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Saturday, September 15, 8.00 pm

Programme

Antonín Dvořák: Saint Ludmila, Op. 71, B. 144

After the triumph of Dvořák’s Stabat Mater in England he was commissioned to write a new work for the music festival in Leeds. Despite advice that a biblical subject would be the surest guarantee of success, he persuaded the committee to accept an oratorio about one of the most important Czech saints, Ludmila, and conducted the world premiere of his work in Leeds in October 1886. The libretto was written at his request by one of the foremost Czech poets, Jaroslav Vrchlický. Dvořák placed great stock in his oratorio and invested maximum effort in its composition. It is among his largest works both in length and in size of vocal and orchestral performing forces, boasting extraordinary melodic invention, rich contrapuntal work, and beauty of sound. It can be understood as a monumental historical painting that illustrates the moment of birth of a new era in Czech history, uniting Christian symbolism with patriotism: two ideas that were of fundamental importance for Dvořák.

  • Dress code: dark suit
  • Doors close: 19.45
  • End of concert: 22.45

Artists

Kateřina Kněžíková

Soprano Kateřina Kněžíková is one of the most striking figures among the young generation of Czech singers in both operatic and concert repertoire. She graduated from the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague and has won honours in many events including for example the Antonín Dvořák International Singing Competition in Karlovy Vary. Since 2006 she has been a regular soloist with Prague's National Theatre, on whose stages she has performed among other roles Mozart's Susanna in The Marriage of Figaro, Mysliveček's Aristea in L'Olimpiade, and Dvořák's Terinka in The Jacobin. She also appears as a guest in other opera houses both in the Czech Republic and abroad, such as the Moravian-Silesian National Theatre in Ostrava, the Opéra Royal de Versailles, and the Theatre Royal de La Monnaie. She works with important conductors like Serge Baudo, Manfred Honeck, and Tomáš Netopil, and with such ensembles as the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Collegium 1704, and the Czech Philharmonic. With Jiří Bělohlávek she recorded a new official version of the Czech national anthem.

Alena Kropáčková

Mezzosoprano Alena Kropáčková graduated in voice from the conservatory and the College of Performing Arts in Bratislava, as well as participating in private courses given by Peter Dvorský. Already during her studies she won many awards in singing competitions both at home and abroad. She has performed as soloist with the South Bohemian Philharmonic, the Košice State Philharmonic, the Bruno Walter Symphony, the Slovak Radio Symphony, and other orchestras under the batons of renowned conductors. In 2013 she debuted as Olga in Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin with the Banská Bystrica State Opera, and since then she has sung such roles as the Governess in The Queen of Spades by the same composer with the Slovak National Theatre in Bratislava and Beppe in Mascagni’s L’Amico Fritz with the Banská Bystrica State Opera, while also appearing with the Slovak Radio Symphony in Japan. In 2016 she presented herself to the Czech public in the international festival in Český Krumlov, and in 2017 she sang the role of La Ciesca in Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi with the Slovak National Opera in Bratislava as well as solos in Rossini’s Stabat Mater in Žilina conducted by Nicola Giuliani. In the Slovak State Opera’s new season she’ll be appearing as Lola in Mascagni’s Cavalleria rusticana and, as part of the ‘Open Opera’ project, Marianna in Rossini’s Il signor Bruschino.

Alena Kropáčková - mezzosoprano

Richard Samek

Richard Samek was born in Třebíč. Richard Samek graduated from the Janáček Academy of Performing Arts in Brno. After completing his studies, he studied privately with N. Romanová. In 2006, he made his debut at the stage of the National Theatre in Brno.       At present he is a permanent guest of the National Theatre in Prague, and performs as Rodolfo (La Boheme), Ismael (Nabucco), Cassio (Otello) or the Prince (Rusalka). He regularly performs on czech and international stage. He performed in Théâtre de Reims, Opéra Théâtre de Limoges, Opéra de Rennes and in the Staatsoperette Dresden, where he has been a permanent member of the cast since the season 2014 / 2015. Since the same season he has been giving guest performances also in the Theatre Magdeburg as Don Manuel in Z. Fibich’s The Bride of Messina and since 2016 also as Faust in the Gounod’s same name opera. Since the season 2015 / 2016 he has performed also in the Staatsoper Hannover as the Prince in Dvořák’s Rusalka or as Rodolfo in Pucinni’s La Bohème. In 2015 he participated in the realization of a live recording of Smetana's Dalibor with the BBC Symphony Orchestra under the baton of J. Belohlavek and in 2016 he created a live recording of Fibich’s Bride of Messina with Magdeburg Philharmonic Orchestra. Richard Samek cooperates with leading conductors and chamber and symphonic orchestras – BBC Symphony Orchestra, Orchestra Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra and others.

Jozef Benci

After graduating from the conservatory and the College of Musical Arts in Bratislava, Slovak bass Jozef Benci also earned a diploma from the Janáček Academy of Performing Arts in Brno. In 1997 he won first prize in the Cavalera Carla Vendra international competition in Bratislava, and two years later he placed second in the Antonín Dvořák International Competition in Karlovy Vary. He has won many other prestigious honours as well. In 1998 he became a regular guest with the Slovak National Theatre Chamber Opera in Bratislava, then in 2002 a member of the ensemble of soloists with the State Opera in Banská Bystrica. He has won renown for his performances of bass roles such as Colline in Puccini’s La bohème, the Water Goblin in Dvořák’s Rusalka, and among Verdian roles Zaccaria in Nabucco and Ferrando in Il trovatore. In 2011 he scored a success as Kecal in a concert performance of Smetana’s The Bartered Bride in London’s Barbican Hall with the BBC Symphony under the baton of Jiří Bělohlávek. For the BBC he then performed the Burgrave in a radio recording of Dvořák’s The Jacobin under the same conductor in 2012. Benci also sings solo parts in major choral works as well as chamber music, and likes to perform in works by contemporary Slovak composers. Since 2013 he has been a regular guest with the Budapest National Opera, and in 2015 he appeared as Bartolo in Il barbiere di Siviglia during a successful tour of Japan.

Prague Philharmonic Choir

For more than eighty years now the Prague Philharmonic Choir has ranked among the most important choral ensembles in Europe. Founded by the legendary Czech choirmaster Jan Kühn, originally it served the broadcasting needs of Czechoslovak Radio. However, the range of its activities soon expanded to include regular concerts and recordings, the extraordinary quality and broad scope of which won universal respect. The ensemble's international prestige is demonstrated by its collaboration with many topflight conductors of the world including Erich Kleiber, Riccardo Muti, Claudio Abbado, Leonard Bernstein, Zubin Mehta, and Simon Rattle, and orchestras like the Berlin Philharmonic, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, and the Israel Philharmonic. The choir is a regular guest at prestigious music festivals of the world and also shares in opera productions, for instance at Milan's La Scala. For many years the ensemble has worked closely with the Czech Philharmonic.

Lukáš Vasilek

Lukáš Vasilek graduated in conducting from the Academy of Performing Arts and in musicology from the Charles University Faculty of Arts, both in Prague. In 1998 he became choirmaster of the Foerster Chamber Singing Association, with which he won many honours in prestigious international competitions. From 2005 to 2007 he served as second choirmaster of the National Theatre Opera in Prague, where he prepared several operas including The Kiss, Don Pasquale, and La clemenza di Tito. Since 2007 he has been principal choirmaster of the Prague Philharmonic Choir. His highly acclaimed work with this ensemble includes rehearsing and conducting a broad repertoire from various style periods as well as making many recordings. He also works as an orchestral conductor, and is the founder of a chamber choir called Martinů Voices focused primarily on interpreting music of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

Czech Philharmonic

The Czech Philharmonic is the foremost Czech orchestra and has long held a place among the most esteemed representatives of Czech culture on the international scene. The beginning of its rich history is linked to the name of Antonín Dvořák, who on 4 January 1896 conducted the ensemble’s inaugural concert. Although the orchestra performs a broad range of the basic international repertoire, it is sought out most often for its superb interpretations of works by the Czech classics, in a tradition built by excellent conductors like Václav Talich, Rafael Kubelík, Karel Ančerl, Václav Neumann and Jiří Bělohlávek. The ensemble has won many international honours for its recordings, the first of which it made already in 1929: Smetana’s My Country with Talich. In 2008 the prestigious magazine Gramophone ranked it among the twenty best orchestras of the world. Since the inception of the Dvořák Prague Festival the Czech Philharmonic has been its resident orchestra.

Jakub Hrůša

Jakub Hrůša is one of the most highly-respected conductors of the young generation. He studied conducting at Prague’s Academy of Performing Arts under Jiří Bělohlávek among others before continuing his education at the Universität der Künste in Berlin. When only eighteen he received three major honours in the Prague Spring International Conducting Competition, and three years later he won the Lovro von Matačić International Conducting Competition in Zagreb. He has already worked with most Czech professional orchestras as well as numerous orchestras abroad including the London Philharmonic, the Philharmonia Orchestra, and the Gewandhaus Orchestra of Leipzig. He is active in the field of opera as well, having conducted such works as Carmen, Don Giovanni, Rusalka, The Cunning Little Vixen, and Boris Godunov in Prague’s National Theatre, Copenhagen’s Royal Danish Theatre, and the opera festival in Glyndebourne, England. Also highly acclaimed are his recordings on the Supraphon, Octavia Records, and Universal labels. Regular guest conductor of the Czech Philharmonic and principal guest conductor of the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra, since last season he has also been chief conductor of the Bamberg Symphony.

Jakub Hrůša - conductor

Rudolfinum, Dvořák Hall

The Rudolfinum is one of the most important Neo-Renaissance edifices in the Czech Republic. In its conception as a multi-purpose cultural centre it was quite unique in Europe at the time of its construction. Based on a joint design by two outstanding Czech architects, Josef Zítek and Josef Schultz, a magnificent building was erected serving for concerts, as a gallery, and as a museum. The grand opening on 7 February 1885 was attended by Crown Prince Rudolph of Austria, in whose honour the structure was named. In 1896 the very first concert of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra took place in the Rudolfinum's main concert hall, under the baton of the composer Antonín Dvořák whose name was later bestowed on the hall.