sat 13/07/2024

Czech

theartsdesk at Smetanova Litomyšl - three fascinating operas and a masterpiece superbly vindicated

What did they put in the water of Czechia’s central Bohemia/Moravia borderlands? From south to north there's Mahler’s birthplace in Kalište and the city of his youth, Jihlava; the Polička tower where Martinů was born; and finally the Litomyšl...

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Blu-ray: Happy End (Šťastný konec)

Happy End’s big draw is its central conceit, that of a convicted murderer narrating his life story backwards from the guillotine to the cradle. Made in 1967 by Oldfřich Lipský (1924-1986), renowned as a director of off-beat comedies, you wonder how...

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'Migrations' String Quartet Weekend, National Concert Hall, Dublin review - memorials and masterpieces

It was chance that the National Concert Hall’s weekend of quartet events featuring responses to war and refugees should coincide with the second anniversary of Putin’s Invasion of Ukraine. By late Saturday morning thousands of Ukrainians and friends...

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Segev, LPO, Lyniv, RFH review - melody, magic, and mourning

We began in a forest packed with dangers and delights and ended, also in the Czech lands, with an infectiously joyful country dance. In between, however, came a sombre and spellbinding exposure to the pain and grief of war.Last night at the Royal...

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Blu-ray: Pearls of the Deep

Released in 1965, Pearls of the Deep (Perličky na dně) is that rare beast, a successful portmanteau movie. Five young Czech film makers each directed a segment, with two more contributions excised for reasons of length and later released separately....

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Blu-ray: The Cassandra Cat

As films involving cats go, The Cassandra Cat (Až přijde kocour) is up there with the best. Part fairy-tale, part political satire, Vojtěch Jasný’s 1963 fantasy, shot on location in the picturesque village of Telcis, is an offbeat, unclassifiable...

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Rusalka, Royal Opera review - ravishing sounds, torpid staging

Psychological depths in the myth of the water nymph who yearns for the human world, with disastrous results, have led to some unusual settings for Dvořák’s operatic masterpiece on the theme: a nursery, a hotel room (both successful), a brothel (not...

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Philharmonia, Hrůša, RFH review - total brilliance in Bartók, Dvořák and Strauss

Salome was not to get her head on a silver platter: Jennifer Davis, due to sing the bloody final scene of Strauss’s opera, had been experiencing abdominal pains during her first pregnancy – mother and child are fine – and had to withdraw at a late...

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Blu-ray: Desire / All My Good Countrymen - Two films by Vojtěch Jasný

Hailed by Miloš Forman as “the spiritual father of the Czech New Wave”, Czech film director Vojtěch Jasný’s long career began in the early 1950s and spanned five decades. All My Good Countrymen (Všichni dobří rodáci), based on a screenplay...

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Blu-ray: Larks on a String

Jiří Menzel's Larks on a String (Skřivánci na niti) was in production while Soviet tanks rumbled into Prague in August 1968. Predictably, the film was banned by the new Czechoslovak regime and it remained unreleased until 1990, though illicit video...

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Blu-ray: Coach to Vienna

As a title, Coach to Vienna suggests an opulent Boule de Suif-like drama directed by Max Ophüls and starring the likes of Danielle Darrieux and Michel Simon. But Karel Kachyňa’s film is no Viennese waltz. It’s a bleak end-of-World War II drama in...

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Wang, Czech Philharmonic, Bychkov, Barbican review - the sound of history

“The past is never dead,” William Faulkner famously wrote. “It’s not even past.” Funny to think that I approached 2022 bored in advance with all the glib celebrations of post-WWI international modernist breakthroughs that the centenary of Ulysses...

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