Tuesday, June 7, 2011: Smetana’s Festival

The 16th-century Litomyšl Castle, the site of many Festival programs

Opera Festival in a 16th Century Castle

The annual Smetana’s Litomyšl International Opera Festival opens Friday and runs almost every day through July 4. The festival, initiated in 1949, honors the birthplace of Bedřich Smetana. He lived here for the first seven years of his life, from 1824-1831.

The varied program centers on the 16th-century Renaissance Litomyšl Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage List site. Programs take place in the castle’s second courtyard (with seating for over 1,000, and retractable roof) and the castle amphitheatre (seating more than 2,000), qualifying Smetana’s Litomyšl as the largest open-air classical music festival in the Czech Republic, according to its organizers. Other venues include the castle’s Baroque theatre (133 seats), the Audience Hall, Smetana’s House, and the Church of the Raising of the Holy Cross.

A wide range of music, plus a little theatre and dance as well, is scheduled for the three-week festival. Tickets for many events are sold out long in advance, so if you’re considering a trip to Litomyšl for the festival, check for ticket availability first. (In any case, Litomyšl itself is an interesting destination.) Festival organizers are expecting up to 14,000 visitors during the Festival’s run.

Just some of the highlights of this year’s festival:

The Ceremonial Opening Concert, 8 pm June 10: Vocal music by four soloists and the Czech Philharmonic Choir Brno.

The charming town of Litomyšl, home of Smetana and his Festival

Sacred Music in Bohemia, c. 1600, 4 pm June 11: Masses, motets, more performed by Octopus Pragensis.

Mini-Operas for Children and Youth, 4 and 7 pm June 15: A selection, performed by the Children’s Opera Prague.

Dagmar Pecková On the Road, 8 pm June 16: A jubilee gala concert on the 30th anniversary of this leading Czech soprano’s career.

Smetana, Novák, Mahler, 6 pm June 19: A concert of Czech masterpieces, performed by the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra.

The Rite of Spring, 9 pm June 22: Petr Zuska’s choreography, performed by the National Theatre Ballet.

Symphonia Gregoriana, 4 pm June 25 and 6 pm June 26: Vocal music of Zelenka and Eben; Eva Bublová, organ, and Roman Janal, baritone, with the Czech Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra.

A Tribute to Czech Musical Artists, 6 pm June 28: Smetana, Lukáš, Dvořák, Martinů, performed by the Kuhn Children’s Choir.

Jenufa, 9 pm July 1: Janáček’s opera, in Czech with German and English subtitles. Performed by Eva Urbanová, Dana Burešová, Tomáš Černý, Aleš Briscein, and the Opera Ensemble of the National Theatre.

From My Life, 4 pm July 2: Works by Ivana Loudová, Smetana, Jaroslav Smolka, and Dvořák. Performed by Jitka Hosprová, viola, and the Wihan Quartet.

Stars of the Operatic Sky, 7:30 pm July 4: Closing gala concert featuring coloratura soprano Sumi Jo. — oo

Photo Credits: The Town of Litomyšl website

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