New Spectaculare festival combines music, theatre and visual arts

A new festival merging electronica music, contemporary theatre and dance with multimedia and visual arts is being held in the Czech capital this and next week. Entitled Spectaculare, the event brings some leading artists of these genres to Prague including Jon Hopkins from the UK and Nils Frahm from Germany. But the event also features several Czech artists and ensembles such as Clarinet Factory and Tantehorse.

Experimental and electronica music pioneer Jon Hopkins from the UK is arguably the brightest star featured in the inaugural edition of the Spectaculare festival which got underway in Prague this week. Jon Hopkins’ show in not on until next Thursday when he’s set to appear in Palác Akropolis, the festival’s principal music venue. The man who made it all happen is Josef Sedloň, a DJ with the Prague-based Radio 1.

“I’ve been working with Palác Akropolic for some nine years now, and the Spectaculare festival is an extension of my series called Music Infinity which presents music on the edge of main stream; it’s mostly music based on fusion of ambient, electro-acoustic music, classical music and jazz.

“The festival follows up on this but on a greater scale. We wanted to merge everything together – music, theatre and visual arts such as mapping and VJing.”

Josef Sedloň says the festival booked Jon Hopkins because he has been in touch with the London-based sound wizard for some years now.

Jon Hopkins,  photo: official website of the festival
“I first met him in 2005 at a festival in England when he was not yet so popular but I really liked his music. Five years ago, I invited him to perform at Palác Akropolic as part of the Music Infinity series but people still didn’t know him that much at that time. He started cooperating with Coldplay and Brian Eno around that time and he’s since built up his place on the UK electronic scene, so it’s great to have him here.”

The festival takes place in several venues in the city. Besides Palác Akropolis, shows are held at the New Stage of the National Theatre, the DOX Centre for Contemporary Art, and the Veletržní Palace while film screenings are featured at the art cinema Bio Oko. The festival kicked off at the National Theatre on Monday.

“The festival’s opening night at the New Stage of the National Theatre presented the Belgian avant-garde troupe Cie Mossoux-Bonté, which is very popular abroad. That was followed by the outstanding Czech quarter Clarinet Factory and Christopher Willits from San Francisco who VJs, works with electro-acoustic music, with the guitar and electronic sounds.”

Clarinet Factory,  photo: official website of the festival
That was a sample by the Clarinet Factory, one of the Czech ensembles featured in the first edition of the Spectaculare festival. Josef Sedloň explains the difficulties of choosing Czech performers for the event.

“I’m very picky in music, and there are not many artists in the Czech Republic on a level that I wanted to have. In the new electronic scene, we invited Sonority, a big Czech talent who will perform at Akropolis next Thursday and Friday.

“We also have Subject Lost, a young guy from Ostrava who does post-dub step together with acoustic guitar. But in the future, I would definitely like to have Fluex, or maybe Lenka Dusilová who does amazing stuff.”

Response to the first edition of the new festival has been good so far according to Josef Sedloň who complains however that audiences tend to prefer the big names, and don’t seem to be as enthusiastic about some of the other shows put on by Spectaculare. But that’s not stopping him from planning big for the future.

Josef Sedloň,  photo: Tomáš Vodňanský
“It’s the first volume so it still needs time. I have a regular base of fans of this kind of music but I would like to get more people involved in the festival, and expand into more genres maybe.

“We would like to bring some of the icons in the future like Steve Reich and Ryuichi Sakamato; these are my plans for the coming years. But we are happy it’s happening, and we’ve had a great response from the people.”