries.