Arts news, PEN Club
For most Czechs, Easter Sunday celebrates the coming of Spring and this year, the organisers of Dvorak's Nelahozeves music festival have chosen this day for the opening ceremony. Until September 28th, Prague, and the Central Bohemian villages of Zlonice and Nelahozeves, Dvorak's birthplace, will host eleven musical programmes, featuring works mainly from Antonin Dvorak but also other Czech, European and US composers. The opening ceremony will be held in Zlonice with a performance by a choir from Leeds.
For most Czechs, Easter Sunday celebrates the coming of Spring and this year, the organisers of Dvorak's Nelahozeves music festival have chosen this day for the opening ceremony. Until September 28th, Prague, and the Central Bohemian villages of Zlonice and Nelahozeves, Dvorak's birthplace, will host eleven musical programmes, featuring works mainly from Antonin Dvorak but also other Czech, European and US composers. The opening ceremony will be held in Zlonice with a performance by a choir from Leeds. Another highlight is expected to be an organ concert in the village's Catholic Church, the proceeds of which will be used in a planned project for church bells. Furthermore, Czech violin player Ivan Zenaty, a youth choir from the US state Iowa, the US opera singer Janice Edwards, and the Czech-Danish young mezzo-soprano Dominique Devaux have all accepted invitations to perform in Nelahozeves. The festival will come to a close with the performance of the Dvorak's Regions Orchestra, conducted by timpanist at the Czech Philharmonic, Vaclav Mazacek.
Jiri Menzel (Closely Watched Trains, Larks on a String) will be presented with an Award for his Outstanding Artistic Contribution to World Cinema at the 38th Karlovy Vary Film Festival, which will be held this year in July. According to the President of the festival, Jiri Bartoska, the Czech film director deserves the prize as he is one of the most distinctive personalities in the Czech world of film. He has received several Oscars and celebrates his 65 birthday this year.
On Tuesday, numerous artists got together in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, to help raise money for the restoration of the flood-damaged Theatre Archa in Prague. The evening, which included modern dance performances, movement or alternative theatre, concerts, and an auction, brought in 47,500 Euros, which is almost 1.5 million Czech crowns. Renowned performers such as the Dutch Dance Theatre III, the Conny Janssen Danst group, the Netherlands Blazers Ensemble, singers Feng-Jun Song, Kateryna Kolcova and Tereza Roglova, took part in the festival. The evening was accompanied by an auction of works by Czech artist David Cerny.
The Czech PEN Club has been active in Prague since the 1920's and despite representing some of the country's finest artists, many Czechs are not aware of what it does. I met up with the club's director, Libuse Ludvikova, to get a better idea of why the club was formed and what its main goals are:
"The International PEN Club was founded after WWI in Great Britain and the Czech centre was one of the first centres that was founded at the time. Its founder was the well known Czech author, Karel Capek who was its chairman for twelve years. After WWII, under the Communist regime, the Czech PEN club was not forbidden but stayed dormant. It was resurrected just before the Velvet Revolution by Vaclav Havel and his friends. That was in August 1989."
What exactly was the PEN Club formed for?
"The goal of the International PEN Club was the idea of Welsh writer C.A. Dawson-Scott and was founded with the help of John Galsworthy in 1923. They believed that if intellectuals, especially writers, would go hand in hand there could not be another evil such as war. They were idealists. The Czech centre was founded in 1924. Today, about 200 writers, translators, publishers, and journalists are members of the Czech centre."
Does PEN stand for anything?
"Yes, it stands for playwrights or poets, essayists, and novelists. The letter P is the most common as there are also publishers and others."
What about the Czech centre? What are its activities, its main goals?
"Generally it promotes freedom of expression, of the press, and of speech. There are twelve people in the Czech PEN Club's presidium. They work in committees and the most important one is the Writers in Prison Committee. We adopted mainly Chines authors because there are about ten who are being persecuted in some ways."
What about nationally?
"We have authors' readings in a room here, every week on Thursdays. We also have exhibitions that are connected with literature and organise two literary festivals in a year. One is the Easter festival and the other is just before Christmas."
Easter is around the corner, so what are you planning this year?
"This time, we are concentrating on co-operation with students and their professors who mainly are our members such as Michal Viewegh and his students, journalist Pavel Verner, poet Vladimir Krivanek, playwright Daniela Fischerova and others, on seven evenings. But there will be a special evening before Good Friday with Ludvik Vaculik and other authors and the PEN Club choir called the Patriots. There will also be another special evening at the end of the festival. It will be on April 29 at the Pisek Gate, where the office of the Community of Architects is located. It will be called Word - Tone, Light - Space. The Folk singer Vladimir Merta who is also a PEN Club member will be there. It will be the beginning of co-operation with the community of architects, which we hope will continue to go on."