The great Czech composer Bedrich Smetana was born in Litomysl, a picturesque town in the Bohemian-Moravian borderlands. Since 1949 - 125 years after Smetana's birth - Litomysl has been hosting an annual opera festival in his honour. Radio Prague's Martin Mikule is in the town for this year's Smetanova Litomysl and joins me on the phone now. Martin what are some of the highlights of this year's festival?
"This year's festival has a special theme - it commemorates the events of the end of World War II - and the theme is reconciliation. This topic is reflected a lot in this year's festival, there are pieces that are somehow linked to the Second World War, such as for example the Leningrad Symphony by Shostakovich..."
You mention reconciliation - I understand there was a world premiere on Tuesday night of a work by Jiri Pavlica called Oratorio of Reconciliation. Could you please tell us bit about that?
"Yes, there was a premiere of this oratorio by the contemporary Czech composer Jiri Pavlica, and I have to say it was a great success. Even though I think contemporary classical music is not so popular [here] this was an exception.
"This oratorio is of course based on religious elements, it has a religious basis, but it is focused on positive values in general - they lyrics do not speak only about God, but they stress love and tolerance. It is called 'Reconciliation', so it perfectly fits this year's festival. And I would say that the performance on Tuesday night was crucial to this festival."
What venues are being used in the town? We've been having very hot weather lately - are any of the concerts being held outdoors?
"Yes, most of the performances take place outside - the main venue for most of the performances is the castle courtyard. And I have to say Litomysl in general is a beautiful town. It's on the UNESCO heritage list. It has been recently renovated, beautifully renovated - it's beautifully maintained. And the venues for the concerts are great."
What about the audiences - are they mostly local people or have you met many festival goers from further afield?
"I would say most of the visitors are from the local area, either from Litomysl or from towns that are close to Litomysl. But you can find also here international visitors, but of course not as many as in Prague at the Prague Spring festival or other festivals in Prague.
"But I think this is very nice here, that it has such a local atmosphere. You have many local people who come here every year, and in that way the festival maintains a special kind of atmosphere, a special tradition."
And finally Martin, Litomysl is a small place - is it the case that the Smetana festival really takes over the town?
"Absolutely, the festival really dominates the town. It's the main event of the year. I think all of the local people are looking forward to the festival the whole year. It is also a great source of business for the town. Through the festival the town presents itself, because it's the hometown of the composer Bedrich Smetana, and the festival helps to promote it as the town of this famous composer."
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