On Thursday evening, Smetana's Litomysl International Opera Festival opens for the 46th time. Taking place in the little Bohemian town of Litomysl - the birthplace of Czech composer Bedrich Smetana - the festival has a special significance this year as it marks the 180th anniversary of the birth and the 120th anniversary of the death of the great composer of the Czech national revival.
Traditionally, the main venue of the music festival are the courtyards of the Renaissance Litomysl Castle. Over twenty different performances, from operas to spiritual music to chamber music pieces will be played over the next ten days mostly at open air stages. To ensure quiet during performances the town of Litomysl has even been declared a no-fly zone for the festival's duration. Vojtech Stritesky is the artistic director of the festival:
"We are expecting a number of distinguished guests: for example the whole ensemble from the State Opera in Prague and the ensemble of Janacek's Opera from the National Theatre in Brno. Among the soloists this year will be opera singers Gabriela Benackova, Peter Dvorsky and Stefan Margita."
On Thursday the festival will premiere a new production of Bedrich Smetana's opera "The Brandenburgers in Bohemia".
This year's Smetana's Litomysl also pays homage to another great Czech composer, Antonin Dvorak, to mark the centenary of his death, by putting up a number of Dvorak's piano, violin and cello concertos.
A number of accompanying events will be held during the festival, one of them the international conference "Bedrich Smetana's Image in the Changes of Time 1824 - 1884 -2004". There will also be a number of art exhibitions, among them one originally displayed in the Smetana Museum in Prague, relating to perhaps the best-known opera by Bedrich Smetana, "The Bartered Bride". The museum's director is Olga Mojzisova.
"Last year an exhibition ended in our museum, called "The Bartered Bride - Known and Unknown" and it was very successful, so it will be presented this year in Smetana's birth town in Litomysl during the International Opera Festival and it is an exhibition which presents the popularity of Smetana's well-known opera "The Bartered Bride".
A special postage stamp has been released marking the 180th anniversary of Bedrich Smetana's birth and in the coming days the post office in Litomyl will mark all mail with a commemorative post-mark featuring the logo of Smetana's Litomysl International Opera Festival and sell souvenir sheets, postcards and other collectors' items.
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