Being an opera lover who lives outside the home counties means expensive trips to London or to west country cities to catch the Welsh National Opera.
However, quality opera performances and productions do not appear to come
much more low-cost than Prague.
There, the National Theatre (Narodni
Divadlo), together with its little sister, the Estates Theatre, and the State Opera (Statni Opera) provide excellent performances.
The NT has a stunning little auditorium in a large building so there is plenty of room for bars and restaurants. With its superb orchestra it
provides a substantial diet of the classics whilst putting on more Czech opera than the opposition.
The musical and production standards are very
high. Really worth catching are Jenufa (I have seen Anja Silja, Rosalind Plowright and Eva Randova all give wonderful and different versions of the
Kostelnicka), Dvorak's The Devil and Kate (why isn't this hilarious twist on the Orpheus and Euridice story more popular abroad? As fine as Hansel and
Gretel, it is perfomed most Sunday mornings to hoards of delighted children) and an operatic version of Verdi's Requiem. The musical director, Oliver
Dohnanyi, conducts regularly. The intendant is the superb designer Daniel Dvorak who often works in tandem with the theatre director, Jiri Neksavil. Jenufa is the best I have seen.
The State Opera, with a larger auditorium, squeezed into a smaller building is more variable and more based on the classics. Former conductors include Mahler, Klemperer and Szell. Both houses have excellent productions of
Dvorak's Rusulka. The best principals seem to appear in both houses and occasionaly one is spoilt for choice with Aida or Carmen on at both houses
on the same night.
Hardly surprisingly, as the birthplace of Don Giovanni and Il Clemenza diTito, the gorgeous little Estates Theatre mostly does Mozart and Donizetti. In all
the theatres opera prices are extraordinarily low by our standards; £20 - £25 for the best seats. The subtitles are in English, as are large sections
of the programme notes which come in paperback books at the NT for about £1
or glossy magazines elsewhere. Tickets are usually available at the box offices if you go between September and March or are easy to book online
www.narodni-divadlo.cz will show full repertoire and let you book. They also run the Estates Theatre). For the State Opera, details can be found on
operacz/en/index/opera and booking made through Bohemia Ticket: www.BohemiaTicket.cz
Forget hotels: go for apartments. Mary's Travel in Prague can put you near the NT for about £20 a night. Restaurants cater for every taste and nationality. Czech food itself is filling with the ubiquitous dumpling and meats acting as a ballast.
The city itself? Need one say more than it holds the most varied and
stunning architecture? Prague is an opera lover's paradise.
Breathtaking - the theatre is a gorgeous confection both inside and out, the performances are great and where better to see Don Giovanni than in the very theatre where it had its 1787 world premiere, conducted by the composer himself.
Estates theatre (the big greeny blue one)
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