Dagmar Peckova releases CD with arias from Carmen

Dagmar Peckova

Last month, the internationally famous Czech mezzosoprano, Dagmar Peckova, launched a new CD, featuring the most popular arias from George Bizet's opera Carmen. The CD also features Peckova's colleagues, singers Valentin Prolat, Ivan Kusnjer and Roman Janal. For her role of Carmen, which the singer started performing three years ago as her first role at the National Theatre in Prague, Peckova received the Thalia Prize last year, which is awarded to the most outstanding actor, singer and dancer of the year. "Carmen - that's me" Peckova was quoted as saying, pointing to her temperament and independence.

The recording features the Prague Chamber Philharmonic conducted by Jiri Belohlavek and it was recorded in autumn last year at a charity concert organized as a benefit for St. Anne's church in Prague's Old Town. Renovating this 14th century building and opening it for cultural and ecumenical ventures is one of the major projects of the presidential couple Dagmar and Vaclav Havel's Foundation, Vision 97. Half a million crowns was raised for the foundation by Peckova's concert.

The biggest Czech record company, Supraphon, had planned to release a CD featuring the whole opera, but Dagmar Peckova says the project did not materialize due to a lack of money:

"This would require a live recording, and in my opinion, when you hear all the movements, stomps and clumps on the stage and have no video recording of the performance, it would disturb you more than appeal to you. If you don't see the singer, then you don't know what's going on on the record. I think it would be better to record a whole concert version of Carmen than the opera on the stage."

Mrs. Peckova says the lack of money for releasing CDs of classical music is universal. She told me that the German orchestra where her husband plays also cancelled several recordings because there simple wasn't enough money.

When you know that your performance is being recorded, is your singing different, do you concentrate more?

"I can say that I concentrate so intensely during all my performances. It happens very rarely even during concerts that are not being recorded, that I lose track. If something is spoilt on a recording, it can be repaired afterwards, but with this record it was absolutely not necessary, because we were a good team used to singing together, so it all went smoothly."

At the launch ceremony, the Roma Trini Band sang part of Carmen in the Roma language. How did you like their version?

"It amused me a lot I was expecting a kind of trick when I learned that they would be singing here. I think it was hilarious, they made me feel happy. I've heard them sing before, but unfortunately I haven't got any of their I don't much like the film version of Carmen by Carlos Saura, but I did like his staging of the opera in the Stuttgart opera house in Germany. Opera in the theatre is opera, while in film it immediately turns into a different genre."

Dagmar Peckova said with Carmen in the National Theatre, one big dream had come true, even though if one sees her extremely short haircut, he would certainly not say a typical Carmen should look like this. But Peckova's voice is one of the most powerful in the Czech Republic, and also famous internationally. Last year, Dagmar Peckova turned 40.

To lay on green grass under a castle from the Middle Ages with a pint of cold beer in your hand - this is what the organizers of the Lobkowitz Summer Festival promise to those who come to Vysoky Chlumec near the town of Pribram south-west of Prague on July 27th. In addition to a concert featuring all music genres, the festival will feature a fencing competition and visitors will be able to buy all sorts of things at a medieval market. The festival will be organized by the Lobkowitz brewery, and this year it is being held for the seventh time.The programme will be divided into several parts, to suit all tastes, and it will feature jazz, rock and brass band music. The Lobkowitz festival was held for the first time in 1996, and it tries to put together an interesting programme which would attract people of all ages. Every year, in addition to its regular guests, the event - which has won regional acclaim - attracts hundreds of casual visitors.

And back to Prague now - the Municipal Museum near Florenc metro station, is presenting an exhibition under the name Artistic Glass Objects from the Bronze Period Till Today. The glass objects from the museum's collections are being exhibited here for the first time since the Municipal Museum was founded back in 1881. But several items have also been borrowed from the Museum of Decorative Art, the National Museum in Prague and other cultural institutions. Visitors can not only admire the beauty of the glass objects, but also get acquainted with the history of glass production in what is now the Czech Republic. Glass production in Bohemia is not very often linked to Prague, but the capital was home to collectors and rich burghers who collected glass to decorate their households. The exhibition is conceived as a story telling how Prague inhabitants encountered glass in all its possible forms. What is to be seen in the Municipal museum are Celtic beads, ancient goblets, Gothic stained glass windows, and a priceless collection of Renaissance goblets from the times of Rudolf II, as well as Baroque glass which has never been displayed yet.

From the period between the wars we can see neon ads which promote glass products - such as bulbs, bottles and even building elements. Visitors can also watch a film about glass works on the Czech territory before WWII. Present-day production is represented by objects by several glassworks and artists - for instance Stanislav Libensky who died earlier this year.

Later this month, lovers of sacral music will have a unique chance to hear the Royal Chapel Choir from the Hampton Court palace in Britain, who will give four concerts in the Czech Republic: In the towns of Hranice and Brno in Moravia, in Prague and in the South Bohemian historical town of Cesky Krumlov. The choir's last foreign tour took place back in 1520, when it was accompanying Henry VIII to Calais where he met the French king. Before Henry VIII., the choir even accompanied British rulers to wars.