Classical music lovers have much to see when visiting Prague. Two of the most likely ports of call are the Rudolfinum, home to the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, and the National Theatre. At the mid point of these two venues, you will find The Mozart Prague, one of the city’s upper echelon of five star hotels. I’m here at the kind invitation of The Mozart, who have sponsored this preview of Prague’s musical offerings in the months ahead.

View of the Rudolfinum from the river
© Flickr | Guillaume Baviere

The Rudolfinum
Turning right as you leave the hotel and following the Vltava river northwards, a short walk (or a one stop tram ride) takes you to the Rudolfinum.

Your first choice might well be to see the Czech Philharmonic with their charismatic (and strict!) conductor Semyon Bychkov. He conducts two programmes this season, each with three performances: the first an action-packed line-up of Bartók, Stravinsky and the world premiere of a piano concerto by French organist and composer Thierry Escaich on 16–18th March; the second featuring the fateful hammer blows of Mahler’s Sixth on 7–9th June.

Or if it’s Czech music you want to hear, go for Jakub Hrůša on 26–28th April, when he conducts Josef Suk’s mighty Asrael Symphony. (Also on the bill is Daniil Trifonov performing Scriabin’s Piano Concerto in F sharp minor.)

The Rudolfinum also houses the Prague Philharmonia (PKF), which is strong on its invited soloists this season. Simon Trpčeski plays Rach 3 on 19th March, Garrick Ohlson plays the Brahms Piano Concerto no. 2 on 11th April and Emmanuel Ceysson performs Carl Reinecke’s Harp Concerto on 18th June.

Perhaps the most eye-catching concert of the whole Rudolfinum season is a Rachmaninov recital on 25th March by Nikolai Lugansky, one of the composer’s finest interpreters alive today (but be sure to read our interview with Lugansky first).

South along the Vltava
© Wikimedia Commons

Opera in Prague
A single organisation, Prague National Theatre Opera, runs four houses: the National Theatre (Národní divadlo), the State Opera (Státní opera), the Estates Theatre (Stakovské divadlo) and the New Stage (Nová Scéna). Opera-savvy visitors to Prague will probably want to see pieces by Czech composers (after all, you won’t hear Czech language sung as well anywhere else).

If you’re staying at The Mozart, turn left and walk southwards by the Vltava for a slightly shorter distance than the Rudolfinum, to reach the National Theatre.

There’s a fair chance that you’ve heard of Gluck’s Armide or Handel’s Armida abbandonata or Rinaldo, but you’re unlikely to know that Dvořák also composed an Armida from the same Torquato Tasso story. It’s rarely performed, even in the Czech Republic, but you can see a new production at the National Theatre in May and June.

Another Dvořák opera, The Devil and Kate, isn’t often seen outside Czech but is in the company’s regular repertory and receives two performances in April.

The Prague National Theatre
© Wikimedia Commons

Also in the repertoire for this season are Rusalka, Smetana’s The Bartered Bride and Libuše and a dose of proper Czech folklore in the shape of Jaromir Weinberger’s Schwanda the Bagpiper.

Most of the standard repertoire operas are shown at the larger State Opera House, close to Wenceslas Square. That’s a 20 minute or more walk from The Mozart, so you may prefer to take the “A” Metro line from Staroměstská station, opposite the Rudolfinum.

In addition to popular repertoire entries like Rigoletto, La traviata and Der fliegende Holländer, there are three interesting new productions this season. Playing in March, May and June is Alexander Zemlinsky’s Kleider machen Leute, a production born from Prague’s “musica non grata” initiative, which is reviving the work of composers who were blacklisted during the Nazi years.

April and May sees Paul Abraham’s delicious operetta Ball im Savoy, described in our review as “substantive, smartly satirical and incredibly inventive”. In June, there’s a new Cav and Pag directed by polymath Ondřej Havelka (who is a filmmaker, scriptwriter, actor and jazz singer when he’s not directing theatre and opera).

Prague Estates Theatre
© Wikimedia Commons

Closer to the hotel, a ten minute walk away from the river into the Old Town, is Prague's operatic hidden gem: the Estates Theatre, where Mozart conducted the premiere of Don Giovanni in 1787. Mozart operas run here more or less continuously – if you want to see Don Giovanni in its birthplace, you can find performances in any of March, April, May or June.

Ballet in Prague
Ballet fans are less well served in quantity than their operatic cousins, but no less so in quality, since the Czech National Ballet are a very fine company.

The pick of this year is John Cranko’s Onegin in June, “scrupulously staged” (as our reviewer described it) at the National Theatre. Its final pas de deux that turned “turned into a searing, agitated, tempestuous battle of wits”.

There are also new productions of Cinderella and La Sylphide, with modern multiple bills from William Forsthe/Edward Clug/Wayne McGregor in April and Jiří Kylián in June.

Courtyard of The Mozart, Prague
© The Mozart, Prague

The Mozart Prague
A historical note about The Mozart: the building was originally a nobleman’s house, the Pachta Palace. In a 1787 visit to Prague, Mozart lodged at the house as a guest of Count Johann Pachta.

The story goes that the Count was so incensed with Mozart spending all his time drinking with his aristocratic friends in the palace courtyard that he locked the errant composer in an upstairs room, telling him not to return until he produced the music the Count had been promised. Five hours later, Mozart reappeared with the manuscript of what we now know as the Six German Dances, K509, and presumably resumed drinking shortly thereafter. (You can still enjoy a drink in the elegant courtyard today.)

Recommended Weekends
If you’re planning a long weekend in Prague, here are some picks for occasions when you can see three performances on successive evenings. Here’s my top pick:

9–12th June
• Friday at 19:30, Semyon Bychkov and the Czech Phil playing Mahler 6 at the Rudolfinum
• Saturday at 19:00: Armida at the National Theatre, or Ball in Savoy at the State Opera
• Sunday at 14:00 or 19:00: Jiří Kylián’s Bridges of Time at the National Theatre
• Sunday at 19:00: Kleider machen Leute at the State Opera (if you skipped the Kylián or went to the matinee)

If you want two concerts in your three evenings, try this weekend in March (you’ll have to hurry!):

17–19th March
• Friday at 19:30: Semyon Bychkov, Seong-Jun Cho and the Czech Phil at the Rudolfinum
• Saturday at 19:00: Kleider machen Leute at the State Opera
• Sunday at 19:30: Simon Trpčeski and the Prague Philharmonia (PKF) at the Rudolfinum

This weekend includes visits to the concert hall and the opera house, and a nice contrast between heavy and light repertoire:

27–29th April
• Thursday at 19:30: Jakub Hrůša, Daniil Trifonov and the Czech Phil at the Rudolfinum
• Friday at 19:00: Rusalka at the State Opera
• Saturday at 19:00: Ball in Savoy at the State Opera

Or try a pure opera weekend in which you tour all three houses:

26–28th May
• Friday at 19:00: Armida at the National Theatre
• Saturday at 19:00: Don Giovanni at the Estates Theatre
• Sunday at 14:00 or 19:00: Swan Lake at the State Opera

View of the Charles Bridge and Prague Castle from The Mozart
© The Mozart, Prague

Accommodation was provided by The Mozart, Prague. This article was sponsored by The Mozart, Prague.