Monday, March 14, 2011: Prague’s Newest Stage

Miriam Němcová conducts the Prague Conservatory Symphony Orchestra in the new school concert hall. The crystal windows and new organ can be seen at the back.

Eduard Douša was there. So were Mozart, Brahms, and Shostakovich. The evening was rounded out with a brilliant performance by Smetana.

They all appeared in musical form at the official opening of the new concert hall at The Prague Conservatory of Music March 9 and 10.

Their compositions were brought for the first time to the new facility by the school’s brass quintet, brass and woodwind orchestras, string orchestra, and symphony orchestra, under the direction of the corresponding faculty conductors.

The concert hall itself was brought to the Prague music scene through financial support from the Capital City of Prague, and the design of architect Karel Sehyl of the Arch Tech architectural firm.

The wood-panelled concert hall with balcony can host about 70 musicians and the “lucky number of 333 guests,” remarked school director Pavel Trojan at the opening ceremonies. The concert hall connects directly with the conservatory, which originally was a monastery.

Seating fits around the face of the oval stage, eliminating the usual gap between audience and performers

A new-age contribution to the new space, however, are the crystal windows in the rear wall of the stage. These narrow glass strips gently change color from aqua blue to green to light violet, reminding visitors of the Conservatory’s close relationship to the next-door Vltava River.

Also notable is the rather oval shape of the 1600 sq m concert hall, creating a markedly intimate, shared space between the audience and performers. Parts of the approximately 120 sq m stage can be raised as needed.

The new facility also offers air conditioning, wheelchair accessibility, catering and buffet services, and a box office located near the main door. For the performers, the architects included modern dressing rooms complete with lockers and showers. A Steinway concert grand piano and a three-manual pipe organ also will help provide great performance experiences for students and audience alike.

A recording studio, wide-screen projection facilities located above the stage, and the audio-visual system have all been designed for maximum versatility. “Despite constant changes in AV technology, the system should have an effective practical life of ten years,” explains architect Sehyl. “Its open design allows for convenient replacement or expansion of all the AV elements. Plus, it gives students the unique opportunity to experience the effect of AV technology upon the practical lessons they’ve learned in their studies.”

“This concert hall is Prague Conservatory’s 200th anniversary gift to our students,” remarked director Trojan. The conservatory was founded on April 25, 1808 with the beginning of a subscription drive. The first classes were taught on April 24, 1811. Thus, the Conservatory has been celebrating its 200th anniversary for the past three years.

Another landmark has been achieved because this concert hall is the first purpose-built facility to be added to the Prague music landscape in nearly100 years, according to the director.

And already, a school official says, the Conservatory has received inquiries from other musicians who would like to perform on Prague’s newest stage. oo

– Mary Matz

Photo Credits: Miroslav Setnička

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