Prague is the capital city of the Czech Republic, a country in central Europe bordered by Poland, Germany, Austria, and Slovakia. Prague also doubles up as the largest city in this landlocked country, and is a very dynamic city by day and at night, especially during festivals. Towards the end of April this year, April 20th to 27th to be exact, I had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to visit the city to attend the 66th International Music Festival, one of the largest arts events in Prague, and indeed Europe.
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During the annual festival, various artists from around the world get to showcase their performances in different venues all over Prague, and this year, it was no different for there were 43 concerts and seven operas spread throughout the city. In addition, this year’s festival saw the addition of an art exhibition known as Homage to Atonality and Abstraction that was held in the Kampa Museum.
One of the things that made this year’s festival special is that it coincided with the hundredth anniversary of the death of Gustav Mahler: a great music icon. During my visit to Prague, I had a chance to visit three musical events and visit various parts of the city. The first was a concert by Peter Rosel, a solo piano player who gave a very fantastic performance titled Klavier. The second performance was by Black Light Theater, who performed Aspects of Alice, a twisted rendition of Alice in Wonderland. The final concert I attended was a Czech Folklore dining and dancing, a show in which attendees were introduced to a number of Czech sounds and dances.
The Peter Rosel Show
This is the first show that I attended during the 66th International Music festival. However, I had to buy the tickets for the show, which I did on the internet at www.ticketpro.com. Ticketpro.com is an American company that provides tickets for entry to a number of concerts, sporting, and theatre events worldwide. What I liked about the company was their prompt reply and faster processing of purchase orders. Once I had bought the tickets for the concerts, I was ready to invade Prague!
Peter Rosel is a German pianist, and one of the things that pulled me to his show was a unique skill that he had, coupled with the experience. Rosel has appeared in more than 40 nations in all of the five continents due to his unique talent. Besides, he has conducted several renowned artists. Apart from being a pianist, Rosel has recorded several pieces ranging from piano concertos to solo piano works and to chamber music.
Watching him live on stage was like a dream come true for I had always relished a chance to see his live performance. Rosel’s performance took place on April 21st, a day after we got to Prague, although I was tired from the long flight, nothing could make me miss his performance, for it is not every day that I get such an event.
When I arrived, a capacity crowd had converged in the hall, I must say I was awed by the architectural design of the room. An object that resembled an organ was embedded on the wall while smaller abstract figures were scattered through the rest of the wall; it was breathtaking. Mr. Rosel was greeted by rapturous applause as he walked onto the stage, wearing a characteristic black suit. I was struck by humility as he started by thanking everyone for attending his piano concerto. This was to become the trend throughout the evening as he frequently addressed us in between the pieces. The crowd was really enjoying the show and this buoyed him further, and he reciprocated by giving a performance of a lifetime! Everybody left satisfied, wondering loudly what a great pianist Rosel is.
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Aspects of Alice- Black Light Theater
The second show I attended was known as black light theater knew Aspects of Alice, the show was a complex rendition of Alice in Wonderland. One of the aspects that made this show exciting was the fact that everything else was dark except the stage. The performance consisted of dances, mimes, comedy, and to some level, tragedy. It was very scary at first, especially when I saw ghost-like figures marching across the stage and back, they almost looked like ghosts! The actors seemed to be floating, just like ghosts, and the darkness enveloping the audience further increased my fear. However, after a few minutes, I gained my composure and enjoyed the show to the end. Before attending this show, I had only heard of black light theatre in art books, and I could not miss the opportunity to watch a live production.
Before the show began, everyone was requested to take their seats since no movement would be possible once the show began, obviously because of the darkness that would engulf the area occupied by the audience. After having our seats, a beaming male voice requested the audience to switch off or silence their cell phones, many opted for the second option. Each announcement was done in three different languages: English, Hebrew, and Spanish, to cater to the diversity of cultures that had gathered in Prague for the festival. Finally, the long-awaited show began.
What I liked most about the blacklight show was how the production team played with colors in order to create an illusion that the actors were really floating in the air. The producers’ imagination, poetry, and smart technical effects gave the audience a memorable experience, especially those who were seeing the show for the first, or even second time. Aspects of Alice were not an exact performance of Alice in Wonderland, rather, it began where Alice had ceased to a young girl.
On the bright stage, Alice goes through all the joy and excitement of growing up, first loves, being a young woman, as she grows into adulthood gathering experiences, happiness, and sadness. However, ht interpretation of the presentation varied from one member of the audience to the other since we had to fill out some parts of the show through imagination. All of these occurred against a background of ancient Prague, illustrating the rich history of the city and its position at the intersection of Christian and Jewish cultures.
The show’s perfect incorporation of comedy, beauty, and imagination made it an outright success. Besides, the actors used non-verbal communication with the audience only relying on the visual aspects to create meaning out of it. Perhaps, this was to prevent a language barrier due to the multilingual nature of the audience and enable closer following by the audience. In the end, Aspects of Alice proved to be a success with the audience, evidenced by the long applause as the show ended. The show was simply amazing, I had never seen anything like it.
Czech Folklore Dining and Dancing
On our third night in Prague, we attended a Czech Folklore dining and dancing. During this session, we were introduced to Czech sounds and dances through a series of performances by professional dancers. The evening show began at the restaurant, where traditional sweet liquor was served, this was followed by a four-course traditional Czech dinner. In addition, bread, more beer, and wine was served continuously as the evening progressed.
The summer garden surrounding the castle where the guests were hosted was decorated to reflect the traditional Czech village. The castle was large very large and could host close to 400 people. Heaters were installed in the restaurant area incase the weather got extremely cold. We visited the Folklore Wooden House too. It could accommodate 150 seated guests, but we were informed that during the summer, the capacity doubles, similar to the summer garden. The inside part of the Folklore Wooden House was decorated in a village-style, it almost felt as if I was in the Czech countryside!
The dancers were all dressed in traditional attire and went on to give a two-and-a-half-hour performance showcasing the various aspects of the Czech culture such as dance, clothing, and music. As the show progressed, guests were invited to join the professional dancers to learn about the dancing styles. After this performance, guests were treated to music from other cultures.
On the fourth night of our visit, we had dinner while on a river cruise and listening to live music. We also visited the Original Music Theatre Prague and Charles Bridge. Before our return journey, we spent an entire day visiting various places of interest, including the Prague Castel, National Theatre, Dancing House, Podoli waterworks, and the Krizik Fountain, an illuminated fountain located in the Exhibition Grounds in Prague Holesovice. The fountain illuminates 50 colored spotlights and 1,300 underwater spotlights besides having a laser effect. Finally, after all the fun and learning experience, we headed back home, satisfied with our trip yet wishing we had stayed longer in this beautiful city: Prague.