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Saturday, September 15, 2018, 8.00 pm
Dvořák Collection 100 years of Czechoslovakia

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

The Dvořák Prague Festival is dedicating its performance of Dvořák’s oratorio Saint Ludmila to the one hundredth anniversary of the founding of Czechoslovakia. The work unites Christian symbolism with patriotism, two things of fundamental importance to the composer’s spiritual world. Logically, the performance has been entrusted to the country’s leading orchestra, the Czech Philharmonic with the Prague Philharmonic Choir under the baton of Jakub Hrůša, and the solo parts will be sung by leading Czech and Slovak artists.

The world premiere of the oratorio Saint Ludmila took place in October 1886 at the music festival in Leeds, which had commissioned a work “on a Biblical theme” from Dvořák after the triumphant success of his Stabat Mater. The master accepted the commission, but he insisted on a theme from Czech history, and he got his way. The libretto, inspired by the life of one of the most important Czech saints, Saint Ludmila, was written at Dvořák’s request by a leading Czech poet, Jaroslav Vrchlický. Dvořák took exceptional pride in the oratorio Saint Ludmila, and he put his utmost effort into working on it. It was one of the composer’s largest works in terms of both its length and the size of the vocal and instrumental forces it required. It is characterised by exceptional melodic inventiveness, elaborate polyphonic writing, and beauty of sound.

  • Dress code: dark suit
  • Doors close: 19.45
  • End of concert: 23.30


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 core international repertoire, it is sought out most often for its superb interpretations of the classics by the great Czech composers in a tradition built up by great conductors (Talich, Kubelík, Ančerl, Neumann, and Bělohlávek). In 2008 the prestigious magazine Gramophone ranked it among the twenty best orchestras of the world. One of the orchestra’s most important recent projects has recording Tchaikovsky’s complete orchestral works for the Decca Label with Semyon Bychkov conducting. Since the inception of the Dvořák Prague Festival, the Czech Philharmonic has been its resident orchestra, and since 2018 it has been a holder of the Antonín Dvořák Prize for promoting and popularising Czech classical music abroad and in the Czech Republic.

Czech Philharmonic

Jakub Hrůša

Jakub Hrůša is one of the most active and influential representatives of Czech musical culture and of the Czech school of conducting around the world. He regularly conducts top orchestras in Europe and the USA. He is currently the chief conductor of the Bamberg Symphony and the principal guest conductor of the Czech Philharmonic and from the 21/22 season, of the Orchestra dell´Accademia Nationale di Santa Cecilia Rome. From 2009 to 2015 he served as the music director and chief conductor of the PKF − Prague Philharmonia. Among his most important engagements have been repeated invitations from the Vienna Philharmonic, the Berlin Philharmonic, the New York Philharmonic, the Orchestre de Paris, the Leipzig Gewandhaus, and the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra. He guest conducts regularly at the BBC Proms, and awaiting him in the coming season is his Salzburg Festival debut. Maestro Hrůša has an equal affinity for the concert repertoire and opera. He appears regularly as a guest at the opera festival in Glyndebourne and with the Vienna State Opera, London’s Royal Opera, the Opéra national de Paris, and the Frankfurt Opera, while appearing occasionally at Czech opera houses as well. For his recording of compositions by Dvořák and Martinů and for a DVD recording of the opera Vanessa at the festival in Glyndebourne, he recently won a BBC Music Magazine Award. His active interest in the composer Josef Suk, Antonín Dvořák’s son-in-law, has been reflected in his activity with this year’s Dvořák Prague Festival and the subsequent season of the Czech Philharmonic. Suk’s complete orchestral music is now his priority recording project. A common denominator of his activity abroad has been his steadfast promotion of the music of Czech composers in particular. For this activity, the Academy of Classical Music has awarded him the 2020 Antonín Dvořák Prize.

Kateřina Kněžíková

One of the most prolific Czech operatic sopranos, Kateřina Kněžíková, has recently transformed into an internationally acclaimed performer of concert repertoire. She is a permanent cast member of the National Theatre in Prague and a laureate of the Classic Prague Awards 2018 for the best chamber performance and Thalia Award 2019 for extraordinary stage performance in the opera Julietta (B. Martinů) on the boards of the National Moravian-Silesian Theater. In 2021, she released her first solo album Phidylé for Supraphon label, which was named as Editor's Choice and The Best Classical Albums of 2021 in Gramophone Magazine. In 2022, Phidylé won the prestigious BBC Magazine Music Awards in the Vocal category. She also has recorded for Decca, Harmonia Mundi and Opus Arte.

Her core symphonic repertoire includes Janáček’s Glagolitic Mass, Dvořák’s Requiem, Stabat Mater and Te Deum, Martinů’s Epic of Gilgamesh, Mahler’s symphonies (Nos. 2, 4, 8), Brahms’ German Requiem, and works by Beethoven and Mozart. As a dedicated performer of orchestral songs, she is stunning in Mahler’s Youth’s Magic Horn, Strauss’ Four Lasts Songs, Ravel’s Shéherezade, Martinů’s Magic Nights and songs by Duparc, to name the most prominent of roles. Her recitals featuring songs by Janáček, Dvořák, Martinů, Ravel, Debussy, Fauré, Strauss, Brahms, Liszt, Schubert, and Schumann have been praised by audiences and critics alike.

In 2021, Kateřina successfully performed the major role in L. Janáček's opera Káťa Kabanová at the prestigious Glyndebourne Opera Festival. The orchestras Kateřina has worked with as a soloist include the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Bamberger Symphoniker, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, London Philharmonic Orchestra, National Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra, ORF Radio-Symphonieorchester Wien, Rotterdam Philharmonic, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, hr-Sinfonieorchester Frankfurt, Camerata Salzburg, and Orquesta Filarmonica de Gran Canaria. She appears frequently with the Czech Philharmonic and other major orchestras in the Czech Republic. Kateřina has performed with renown conductors, including Jiří Bělohlávek, Manfred Honeck, John Nelson, Serge Baudo, Jakub Hrůša, Domingo Hindoyan, Robin Ticciati, Oksana Lyniv, James Gaffigan, and Tomáš Netopil.

As one of the most sought-after operatic sopranos in the Czech Republic, Kateřina appears regularly with all major opera houses locally and many houses abroad, including La Monnaie Brussels, Opéra Royal de Versailles, Opéra de Dijon, Slovak National Theatre and others. Kateřina excels at Mozart (Susanna, Contessa, Donna Elvira, Pamina to name her most important roles), and is incomparable as Rusalka (Dvořák), Mařenka (Bartered Bride by Smetana), Káťa Kabanová (Janáček) and other operas Martinů, Dvořák, Smetana, Gounod, and Bizet.

Kateřina Kněžíková - soprano

Prague Philharmonic Choir

The Prague Philharmonic Choir (PPC) is a leading European vocal ensemble, and as one of the Czech Republic´s foremost artistic institutions operates under the trusteeship of the Czech Ministry of Culture. In the course of the choir´s long history since its foundation in 1935, it has been directed by a succession of some of the most distinguished Czech choirmasters (including among others Jan Kühn, Josef Veselka and Pavel Kühn). Since 2007 its principal choirmaster has been Lukáš Vasilek. The PPC´s repertoire is centered primarily around oratorio and cantata works. In their presentation, the choir has worked with eminent international orchestras (e.g. the Czech Philharmonic, Berliner Philharmoniker, Israel Philharmonic, St Petersburg Philharmonic, Staatskapelle Dresden or Wiener Symphoniker, among others), and conductors (including Daniel Barenboim, Jiří Bělohlávek, Christoph Eschenbach, Vladimir Fedoseyev, Manfred Honeck, Jakub Hrůša, Tomáš Netopil, Gianandrea Noseda, Philippe Jordan, Fabio Luisi, Zubin Mehta or Sir Simon Rattle). Beyond its standard choral repertoire, the PPC is likewise active in the domain of opera, working regularly with the National Theatre in Prague, and since 2010 holding the status of choir in residence at the opera festival of Bregenz, Austria.For many years the ensemble has worked closely with the Czech Philharmonic.

Lukáš Vasilek

Lukáš Vasilek, principal conductor of the Prague Philharmonic Choir (PPC), studied conducting at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague, and musicology at the Faculty of Arts, Charles University in Prague. For eleven seasons from 1998 he was conductor of the Foerster Female Chamber Choir, and between 2005 and 2007 was also second choirmaster of the Prague National Theatre´s opera chorus. He took up his post at the helm of the PPC in 2007. Apart from preparing and conducting the choir´s a cappella concert productions, he has been building up the PPC´s repertoire set for participation in large-scale cantata, oratorio and opera projects, working with leading international conductors (Barenboim, Bělohlávek, Eschenbach, Honeck, Hrůša, Jordan, Luisi, Mehta, Noseda or Rattle, among others) and orchestras (including the Berliner Philharmoniker, Czech Philharmonic, Israel Philharmonic, St Petersburg Philharmonic, Staatskapelle Dresden or Wiener Symphoniker). Since 2010 the PPC under Vasilek´s direction has guest appeared regularly at the opera festival in Bregenz, Austria. Lukáš Vasilek is signed under numerous recordings made by the PPC for various major labels, including Decca Classics, Deutsche Grammophon, Sony Classical and Supraphon. In 2016 the last mentioned of these issued an album of Bohuslav Martinů´s cantatas which was nominated for the BBC Music Magazine´s annual award in the choral category, among other plaudits. In 2010 Lukáš Vasilek formed the Martinů Voices vocal ensemble whose repertoire he has focused primarily on 20th- and 21st-century choral music. He is likewise occasionally active as an orchestra conductor. 

Ondřej Koplík

The tenor Ondřej Koplík studied voice at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague. His first engagement as a soloist was at the Moravian Theatre in Olomouc, where he sang roles in operas by Mozart, Verdi, Tchaikovsky, Donizetti, and Puccini. For his performances, he has been nominated for Thalia Awards several times, and for the role of Count Almaviva in Rossini’s Barber of Seville, he won the 2015 Annual Prize of the internet portal Opera Plus. In 2014 he made his debut at the State Opera in Prague in a production of Puccini’s opera La bohème, and a year later he sang at the National Theatre in Prague in Mozart’s Magic Flute and Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov. He is a regular guest performer at the National Moravian-Silesian Theatre in Ostrava, where he has taken part in productions including Bizet’s Carmen, Verdi’s Ernani, Stravinsky’s Rake’s Progress, and Donizetti’s Roberto Devereux. He also appears regularly at the F. X. Šalda Theatre in Liberec (Mozart’s Magic Flute, Verdi’s La traviata). Since September 2017, he has been engaged by the opera company of the National Theatre in Brno. He receives invitations to such prestigious music festivals as Prague Spring and Janáček Brno. Since 2016, he has also been appearing on the revolving stage in Český Krumlov (Janáček’s Cunning Little Vixen under the stage direction of SKUTR). In 2011 he played a central role in the world premiere of the Chinese opera Journey to the West. In 2012 and 2014 he went on an operatic concert tour of China and Mongolia.

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.

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

Tenor Richard Samek was born in Třebíč and graduated from the Janáček Academy of Performing Arts. In 2006, he made his debut on the stage of the National Theatre in Brno. At present he is a regular guest at the National Theatre in Prague, where his roles include Alfredo (La traviata), Werther (Werther), Tamino (The Magic Flute), and the Prince (Rusalka). He makes guest appearances on a number of stages abroad, including the Grand Théâtre de Reims, the Opéra de Limoges, the Opéra de Rennes, the Theater Magdeburg, and the Semperoper in Dresden. In 2015 he took part in a live recording of Smetana’s opera Dalibor with the BBC Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Jiří Bělohlávek. He has worked with such outstanding orchestras as the Czech Philharmonic, the Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, and the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra. He appears regularly at international music festivals, including the Prague Spring Festival, the Dvořák Prague Festival, the Seefestspiele Mörbisch, and Smetana’s Litomyšl.

Richard Samek - tenor

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.