Welsh National Opera Orchestra to open this year’s Prague Spring festival

The 78th edition of the Prague Spring music festival gets underway on Friday night at Prague’s Municipal House. The country’s top classical event will traditionally open with Bedřich Smetana's Má vlast or My Country, this time performed by the Welsh National Opera Orchestra, led by Czech conductor Tomáš Hanus. I discussed the opening concert as well as some other festival highlights with its programme director Josef Třeštík:

“The Welsh National Opera Orchestra, as the name suggests, is principally an opera orchestra. However, they also perform a lot of orchestra music. They have their own programme of orchestra music in Cardiff and they travel extensively within the UK as well as abroad.

“As for Tomáš Hanus, he is really a well-established international conductor, mostly in the opera world. This season highlights include his debut in La Scala in Milan, in Staatsoper in Munich.

Paradoxically, however, he is not so well-known in the Czech Republic, so this will be a big night for him as a conductor but also for the festival audiences, who will get to know him.”

People who don’t have tickets for the opening concert can watch a live broadcast on a large screen at the now traditional festival venue in Kampa Park...

“That’s right. This will be outside in the Kampa Park, but the concert will be also broadcast by Czech Television and Czech Radio.”

This year’s artist-in-residence is Antoine Tamestit, one of the most sought-after violists of our time. Where can audiences see him perform?

Antoine Tamestit | Photo: Pražské jaro

“Antoine Tamestit as an artist-in-residence will perform at four different concerts. One of them is quite a special event at Saint Agnes Convent where he will be playing along with fellow members of the Viola Jury competition, because he is not only our artist-in-residence but he is also a chairman of the viola jury competition of the Prague Spring.

“Three other concerts take place in the Dvořák Hall of Rudolfinum. He will play there with the Czech Philharmonic and Finnish conductor Klaus Mäkelä.

“It will be Klaus Mäkelä’s Czech debut, by the way. He will play Alfred Schnittke’s Viola Concerto, which is a major piece for viola repertoire, originally written for Yuri Bashmet.

“The other concerts include a recital with French pianist Cédric Tiberghien and the last one is a rather special project with German violist Isabelle Faust.”

What are some of the other highlights of this year’s edition of Prague Spring? Can you mention at least some of the outstanding musicians scheduled to appear in Prague?

John Adams | Photo: Pražské jaro

“There will be a concert of Czech Philharmonic conducted by American Composer John Adams, who will be joined by pianist Víkingur Ólafsson. Another tourist orchestra will be Essener Philharmoniker with their Czech music director Tomáš Netopil.

“There will also be the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra with Daniel Harding and the closing concert will be Czech Philharmonic with Christoph Eschenbach.

“The main focus on contemporary music will take part at Prague Offspring, which is our festival feature for contemporary music. It takes place at DOX Centre for Contemporary Art and the ensemble in residence is Klangforum Wien from Austria.

“There will be several world premieres of works commissioned by the festival and there will be two major pieces performed by Klangforum by Georg Friedrich Haas, who is an Austrian composer living in the US, who will come from New York.”