Tuesday, February 21, 2012: White Rabbits and Princesses

Prague Philharmonia

Little audience members dressed up as princesses and danced on stage at the concert

White Rabbits and Princesses: Fairy Tale Music

What I really don’t need when I go to a concert are entertainers, in Czech called “moderators,” to hype an event and tell people what they should think and do.

Unless they come dressed as white rabbits, that is.

The Prague Philharmonia performed “Fairy Tales for Children” at the Rudolfinum Sun, Feb 12. Concert-goers were treated to an evening of wonderful music interspersed with theatrical hi-jinks and a children-friendly atmosphere including an underlying for-charity context.

The first part of the concert focused on classical fairy tale music including from The Nutcracker and Sleeping Beauty. Some little princesses were chosen from the audience, costumed for a ball, and then they danced on stage with the moderators.

After the intermission, the orchestra played music from the popular Czech children’s bedtime TV show “Večerníček”. They were accompanied by a choir, wearing paper hats like those in the introduction to the TV show, squeezed in around the massive organ above the stage.

“Večerníček” has been a popular TV show for children for generations now, and there is something to be said for characters that have endured this test of time. On the other hand, a number of clearly dated stereotypes from the show were carried over into the concert by the moderators. These would likely have been considered offensive by North American audiences.

This being a predominantly children’s event with the winners of an owl drawing contest announced, the need for moderators is understandable. To a large degree, their antics were amusing and entertaining. Some were clearly hit-and-miss. But the biggest mistake would be to think that children, and indeed even adults, would not appreciate an evening based solely on the familiar and beautiful music of fairy tales.

That said, the moderators faced a daunting task: gymnastics and costume changes in the little space left around the orchestra, and for the most discerning audience of all — very small children. They did a fine job of balancing the theatrics without overshadowing or overpowering the Prague Philharmonia orchestra. In fact, the conductor participated actively and was consulted by the moderators on the main focus of the evening — the music.

Two of the moderators had first appeared on stage as incidental white rabbits created by magic. Towards the end, Wolf and Hare, the eastern side of the Iron Curtain’s answer to Coyote and Road Runner, were playing chase all over the stage.

Fairy tale music played by a professional, live orchestra was, however, the stalwart of the evening that rose above stereotypes and propaganda — an ethereal triumph over rabbits in hats. — oo

–Hana Škrdlová and Frank Trollman

Photo Credits: Frank Trollman

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