There’s a saying that goes every Czech’s a musician, and we’d be inclined to believe it. From the high operatic form of the gilded State Opera, to the soulful basement beer cellars that ruminate jazz, the Prague music scene has a rich and diverse musical heritage that very few European cities can compete with.
Operatic aficionados pledge their allegiance to Prague, where the elaborate design of its Opera halls and theatres perfectly complements this elevated form. Built in 1888, the historic National Theatre has hosted big name opera singers such as Emil Pollert and Beno Blachut, while the majestic State Opera first opened as a Prague German stage with an unforgettable performance of Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. The Estates Theatre is an equally distinguished venue, and has hosted two world premieres of Mozart: Don Giovanni (1787) conducted by the man himself, and La Clemenza di Tito (1791).
Operas and arias aside, the Prague music scene is renowned for its associations with classical composers: notably Antonín Dvorák and Bedřich Smetana, whose genius is considered the product of the capital. Visitors can pay homage to these household names at the opulent venues of Dvorák Hall and Smetana Hall, where classical concerts are frequently held. Located within the extravagant art nouveau Municipal House, Smetana Hall is home to the Czech National Symphony Orchestra, while Dvorák Hall hosted the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra’s inaugural performance in 1896, conducted by Antonín Dvorák himself. The Art Nouveau architecture within these hallowed halls is second only to their history of musical performance.
The Rudolfinum, now home to the Czech Philharmonic, has a roofline broken by statues of some of Europe’s great composers. When the Nazis rolled into town they went looking for the statue of the great Jewish composer Mendelssohn, in order to tear it down. As the statues weren’t named, they used their own stereotypical anti-semitic method of searching for the statue with the largest nose. Ironically, the statue they pushed from the rooftop was fascist favourite Wagner.
Without a doubt, the most important annual event of the Prague music scene is the Spring International Music Festival, which runs from mid May through early June. This international showcase attracts extraordinary world-class talent, putting many other festivals of its kind to shame. Join eager audiences of classical music connoisseurs as they congregate for morning, afternoon and evening performances from the world’s most brilliant musicians.
Another essential highlight of Prague’s musical calendar is the International Jazz Festival. The oldest music festival in the Czech Republic and the largest Jazz festival in Europe, this marathon of music runs from February until October, and attracts phenomenal performers. Prague is also home to some of the oldest jazz clubs in Europe, including the legendary Reduta Jazz Club, established in 1957 and made famous when it hosted the ‘Two Presidents’ performance that witnessed Bill Clinton playing the saxophone alongside Vaclav Havel.