opening concert
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Thursday, September 7, 8.00 pm

Programme

Antonín Dvořák: Stabat Mater, op. 58, B. 71

For its tenth anniversary the Dvořák Prague Festival has prepared an opening concert that in every way will be Dvořákian, Czech, and at the same time global. The master’s Stabat Mater will be rendered with a rare assemblage of stars from opera houses of the world, solo parts being taken by Kristine Opolais (who recently created Rusalka in the Metropolitan’s new staging of that opera), Jana Kurucová, Piotr Beczala, and René Pape. The presentation of this monumental and at the same time unpretentiously human work, full of humility, a union of human voices with soft, full orchestral colours, promises an extraordinary experience right at the outset of the festival.

  • Dress code: black tie
  • Doors close: 19.50
  • End of concert: 21.40

Artists

Kristine Opolais

Latvian soprano Kristine Opolais is one of the most sought-after stars on the current international operatic scene. She first drew major public attention in 2010 through her rendition of the title role in Dvořák’s Rusalka with the Bavarian State Opera in Munich. Three years later she had her debut with New York’s Metropolitan Opera as Magda in Puccini’s La rondine. She also caused a major sensation on the same stage when within less than twenty-four hours she debuted in lead roles in two other Puccini works, as Cio-Cio-San in Madama Butterfly and the very next day as a substitute in the role of Mimi in La bohème. Otherwise she performs regularly with the Vienna State Opera, the Berlin State Opera, Milan’s La Scala, and London’s Covent Garden. Apart from extraordinary vocal qualities, her interpretations are prized for intelligent expression and convincing acting.

Kristine Opolais - soprano

Jana Kurucová

The outstanding Slovak mezzo-soprano Jana Kurucová is a multi-talented musician: besides operatic singing she holds diplomas in piano, organ, choral directing, and vocal pedagogy. For more than a decade she has been appearing regularly on operatic stages especially in German-speaking countries, specializing in Mozart and Vivaldi. Since the 2009-10 season she has been performing as a regular soloist with the German Opera in Berlin, rendering numerous roles in operas by Humperdinck, Verdi, Mozart, Janáček, and Puccini. In the Prague State Opera she appeared in the title role in Bizet’s Carmen and as Donna Elvira in Mozart’s Don Giovanni. She also sings concert repertoire with relish, performing in many important venues both at home and abroad in such works as Beethoven’s Mass in C, Mozart’s Coronation Mass, and Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater.

Jana Kurucová - mezzo-soprano

Piotr Beczala

At the age of fifty, Polish tenor Piotr Beczala holds a place at the absolute pinnacle in his field on the international scene. He launched his dazzling career in 1996 in the provincial theatre in Linz, only a year later became a regular soloist with the opera in Zürich, and in 2004 debuted in Covent Garden. After another two years he appeared for the first time in Milan’s La Scala, as the Duke in Verdi’s Rigoletto, and soon thereafter he debuted in the same role with the Metropolitan Opera. Another major milestone in his career was a last-minute substitution in 2009 for Roland Villazón in Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, which was broadcast live all over the world in the Met’s ‘Live in HD’ project. Several times already Beczala has performed in Czechia: in April 2014 in a recital in Prague’s Smetana Hall, in June 2016 in Ostrava, and in February this year twice as the Prince in Dvořák’s Rusalka in Prague’s National Theatre.

Piotr Beczala - tenor

René Pape

Presently one of the most sought-after basses in the world, René Pape was born in Dresden where already as a child he sang in the famous Kreuzchor boys’ choir. In 1991 Sir Georg Solti cast him, despite his youth, as Sarastro in a production of Mozart’s Magic Flute at the Salzburg Festival. In the same year he debuted in that role also in Milan’s La Scala. Then during the next several years he appeared progressively in London’s Covent Garden, in the Bayreuth Festival, and in New York’s Metropolitan Opera, where by now he has performed about twenty roles. His repertoire is very broad, ranging from Mozart and Beethoven through Gounod, Saint-Saëns, and Mussorgsky to Verdi, Wagner, and Richard Strauss. He has also made numerous recordings of both operatic and concert repertoire. In June 2014 he gave a solo recital in Prague.

René Pape - bass

Czech Philharmonic Choir of Brno

The Czech Philharmonic Choir of Brno ranks among the finest European ensembles in its field today. Established only twenty-seven years ago in 1990, it has already become—under the leadership of its founder, music director, and choirmaster Petr Fiala—one of the most sought-after choral ensembles. It has worked with many conductors from both Czechia and abroad including Jiří Bělohlávek, Charles Dutoit, Roger Norrington, Zubin Mehta, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, and Kurt Masur, and is a frequent guest on numerous concert stages in Vienna, London, Paris, Munich, Frankfurt, Lucerne, Basel, Rome, the Vatican, Nürnberg, Dresden, Prague, and elsewhere in Europe. The choir has made many acclaimed recordings for both Czech and foreign labels. For its recording of motets by Anton Bruckner it won a prestigious Echo Klassik award in 2007, and its recording of Liszt’s oratorio Christus was declared ‘Recording of the Year 2007’ in Germany.

Petr Fiala

Choirmaster Petr Fiala graduated from the Brno Conservatoire in piano, composition, and conducting. He has composed many dozens of work for voices, orchestra, and chamber ensembles, and for years served as a professor at the Brno Conservatoire. Apart from teaching and composing, for five decades now he has been known above all for his work as a choirmaster and conductor. In 1990 he founded the Czech Philharmonic Choir of Brno, which under his leadership has earned a position among the best choral ensembles in Europe. He has won honours in many domestic and international competitions, and serves as an instructor in conducting courses as well as a member of international juries. He is often invited to conduct works for chorus and orchestra as a guest both at home and abroad. In 2009 he received the Order of Cyril and Methodius from the Czech Bishops’ Conference, and four years later he was honoured by the Prize of the City of Brno.

PKF Prague Philharmonia

The Prague Philharmonia was founded in 1994 by Jiří Bělohlávek as an ensemble comprising fresh graduates of music schools. Bělohlávek led the orchestra until 2005, when for three seasons his place was taken by the Swiss conductor Kaspar Zehnder. From 2008 to 2016 its chief conductor and artistic director was Jakub Hrůša, and since the 2015-16 season it has been led by the French conductor Emmanuel Villaume. From the outset its core repertoire has been music by the Viennese classics, supplemented by works from the Romantic period and a special concert series of music from the twentieth century. During the twenty-three years of its existence the orchestra has established a position as one of the most esteemed ensembles on the domestic scene, and it performs regularly abroad as well. Its discography includes more than eighty albums recorded for leading labels of the world (among them Deutsche Grammophon, Harmonia Mundi, and Decca), for which it has received numerous prestigious awards.

Emmanuel Villaume

French conductor Emmanuel Villaume was born in Strasbourg where he graduated from the conservatoire. He then continued his education in Paris, earning diplomas in literature, philosophy, and musicology. For several seasons he served as artistic director and chief conductor of the Slovenian Philharmonic and chief conductor of the Slovak Philharmonic. He conducts in many opera houses of the world including the Metropolitan Opera in New York, Milan’s La Scala, La Fenice in Venice, and the Royal Opera (Covent Garden) in London. He has also led such prestigious orchestras as the Chicago Symphony, the Boston Symphony, L’Orchestre de Paris, L’Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, and the Danish National Symphony among many others. For nine seasons he held the post of music director for the opera and orchestra of the Spoleto Festival in the USA. He records for prestigious labels: Deutsche Grammophon, Decca, and EMI. Since the 2015-16 season he has been chief conductor and artistic director of the Prague Philharmonia.

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.