3 GR8 Music Festivals 2 GO 2

The Bennewitz Quartet performs May 30 as part of the Prague Spring International Music Festival

The Bennewitz Quartet performs May 30 as part of the Prague Spring International Music Festival

Warm weather brings a tempting list of classical musical festivals to the Czech Republic. Here’s a quick look at just three … and at one of them, audiences will be offered free Wifi and asked to switch their mobile phones on.

School’s nearly out, summer is coming … and that means it’s time to make plans for a summer of hot music at annual music festivals. But festivals aren’t only for teenagers and pop music. The classics are getting in on the action — with more and different festivals offered every year.

Here’s a quick look at just three that are worth the trip. And we promise you won’t have to sleep in a tent, slog through rainy, muddy fields, or worry about someone splashing beer on your toes.

The 69th Prague Spring International Music Festival, May 12 – June 3

The Mahler Chamber Orchestra performs May 20 in a concert featuring pianist/conductor Leif Ove Andsnes, who was inspired by elevator music to play Beethoven's five piano concertos and his 'Choral Fantasy' in 60 concerts in 10 countries.

The Mahler Chamber Orchestra performs May 20 in a concert featuring pianist/conductor Leif Ove Andsnes, who was inspired by elevator music to play Beethoven’s five piano concertos and his ‘Choral Fantasy’ in 60 concerts in 10 countries.

We start with the “granddaddy” of them all, Prague Spring. This year you can choose from about 50 different concerts, from the grand orchestras to the intimate ensembles, to solo performers all singing and / or playing their hearts out. Just a few of the headliners: Wiener Philharmoniker with pianist Lang Lang; Bamberger Symphoniker, Jonathan Nott, conductor; violinist Julia Fischer; and of course, the home favorites such as the Prague Symphony Orchestra (FOK), Czech Philharmonic, Prague Philharmonia-PKF, and many more. New this year: Debut concert for a conductor under age 32; an entire weekend (May 30-June 1) of 10 concerts devoted to Czech-related chamber music; and even a massive art exhibition, “Vivat Musica!” showing off The National Gallery’s collection of works related to music. Ticket prices range from free to more than 7 000 crowns — and everything in between, with many tickets for 400 crowns or less. In Prague. www.festival.cz
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Smetana’s Litomyšl, June 13 – July 6

Never fear, organizers of Smetana's Litomyšl festival have thought of everything -- including deployment of a retractable roof over the Castle courtyard in case of bad weather.

Never fear, organizers of Smetana’s Litomyšl festival have thought of everything — including deployment of a retractable roof over the Castle courtyard in case of bad weather.

The annual festival founded in 1949 in Smetana’s home town is nearly as old as Prague Spring. It offers orchestra and ensemble music, but also concentrates on vocal music of all kinds — selections and full operas, choruses, oratorios, cantatas, and “song evenings.” This year, The Flying Dutchman, The Devil’s Wall, The Marriage of Figaro, Rusalka, The Cunning Little Vixen, and Handel’s Messiah will be performed, along with operas from each end of the time scale: Scarlatti’s Armida and the modern story of the persecuted priest, Toufar. This is your chance to hear orchestras from the other side of the country — Janáček Philharmonic Ostrava; National Theatre Opera, Brno; Brno Philharmonic Orchestra, and more. But it’s the Castle’s 2nd courtyard where you’ll want to gather: many open-air concerts are here (with a retractable roof); the organizers will offer free Wifi so you can punch in info about the performers, librettos, etc. And on June 23rd, “Classical is Cool” presents Britten’s Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, with the chance for the audience to respond on the spot using their mobile phones. Tickets range from 100 to 1500 crowns. In Litomyšl and nearby towns. www.smetanovalitomysl.cz
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Festival of Baroque Arts (Festival Barokních Umění Český Krumlov), Sept 19-21

Step into a Baroque world with authentic music and an authentic setting at the Festival of Baroque Arts in Český Krumlov.

Step into a Baroque world with authentic music and an authentic setting at the Festival of Baroque Arts in Český Krumlov.

This is one of the relatively newer festivals, with the Hof-Musici Baroque orchestra premiering Baroque operas for the “new world” in a corresponding, appropriate setting (castle chapel, monastery church, Mirror Hall, and dance performance in the castle’s Masquerade Hall). Each year one opera is chosen, and it’s not only performed, it’s lived — with authentic costumes, makeup, wigs, firelight footlights, props, and mechanics from about the 18th century. This time, it’s Johann Adolf Hasse’s l’Ipermestra (1744); concerts of Italian madrigals, violin and harpsichord, and canzonettas from the Rožmberk Court (c. 1600) will also be performed. It all finishes off with an evening of authentic Baroque fireworks and illuminations. Seating for many of the performances is limited, but a special “teaser” performance of part of the opera is promised in Prague sometime in June. Ticket prices range from 100 to 2500 crowns, with many activities for about 300 crowns. In Český Krumlov. www.festival.krumlov.cz

— Mary Matz, editor of Opus Osm

Photo Credits: Top: Prague Spring website; Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Prague Spring website, Sonja Werner; center, Smetanovi Litomyšl website; bottom, Festival Barokních Umění website.

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