Monday, April 16, 2012: Spectre at the Castle!

Opus Osm

The Prague Philharmonic Choir appears Apr 25 in The Spectre's Bride. Lukáš Vasilek is choirmaster.

The Spectre’s Bride Comes to the Castle!

It is a tale that is common to cultures all across Europe, irrespective of language barriers. It is a close relative to tales of vampires and werewolves.

About 150 years ago, this eery tale was retold to reflect profoundly Christian beliefs, and then set to music in 1884 by Antonín Dvořák. On the 25th of April, the Prague Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra, with the Prague Philharmonic Choir, will perform The Spectre’s Bride, or The Wedding Shirts, Opus 69 in the most ceremonious hall of Prague Castle, the Spanish Hall, in honor of the composer.

The original author, Karel Jaromir Erben was an icon of 19th century Czech literature. Although Erben believed that music should precede words, it was actually Dvořák who succeeded in creating the music to turn Erben’s gloomy epic poem into a genial thematic whole that perfectly matches the text.

Erben spent years working as an archivist in Prague and so was well-versed in Czech history. The Wedding Shirts is a ballad from his most famous collection of poems, “The Bouquet.”

“The Bouquet” is itself a collection of motifs from Czech ballads and songs, many of which have striking similarities to those found elsewhere in Europe. Specifically, The Wedding Shirts was inspired by a tale about the graveyard at Velhartice.

Opus OsmIt tells the story of one of the living dead come for one of the living, due to an act of folly. There is evil afoot with a graveyard and mortuary chapel, and corpses coming to life.

But religious faith ultimately triumphs.

The performance of the cantata The Wedding Shirts at Prague Castle is the final project in the Prague Philharmonic’s cycle of extraordinary concerts to celebrate the works of Antonín Dvořák. In addition, Slovak soprano Maria Porubčinová, young tenor Ladislav Elgr, and baritone Ivan Kusnjer will appear, under the direction of Tomáš Netopil, all of whom will, two days later, perform the same concert at the Theatre an der Wein in Austria.

So, zombie wedding, anyone? — oo

– Hana and Frank Trollman

Photo Credits: Top: Miroslav Setnička; bottom, Prague Philharmonia website

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