In this special programme, we offer a taste of Czech Christmas music through the centuries. We’ll be hearing from the 17th century “Christmas Songbook” of Adam Michna z Otradovic, one of the founding fathers of this country’s rich tradition of carols, with recordings by the Moravian Madrigalists, and a new CD by the Zvonecek (Little Bell) children’s choir. There’ll be a stirring Christmas Mass from the 1770s by Frantisek Xaver Brixi, and we’ll even be finding out what happened when the Angel of the Lord broke his sled, in a traditional Moravian Christmas
We have featured Mark Corner in this programme before. He has translated several well known Czech works from the first half of the twentieth century, including Vladislav Vancura’s whimsical short novel ‘Summer of Caprice’ and the Czech novel that comes closest to the atmosphere of P.G. Wodehouse, Zdenek Sirotka’s ‘Saturnin’. Now Mark has turned to another writer from the same period, Karel Polacek, and one of his best loved classics, “Bylo nas pet” which Mark has translated as “We Were a Handful”.
The eastern Bohemian town of Moravska Trebova is situated in an attractive part of the country. Yet, unlike other towns in the region, it hasn’t been very successful in drawing tourists. Now this is about to change, local councillors are hoping. They have introduced an ambitious project: what should become the first real-life Czech fairy tale kingdom.
What do you associate with a Czech Christmas? Carp and potato salad, maybe? Advent wreaths perhaps? Or maybe those festive markets selling mulled wine and gingerbread? Well, now there is a new exhibition which aims to present some of the Czech Republic’s slightly less well-known Christmas traditions. Namely, the festive customs of the country’s minorities. The exhibition, titled ‘Rozlicny cas vanocni’ (‘Various Christmas Traditions’), has just opened in Prague's Hrzansky palac.
As of next year, some American TV viewers will get a taste of an original Czech TV production. Orbis TV, a Czech language station broadcasting in and around Chicago, has bought the first 84 episodes of a Czech series called Letiste or The Airport. It is made by the Prague-based channel Prima, which has been broadcasting the soap opera since September 2006. The deal is being called the first of its kind.
Babicka or The Grandmother by Bozena Nemcova is unquestionably one of the icons of Czech literature and, as a regular item on school reading lists, it is known to literally every Czech child. Published in 1855, the book saw more than 350 editions, dozens of theatre productions and several film adaptations. Now, for the first time ever, an adaptation of Babicka has reached the stage of the Czech National Theatre.
Today’s guest on One on One is Jiri Dedecek – singer, political activist, Czech PEN club president, and translator. Mr Dedecek is perhaps best known for his translations from Russian and French into Czech. One of his most recent projects was translating the songs of Jacques Brel and Vladimir Vysockij for the ballet ‘Solo for Three’, which premiered at the National Theatre in Prague in May of this year. I caught up with Jiri Dedecek in his expansive office above the National Library, in Prague’s Clementinum.
The folk singer Jaromir Nohavica is immensely popular in the Czech Republic, where many are very familiar with his songs. Nohavica’s lyrics are perhaps his strongest point as an artist, though that is largely lost on English speakers who do not have a strong grasp of the Czech language. Now, however, a Canadian translator and teacher called Mark Landry is preparing English translations of Nohavica songs, which should make the singer’s poetic lyrics accessible to non-Czech speakers.
When Vaclav Havel stepped down as president after three terms in office he said he was planning to return to his creative roots. His first play in two decades –called “Leaving” or “Odchazeni” in Czech – draws on his experience in the world of politics and has generated a lot of media attention. Prague’s top theatres jockeyed for the honour of presenting it but finding the right stage for Mr Havel’s new play has not proved easy.
Christmas is everywhere in Prague at the moment, from the sparkling lights in the city’s trees to the festive markets selling mulled wine and mistletoe. But one outpost of festive activity that you might miss if you didn’t look out for it is the exhibition of nativity scenes currently running up at Prague Castle.