opening concert
Friday, September 7, 8.00 pm
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Programme

Antonín Dvořák: The Spectre’s Bride, Op. 69, B. 135

The festival’s opening concert promises to be a unique experience. As part of the festival’s main programming series, the Dvořák Collection, there will be a performance of a work by two creators – the greatest icons of the Czech cultural tradition Antonín Dvořák and Karel Jaromír Erben. The cantata for soloists, mixed choir, and orchestra titled The Spectre’s Bride is an ideal synthesis of Erben’s stirring text and of the composer’s inexhaustible musical invention. Performing one of Antonín Dvořák’s greatest works for solo voices, choir, and orchestra will be the Czech Philharmonic with the conductor Jakub Hrůša and the Czech Philharmonic Choir of Brno together with the superb soloists Kateřina Kněžíková, Richard Samek, and Svatopluk Sem.

  • Dress code: black tie
  • Doors close: 19.55
  • End of concert: 21.30

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.

Kateřina Kněžíková - soprano

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.

Richard Samek - tenor

Svatopluk Sem

The renowned Czech baritone Svatopluk Sem, a graduate of the České Budějovice Conservatoire, is a regular guest of the most important Czech opera houses including the National Theatre in Prague, the J. K. Tyl Theatre in Plzeň, the National Theatre in Brno, and the Moravian-Silesian National Theatre in Ostrava. He also performs in concert repertoire, not only in the Czech Republic but on numerous concert stages in Japan, Denmark, South Korea, Austria, Spain, Germany, Russia, and England, working with outstanding conductors like Jiří Bělohlávek, Heiko Mathias Förster, and Tomáš Netopil. He shared in the recording of Smetana's The Bartered Bride with the BBC Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Jiří Bělohlávek for the Harmonia Mundi label, and in the BBC documentary film Rolando meets Don Giovanni, appearing in that opera's title role alongside Rolando Villazón.

Svatopluk Sem - baritone

Czech Philharmonic Choir of Brno

The Czech Philharmonic Choir of Brno ranks among the finest European ensembles in its field today. Established only twenty-eight 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.

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, 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.