Helena Vondráčková, one of the Czech Republic’s biggest pop stars, is celebrating her 70th birthday. Vondráčková has been popular with Czech audiences since 1964, when she won a national talent contest with a Czech rendering of Red River Valley. In 1965 she was voted the most popular singer in Czechoslovakia, winning the Golden Nightingale Award and in the years to follow, she went on to win another 27 silver and bronze Nightingales. To this day, she has released dozens of albums and is the country’s best-selling ever singer.
The annual United Island music festival gets underway in Prague on Thursday night with the traditional club night. Ten venues in the city, including the popular Jazz Dock, will present the Czech contemporary scene covering various genres. For the first time this year, United Islands of Prague will take place in the district of Karlín, offering around 200 artists from 20 countries around the world. The festival will also mark the 25th anniversary celebration of the humanitarian organization People in Need.
The biggest star at this weekend’s Metronome music festival in Prague will without question be the UK musician Sting, who led The Police before embarking on an enormously successful solo career. Ahead of his appearance in the Czech capital, the UK musician shared his thoughts with Czech Radio on Brexit, the refugee crisis and more.
The Prague Proms international music festival gets underway in Prague on Wednesday with a concert at the city’s Municipal House. The concert will feature the US composer, singer and songwriter Dany Elfman, who is known mainly for his collaboration with director Tim Burton. I spoke to Jan Vítek, one of the festival organizers, and I first asked him to tell me more about the opening event:
The Czech Republic boasts a unique network of art schools focused on music, ballet, drama and visual arts. The institutions, which are quite generously subsidized by the state, are open to kids from the age of five. Just recently, a nationwide project promoting the so-called "zušky" took place around the country, giving the children and their teachers a rare opportunity to show their skills to the public. The happening was initiated by the Magdalena Kožená Endowement Fund, which was established to promote art education in the Czech Republic.
On their recently released LP Sbohem a šáteček the three-piece Wild Tides draw on surf pop, punk, country and other genres to cook up a sound that is fresh, energetic and highly entertaining. Out on the BiggBoss label, it is the first record to feature Czech-language lyrics from the Prague outfit, who are led by Jakub Kaifosz, also known for Lazer Viking and Sabreheart.
The annual Smetana’s Litomyšl International Opera Festival gets underway on Friday in the eastern Bohemian town with a concert by the Czech Philharmonic headed by Russian conductor Semyon Bychkov. The festival, which is now in its 59th year, will offer more than 35 events, ranging across musical genres from opera to jazz and gypsy music. It will continue until July 5.
An ambitious floating exhibition has opened in Prague with the target of at least equalling some of the new style of shows devoted to rock and pop greats such as the Rolling Stones and David Bowie. And who else could be the focus for such a Czech show other than the so-called Golden Voice of Prague or the Sinatra of the East – Karel Gott. The exhibition understandably puts the onus on Gott’s success but also covers some stardom’s costs.
Drew Petersen is a prodigious pianist who is the winner of this year’s American Pianists Award. He is pursuing a Masters at the Julliard School of Music and recently completed a tour of the Czech Republic as part of the American Spring music festival. He and the president of APA, Joel Harrison, stopped by Czech Radio as the concert tour wrapped up, to discuss the American Spring and much more.