68th annual Prague Spring International Music Festival underway

Peter Oundjian, photo: CTK

The 68th annual Prague Spring International Music Festival began on Sunday with Bedřich Smetana’s Má Vlast (My Country) at Prague’s Municipal House and is continuing with high-profile events until the beginning of June. This week alone visitors will be able to attend the finale of the Prague Spring International Music Competition, The Giacomo Variations featuring American actor John Malkovich and a performance by Czech violin virtuoso Josef Špaček to name only a few of the many events.

Peter Oundjian,  photo: CTK
The Prague Spring International Music Festival, in its 68th season, remains one of the most important events in the Czech cultural calendar: interest is always high and tickets quickly sell out. As it stands, roughly one-third are already gone, so anyone wishing to attend should get online fast. The opening concert on Sunday (traditionally featuring ‘My Country) was no exception despite tickets being among the most expensive, costing as much as 3,900 crowns (the equivalent of around 145 US dollars).The head of the festival Roman Bělor said this:

“The first concert of the festival is a major social event and you could say we almost try and scare people off with the price to motivate them to instead go to the second performance of ‘My Country’ which is far less expensive.”

The second performance takes place on Tuesday evening by the visiting Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France; Tuesday will also see the finale of the Prague Spring International Music Competition, featuring music on the pipe organ at the Municipal House; the instrument was completely restored in Germany. Festival head Roman Bělor again:

John Malkovich,  photo: archive of Prague Spring Festival
“The instrument is in excellent shape and was fixed with original elements intact. Damage that it suffered since 1914 was repaired and it is one of the best instruments of its kind in the Czech Republic.”

Fans of American actor John Malkovich, whose career includes unforgettable roles in Dangerous Liaisons and In the Line of Fire, meanwhile, will be able to see him as Casanova on Wednesday, May 15th in The Giacomo Variations, a fusion of opera and orchestra. A few of his lines in the show:

“Oh, you think this is funny, beauty? Well you’ve certainly got a sense of humour. Au contraire. It isn't funny at all. Because this is my life or what remains of my life!”

Also this week, on Wednesday there is a performance by violin virtuoso Josef Špaček, concertmaster with the Czech Philharmonic featured as a guest on Radio Prague recently. Here’s what the audience can look forward to:

Photo: CTK
“I will kick off the programme with works by Bach: Chaconne in D minor, Mozart: Sonata in E minor, Sergei Prokofiev: Solo Violin Sonata in D major, and a contemporary and friend of mine the composer Chris Rogerson: Lullaby, so we’ll hear that and more.”

That is just a taste of what is happening this year, you can find the full programme easily at the festival’s website online. The festival will wrap up on June 2 with a closing concert featuring music by Dvořák, Suk, and Stravinsky.