Hans Krása and Pavel Haas.. yet they still resound!
The State Opera resounded with tones of less-known compositions by Hans Krása and Pavel Haas. You can enjoy the concert recording in February, we will share it with you on the social networks of the National Theater Opera. Until then, have a look at some photos from the recording.
The State Opera Orchestra and soloist Veronika Hajnová performed the Symphony 1923 by Hans Krasa under the direction of chief conductor and music director Karel Heinz Steffens. Josef Moravec, Jaroslav Březina, Jiří Hájek and Ivo Hrachovec paid tribute to Guglielmo Marconi with the song Radio Overtüre op.11 by Pavel Haas.
We would like to thank to all the performers, the artistic and technical departments of the State Opera and the video studio. Many thanks also go to the conductors Mr. Richard Hein and Jana Mimrová.
Happy New Year 2021!
Musica non grata, full of newly discovered classical music and art, raised its curtain for the first time on 30.8. 2020 at the State Opera and plyed the tones of Bohuslav Martinů, Vítězslava Kaprálová and Alexander Zemlinsky. Unfortunately, it left it closed for the rest of the year and waited for another moment to offer its audience another piece of the rich programme. In December, we made a video clip for the Suite from the opera Brundibár by Hans Krása, directed by Magdalena Švecová and conducted by Jana Cecílie Mimrová. With the Orchestra of the National Theater, we celebrated Bohuslav Martinů's 130th Birthday with a recording of the H199 Serenade and the song "Stop the Music" from the opera Špalíček performed by Marie Fajtová and conducted by Jaroslav Kyzlink. Both recordings will be ready for you during January. Behind the scenes, we are working on an online database of Czech-German-Jewish composers and artists who lived or worked in interwar Prague, because Musica non grata is a celebration of music as a creative human force, pays homage to a legacy of human dignity and presents an opportunity to rediscover music that can never be really silenced, that still resounds and must resound for centuries to come.
The entire Musica non grata team is looking forward to the rest of the season, to a series of morning chamber music concerts at the State Opera, to the gala concert Homage to Igor Stravinsky at the National Theater, to the premiere of Franz Schreker's avant-garde opera Der ferne Klang directed by Timofey Kulyabin, starring Svetlana Aksenová.
The planned premiere of the family opera Schwanda the Bagpiper by Jaromír Weinberger is rescheduled to the next theater season, in the Autumn of 2021. The concerts Music of Terezín Composers, PhilHarmonia Octet and the performance of the children's opera Brundibár in cooperation with the Eternal Hope festival is also postponed to the Autumn 2021.
We wish you a happy year 2021, a year full of artistic and musical experiences.
Sincerely, the team Musica non grata
Celebration of the 130th Birthday of Bohuslav Martinů
At the Estates Theater, together with the Orchestra of the National Theater led by Jaroslav Kyzlink, the director of the Bohuslav Martinů Institute, Mr. Aleš Březina, and the soloist Maria Fajtová, we celebrated the 130th anniversary of the birth of the prominent Czech composer Bohuslav Martinů. And how did we celebrate? We recorded the songs Serenade H199 and "Stop the Music" from the opera Špalíček for you. The recording will be ready in January 2021 on the online channels of the National Theater.
Something is up...
The State Opera Orchestra, conducted by Jana Cecília Mimrová, is shooting a video clip for the Suite from the opera Brundibár by Hans Krása. The video clip is directed by the theater and opera director Magdaléna Švecová in collaboration with video artist Tomáš Hrůza and set designer David Janošek. Petr Jirsa and Jiří Hejna undertook the choreography of the dancers from the Ballet of the National Theater Opera. The video clip will premiere in February 2021.
Listen to the Christmas online concert of the German Embassy and the Academy of Chamber Music
Recording of a live performance at the German Embassy in Prague in collaboration with the Academy of Chamber Music and its lecturers, cellist Peter Jarůšek and flutist Oto Reiprich. You can look forward to wind and string works by Antonín Rejcha, Henri Tomasi and Bohuslav Martinů.
The German Embassy wishes everyone a beautiful and happy Christmas, peaceful holidays, good health and all the best until 2021.
Opera Advent Calendar
The National Theater Opera and the State Opera prepared a series of performances, aries and songs for you for each day of an Advent. Open a new window on Facebook with us.
Musica non grata in the German opera magazine Orpheus
The November issue of the German magazine not only about the opera Orpheus presents the project Musica non grata.
The author of the article is Florian Maier. We have translated the article for you. We wish you a nice reading.
Orpheus, November / December 2020
And yet it resounds ...
With the large-scale Musica non grata project, the Prague opera houses have been reviving a chapter in the history of the time and the music that the Nazi regime labelled as “degenerate”, thus concurrently building a memorial for the present and future alike. Florian Maier
Man creates it, lives with it and from it. Man destroys it. Music has always worked in society as an explosive and subversive expressive force, owing precisely to which it has infuriated authoritarian powers. The traditional reaction is censorship. Whereas in earlier times performances of music were banned or works had to be remade to the point of unrecognizability, during the period of National Socialism the stigma of the undesirable also led to the darkest chapter of humankind within music history. The “non-Aryan” composers and those who were at odds with the ideology of the Nazi dictatorship for other reasons were brutally muted. Many lost their lives in concentration camps, others fell silent in exile or sought safety in an inconspicuous existence. A forcible incision with consequences that are still perceptible today. The natural perpetuation of musical development was severed all at once, the artistic ideas of an entire generation were quashed under the banner of cultural racism and shut out from the creative atmosphere of their time as “degenerate”. As a result, there emerged blind spots in music history, which would not be filled in for many years to come.
In the shadow of the Holocaust
Fortunately, the composers ostracised at the time have since experienced belated acknowledgement in many places – and since this year within an extraordinary major project pursued by Prague opera houses. Initiated by Per Boye Hansen, who since 2019 has held the post of artistic director of the National Theatre Opera and the State Opera, this August saw the launch of the Musica non grata cycle, which will stretch over four years. Three quarters of a century after the end of WWII, it has linked up to Prague’s illustrious pre-1938 musical tradition. The project lets the past speak eloquently, as up until the outbreak of the war Prague was viewed as a hub of the Central European opera scene. For centuries, the “Golden City” on the Vltava was a place where three cultures – Czech, German and Jewish – mingled and coexisted, a melting pot providing a fertile ground for conductors to work together productively, amidst a mutually stimulating competitive environment. The stylistic pluralism predominant in the early 20th century did the rest, and thus Prague became a veritable hothouse for creative cosmopolitans, magically attracting sharp minds of the time. Between 1911 and 1927, the opera company of the Neues deutsches Theater (today’s State Opera) was helmed by Alexander Zemlinsky, who maintained close contacts with Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Franz Schreker and Arnold Schönberg, to name but a few.
On 15 March 1939, the Nazi forces marched into the Czechoslovak capital. The occupation authorities went on to wantonly wreck the treasures of the abundant and diverse artistic creation, which resulted in disastrous irredeemable cultural losses. Not even dead composers, such as Alban Berg, were spared. Works by Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy and Gustav Mahler, figures who had significantly influenced the development of European music, fell victim to the racist madness too. Can we sense in the music dating from that era an impending catastrophe, and can the years preceding WWII be characterised as a dance on a volcano? Per Boye Hansen refers to the composers of “degenerate music” as “children of their time, each with a specific background and sources”. Therefore, as he points out, they cannot be collectively and automatically considered a musical seismograph with a kindred musical idiom, a barometer of the atmosphere of an imminent disaster. “The time was not gloomy, oppressive, late-Romantic, merely linked with dark, complex issues of humankind. It was also a time of entertainment, a time of many joys, with theatre thriving – and Zemlinsky profiled himself in this area adroitly. It is important that we don’t see these years only in the shadow of the Holocaust and the related colossal tragedy, we should comprehend and rediscover this time in all its facets and contrasts.”
To carry out the project, Hansen and his team have available three Prague opera houses: the State Opera, the centre of the Jewish-German interwar culture; the National Theatre on the bank of the river Vltava; and the Estates Theatre, which went down in history as the venue of the world premiere of Mozart’s Don Giovanni. The three historical buildings host the events of the Musica non grata cycle, featuring a refined and challenging programme. Besides staged opera productions, symphony and chamber music concerts and song recitals, it encompasses symposia and research projects focusing on the subject of “degenerate music”, whose aim it is to provide new food for thought for musicologists and music lovers.
Although World War II eventually ended, these themes would remain overlooked for a long time. The “Golden City” was not what it used to be. A large proportion of the Prague Jewish population had been “eradicated”, the Germans expelled, while the Czechs were traumatised – and soon, as citizens of a satellite state of the Soviet Union, they were engulfed by another 20th-century totalitarian regime and disappeared behind the Iron Curtain. The erstwhile “hub of the Central European opera scene” would be muted for decades. “Bringing the impulses back to life took a long time. The Russian government strove to cover up and conceal the German tradition,” Hansen explains. “What’s more, the aura of the late-Romantic composers was no longer ‘comme il faut’, with the 1950s and 1960s modernists even perceiving it as reactionary and outmoded.”
A great project with a symbolic nature
Hansen is not the first to have set the objective of bringing Prague’s musical past back to the public consciousness. In the wake of the Velvet Revolution, the 1990s saw attempts at making amends with music by Jewish composers, particularly Hans Krása and Pavel Haas. Yet, 75 years after the end of WWII, it is surely not by chance that the current cycle has been promoted and generously funded by the Czech government and the German foreign ministry alike. Virtually the whole Czech operatic landscape is participating in the coproduction of the four-year artistic project, including the Eternal Hope festival, dedicated to the work of the Theresienstadt composers. A specific and highly intriguing item is the theme “Music from a female hand”, as the 1920s and early 1930s was the time of emancipation of female composers such as Vítězslava Kaprálová and Geraldine Mucha. These are signals of a symbolic nature, reaching far beyond Prague. All the performances and concerts to be given within the Musica non grata cycle will be streamed, while some of them will also be available on DVD, CD and in online archives.
Loosely paraphrasing the legendary sentence “Yet it moves” reputedly uttered by Galileo Galilei, Per Boye Hansen and his team furnished the cycle with the telling subtitle “… and yet it resounds”, entirely in the sense of belated justice for many wrongfully excluded, persecuted, expelled and murdered artists. Their music lives on, whereas dictators – supposedly powerful – were overwhelmed by their own powerlessness. But Musica non grata is also a project that, with regard to the current global political upheaval and repression against artistic independence and freedom, could not be more up-to-date. And, by giving appreciation to the 20th-century musical creativity, it is a vital memorial for the future of our society, a “homage to the art that cannot be silenced”. Let us hope that the pandemic will not thwart this ambitious project.
State Opera and Deutschlandfunk Kultur´s programme about Musica non grata opening concert
Deutschlandfunk Kultur, in cooperation with the State Opera, prepared a recording of the opening concert of Musica non grata, which took place on 30 August. 2020. Enjoy the compositions by Vítězslava Kaprálová, Alexander Zemlinsky and Bohuslav Martinů performed by the Chorus and Orchestra of the State Opera. Conductor: Karl Heinz Steffens. Alice Rajnohová, piano, Jan Kalfus, organs, and Svatopluk Sem, baritone are introduced in solo parts.
The recording of the concert is accompanied by comments by Volker Michael and interviews with Mr. K.H. Steffens.
Musica non grata: Music by Terezín composers is moved to the next season
Sadly, the concert Music by Terezín Composers by Musica non grata and a music festival Eternal Hope planned for 14.10. at 19:30 in the State Opera, is due to the progress of the covid-19 pandemic cancelled and moved to the next season. We truly believe that the conditions then will be more suitable for the visitors as well as for our atrtists and that we will be allowed to enjoy one month filled with extraordinary classical music and cultural programmes. Guests who have provided an e-mail or telephone number when purchasing tickets will be contacted by the sales department. Others can contact the theatre on the infoline: +420 224 901 448 or email: email@example.com.
Thank you for understanding. Wishing you all a good health.
The opening concert Musica non grata review
The State Opera opening concert for the season 2020/2021 also launched a four-year cycle Musica non grata. The State Opera Orchestra and Chorus presented pieces by Vítězslava Kaprálová, Alexander Zemlinsky and Bohuslav Martinů. The concert was conducted by the State Opera Music Director Karl-Heinz Steffens.
Mr. Jan Burian, the direcor of the National Theatre, opened the evenig with welcome speech. The invitation to the stage accepted also the Minister of Culture, Lubomír Zaorálek, the first Mayor of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg Mr. Peter Tschentscher and Mr. Tomáš Kraus, the Secretary of Federation of Jewish Communities in Czech Republic. The magazine Harmonia wrote:
"Karl-Heinz Steffens is a conductor rather inconspicuous, but clearly extremely responsible. You could see that he had studied all four scores in the smallest detail, and no doubt knew exactly what he wanted. The orchestra and choir also performed high-quality and sophisticated performances. If you add to this a program booklet with a contained text by the dramaturg Ondřej Hučín, it is impossible to say that the State Opera's entry into the upcoming concert season was successful."
Thank you all for coming to our concert.
The National Theater starts performing in full
By implementing increased hygiene measures and a new logistics regime the National Theatre will perform for a full capacity in all NT buildings: the National Theater, the Estate Theater, the State Opera and Nová scéna. All purchased tickets for the following months remain valid for all performances and for all visitors.
The National Theater is introducing sector seating and increased hygiene and safety measures. When visiting the National Theater’s buildings, according to Government regulations, it is obligatory for all visitors to wear a face mask. As from 1st September, visitors attending any performances and cultural events must be seated in individual sectors. The architecture of the theater buildings’ interiors enables to segment the auditoriums into individual sectors of max 500 people and therefor to provide increased safety measures to all visitors. For this purpose, ground floor, balconies and galleries will be used. The arrival of visitors, their stay in the theater and their subsequent departure will be organize in a special regime, so that visitors of the individual sectors are separated from each other during the whole stay and do not meet in areas such are foyer and snack bars, toilets or cloakrooms. Specially trained ushers will help visitors to enter / exit the building by separate entrances / exits and stairways.
Hand disinfection will be available at all theater’s buildings. Disposable face masks can be purchased directly at the theaters.
Thank you for respecting the Government regulations. We can do this together.
Musica non grata is financially supported by the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany
Heiko Maas, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Germany
“75 years after the end of World War II and 30 years after the Velvet Revolution, the National Theatre in Prague and other venues will resound to the music of composers who were persecuted and silenced by the Nazi regime. Commemorating such artists and their creative powers is one of the ways of setting right the injustice they suffered. By providing support to the Musica non grata project, we aim to further strengthen the Czech-German friendship, while also highlighting the extraordinary cultural value of our common history. Such cooperation is all the more important during the current crisis.”