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 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.
The young Prague-born writer Jaroslav Kalfař has received a great deal of attention in the international media for his debut novel Spaceman of Bohemia, which combines elements of science fiction with references to Czech history and mixes absurd humour and moral questions. Kalfař lives in New York and wrote the book in English. When we spoke recently, the author – who has drawn comparisons with several of the greatest modern Czech novelists – was on one of his first visits back to his native city since moving to the US.
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.
If you enjoy poetry and will be in Prague on June 25, the (A)VOID Floating Gallery on the embankment at Náplavka will be hosting an event that you shouldn’t miss. 7 p.m. sees the launch of a fascinating anthology of poems inspired by the River Vltava. The anthology is fully bilingual in Czech and English, and it gives us a flavour of the Vltava that is refreshingly different from the river of the tourist brochures. The event will also be an opportunity to meet some of this country’s best poets and translators. David Vaughan went on board to meet
After a pause of ten years, the Forman brothers have returned to Prague with a new show called Deadtown, inspired by the Wild West. The Belgian minister of culture hailed the performance, saying it was better than anything she had seen at the Cannes film festival this year. With the Czech premiere of Deadtown the Forman brothers have also launched their new festival called Arena, which will run at Prague’s Smíchov embankment until Sunday.
As of Wednesday, visitors to Prague have been able to admire a monumental statue by Turner Prize winner Tony Cragg. The bronze object is installed at Náměstí Republiky square in the centre of the city as part of the annual summer festival called Sculpture Line. In all, 22 works by Czech and foreign artists are on view all around the city throughout the summer months.