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Winter Warm-ups

by Mary Matz

Venues of Notes

Sure, the concert hall is a great place to perform.

But classical music or even opera in a cozy coffee house? Well, why not?

Although still somewhat rare in Prague, it’s possible to find a café or coffee house (kavárna) where you can enjoy a steamy cup of fresh-brewed coffee and listen to music — not only the standard pop or jazz — but live classical music.

“I like putting classical music and opera in a cozier environment, or where people aren’t expecting to hear classical music,” soprano Diana Aivia tells Opus Osm. “I’ve found that I really like being able to communicate with the audience, with looks and gestures and smiles that wouldn’t ‘read’ to a big audience hidden behind footlights.”

Ms Aivia has performed with her Muses Trio at art exhibitions, and in cafés such as Friends Coffee House and Choco Café, both warm, inviting venues in the center of the city. However, the trio’s performance on a rickety balcony overlooking a private party in an old converted warehouse was “a little harrowing,” she admits. But, she adds, “I felt like a queen up there!”

‘Alternative’ Classical Music

Friends Coffee House has hosted classical music

Tomáš Knapek is a co-owner of Friends Coffee House, which since its opening last spring has hosted about half a dozen live music performances: some rock, some solo, and one classical, the Trio.

“Classical music is not our main style, but it was a good alternative to the mainstream music that we had,” he explains. “We want to offer various performances that make sense in our establishment and that our target audience likes.”

Patricie Ebelová of Cukrárna and Museum Alchymista, and Galerie Scarabeus, says their tea house, coffee museum, and art exhibition space between Stromovka and Letna parks also occasionally hosts concerts. “But it’s not always classical,” she says.

‘Alternative’ Considerations

Performing in a non-traditional location definitely presents some alternative challenges, though. “We need to make sure our customers know about the [classical music] event and be prepared to listen to it,” Mr Knapek says. “Some classical music can be very expressive,” so he thinks classical music “works great if it is background music where people can continue talking and drinking coffee.”

Ms Ebelová is enthusiastic about performances, but cites the problem that “in the near future I don’t have musicians who want to play,” she says.

Soprano Aivia says from her point of view, “the hardest part is the coordination.” She says it takes “ages” to find a place to perform, the right person to talk to, and to arrange a good date for the performance. For these events she does her own publicity, in addition to arranging for the printed program and rehearsals.

But the rewards are special: “The audience talks to you afterwards, they ask you questions, they tell you what they liked best. It’s fun,” she says.

And isn’t that kind of communication what makes classical music so rewarding — for everyone? oo

Photo Credits: Prague street, Zuzana Pernicova; Coffee house interior, Friends Coffee House

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