Now in its 52nd year, Smetana’s Litomyšl International Opera Festival transforms composer Bedřich Smetana’s home town in east Bohemia into a paradise for music lovers. The music festival, which is the country’s second oldest, kicked off on Friday and will run until July 5. What can visitors expect this year?
Jana Zielinski is the director of Designblok, a Prague-based festival that brings together designers from the Czech Republic and abroad. What started 12 years ago as a small event targeted at design professionals, has blossomed into Prague’s biggest design festival, attracting 30,000 visitors last year. I spoke to Zielinski about her love for design, how the festival started and her plans for the future.
The first year of what looks set to become the biggest annual theatrical event in the country launched at the weekend. The nine-day Theatre World Festival in Brno will feature ensembles from a dozen countries. However, the main attraction comes from the Czech Republic, in the form of the complete works of playwright-president Václav Havel, some of which will receive their world premiere.
Last month Prague hosted Bookworld, one of Europe’s major international book fairs. Writers from around the world, whose work covers a Babel of different languages, converged on the Czech capital. As part of the event, six of the writers got together to talk about how literature can play a role in helping to build understanding between cultures. A lively discussion emerged, chaired by Radio Prague’s David Vaughan.
The town of Kutná Hora attracts visitors mainly thanks to its gothic cathedral and its history of silver mining. Now there is another good reason to visit the UNESCO listed town – the recently opened Central Bohemian Art Gallery, in short, GASK. Situated in a former Jesuit College, it has become the second biggest gallery in the Czech Republic.
This week, an art piece exhibited in front of Czech government headquarters caused a bit of a stir. An ice sculpture of the head of President Václav Klaus that slowly melted in the sun did not amuse officials, who had commissioned students to create artworks for a nearby garden. The offending artist, sculpting student Markéta Jáchimová, decided to display her piece despite orders not to.
The Pavel Koutecký prize for documentary film is awarded to “tireless observers of the world with the ability to convey their feelings and insights through film.” This year, the work chosen as best able to meet those criteria was “Country of Dreams”, by writer and director Martin Ryšavý. The film takes a hard look at the lives and tribulations of the Vietnamese community in the Czech Republic.
Thursday is the anniversary of the razing the village of Lidice by the Nazis in 1942, without doubt one of the darkest moments in modern Czech history. A planned film about the massacre has been delayed for some years due to funding problems. Now the film’s producer has been forced to announce yet another piece of bad news. Alice Nellis, who was originally meant to direct the film, has had to step back from the project due to illness.
When the artist Alfons Mucha died in 1939, he left his masterpiece of 20 canvasses entitled the Slav Epic, to the City of Prague – but on the condition that an appropriate space be built for it. This has not happened to date and now the city would like to remove the work from the chateau in Moravský Krumlov where it is currently housed and install it in Prague’s Veletržní Palác. The Mucha family, however, is opposed, and is filing for an injunction against the city to keep the paintings where they are until they are given a permanent residence.
Scottish writer Iain Banks is a prolific novelist of conventional novels and science fiction. Since his first novel, “The Wasp Factory” was published in 1984, he has penned around a dozen conventional novels. Under the pen name Iain M Banks he has published around half that number of science fiction books. Many of these feature a utopian civilization of the future called “The Culture.” Away from the writing, Mr. Banks takes a public political stand on many issues, for example he tore up his passport and mailed it to the prime minister in protest