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What Really Goes on …?

by Mary Matz

Before the Curtain Goes Up: a Lot of Digging, Pounding, Painting …

Where do you go when your conservatory of music runs out of space?

The Prague Conservatory of Music went down and out. Down: construction crews dug down 4 meters, under an old cellar. (They found ceramics, a golden ring, and other objects from the Middle Ages; for a while everything stopped for the archeologists.) And out: across the old school yard. (A centuries-old well, now dry, is incorporated into the new space.)

Work progresses on the concert hall

The resulting new concert hall with capacity for 70 musicians and 330 guests, and new theatre seating 100, will open at the end of winter.

Just in time to complete the Conservatory’s 200th Anniversary celebrations which started three years ago.

The Conservatory was founded April 25, 1808 with six aristocrats’ proclamation providing start-up funds for an orchestra and school.

The first actual classes began on April 24, 1811. In between they were busy with a subscription drive — minimum contribution, 100 silver coins.

Thus, the 21st century, anniversary celebrations continue for three years.

Concerts Coming!

Visitors to the world-famous Prague Spring music festival will get to see at least one concert in the Conservatory’s new concert hall (Amadinda Percussion Group, mezzo soprano Katalin Karolyi, May 17). Another 160 or so conservatory concerts are regularly scheduled in the new hall featuring a warm, wood-paneled, intimate main floor and a balcony.

(Conservatory concerts are open to the public, and generally free of charge. You can find a schedule by clicking on Events Calendar at the top of this page.)

Parts of the stage can be elevated according to need, according to deputy director Aleš Kaňka, and performers can also record their works here, thanks to the new, fully-equipped recording studio control room perched on the second floor above the auditorium.

Across the hall, the new theatre, rebuilt from former rehearsal hall space, is slated to host half a hundred theatrical performances a year. It was financed by European funds, with a sizable contribution from the country of Norway.

The December concert featured vocal music from Norway ...

Students from partner school Heimdal Upper Secondary School, Trondeim, Norway, joined Prague Conservatory students in an opening concert in the theatre Dec 16.

“Our students have often come to Prague for the music,” Heimdal’s music department manager Randi Dugstad tells Opus Osm.

“But this is the first time we’ve performed in a concert. It takes a lot of work to prepare for this new experience, and in a concert hall; usually they perform at their school.”

Will they come back again? “I hope so — yes!” she says enthusiastically.

Anniversary Gift

“This is the opening of a new chapter for the Conservatory,” says school director Pavel Trojan. “This is our 200th Anniversary gift to our own students.”

as well as from Prague

Not a bad gift, when you consider that for many years in its history, the Conservatory was housed in a former monastery. Students used the former monk cells as practice rooms.

We’re pretty sure the elbow room — and the heating — are better now. oo

  • Watch an excerpt from a Prague Conservatory student’s performance at the opening concert. Click on ‘Too,’ above.

Photo Credits: All photos: Miroslav Setnička

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