The Czech Republic’s ‘Go To’ Destinations (October issue)

by Mary Matz

Soprano Amy Rosine, accompanied by Jaroslav Šaroun (l) performs in the charming chapel at Karlík

First-timer in the Czech Republic Dr Amy Rosine, assistant professor of music at Kansas State University, visited Europe in mid-July. She stopped off at the historic city of Český Krumlov, and at the village of Karlík near the growing town of Dobřichovice to give a special voice concert July 24. She describes her preparations and the surprises involved for a foreign performer.

“Being my first European visit,” she says, “I didn’t really know what to expect. I went with an open mind. I think in Prague what struck me visually was the breadth of historical structures spanning many centuries.  I loved looking at all of the different periods of architectural design.  I did not expect to find so many signs in English – it was very helpful!”

She continues, “The surprises I received were all very good ones.  I was treated so well in both Český Krumlov and Dobřichovice, especially for an essentially ‘unknown’ singer. I was surprised at the large audience, especially in Dobřichovice.”

Dr Rosine’s university is located in Manhattan, Kansas — a sister city of Dobřichovice. Since she was planning to sing at an Army base in Germany, Dr Rosine also decided “it would be fun to visit Manhattan’s sister city,” she explains. The Army performance fell through, but with the help of Helena Hronová, a local translator, she arranged concerts in both Czech towns.

*Watch Amy Rosine in an excerpt from her concert. Click “Too” in the top menu bar.

Funding for her trip came from several sources, including the university. As in all classical music endeavors, “Funding is a big issue,” she notes, “so I had to prepare a grant proposal for the University. I also applied for funding from Sigma Alpha Iota Music Fraternity.” She also had to find a piano accompanist who could work with her budget parameters as well as the technical level for the music she sings. “Helena Hronová and her contacts took care of this and I was able to engage Jaroslav Šaroun (professor of music and well-known pianist).  I am so very grateful to him for playing.”

The first goal of this personable, friendly soprano was to visit Germany “because I really wanted to experience the language that I teach my [voice] students,” she says. “I also wanted to visit a Holocaust site because I perform music for soprano and clarinet that focuses on the Holocaust.” So her itinerary also included stopoffs in Dachau, Nürnberg and München.

Unfortunately, her luck ran out when she tried to attend some performances of Czech classical and vocal music. “I had hoped to hear some Czech singers. We tried to see Don Giovanni in the Czech Republic, but it was sold out.”

The music professor says she studied the programs from several Czech concerts, from church concerts to an international festival. “I expected to see a real variety of music, and was surprised that many of the concerts were quite similar – Schubert’s Ave Maria and other standard church offerings.

“For the international festival I thought I would see more international performers and international music on the programs.  It seemed very ‘straight forward’ — perhaps that is to appeal to a general audience?” she asks.

She admits, however, that “being in an academic setting, I am used to being surrounded by a wide variety of musical styles and genres.  I also have a wide range of interests in vocal music from across the centuries.”

On the other hand, she says, “I love the fact that Mozart — my favorite composer — is still held in such high esteem in Prague and that everyone knows the Largo from Dvorak’s New World Symphony.  That shows how ingrained the national composers are in the public.”

Now that Dr Rosine has had her first taste of some Czech culture at its source, she plans to return. “I hope to bring students over [to the Czech Republic] in the next 2-3 years,” she says. “I’d like to have a focus on ‘Mozart’s Prague’ and a language study.”

An unexpected taste of authentic history awaits visitors to the Czech Republic

Dr Rosine comments on her forays into mastering the Czech language,  “I found pronouncing the Czech language fun and I plan to dig in and learn some before I return.” She admits that she struggles with the Czech ‘ř’ sound — as do most foreigners.

About her first visit she says, “This was a wonderful, educational, professional and personally fulfilling trip.  There is so much more that I want to see and experience in Prague and the Czech Republic.

“As a musician we study the countries for years, and to actually see the places where the music originated is an experience every professional musician should be able to have.” oo

Photo Credits: Amy Rosine and Jaromír Šaroun at Karlík (2), Miroslav Setnička; children at nearby Dobřichovice medieval fair, Mary Matz.

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