For classical music fans visiting Prague this spring, the question isnʼt so much what to see as what to miss. The offerings are so rich, and cut across so many genres, the choices are almost overwhelming. The good news is, thereʼs not a weak concert in the lot, and the sheer variety affords opportunities to indulge almost every taste and interest.

<i>The Bartered Bride</i> at Prague National Theatre, September 2019 © Hana Smejkalová
The Bartered Bride at Prague National Theatre, September 2019
© Hana Smejkalová

Opera fans have the most to choose from – 29 productions in the current repertoire and three premieres. Czech mainstays like Rusalka, Jenůfa and The Bartered Bride play mostly at the National Theatre with native casts. Popular favourites like La bohème and Aida are at the State Opera, worth a visit just to see the stunning renovation of this rococo beauty. The Estates Theatre remains a shrine to Mozart – pick your favourite, from Don Giovanni to Le nozze di Figaro – while the New Stage breaks fresh ground with contemporary music theatre. Ballet is on tap as well, including a new production of Tchaikovskyʼs Sleeping Beauty at the State Opera in May.

Estates Theatre © Opera ND
Estates Theatre
© Opera ND

Vocal works also top the list of orchestral programmes. The Czech Philharmonic is taking on Detlev Glanertʼs new oratorio Requiem for Hieronymus Bosch, and in April will stage a concert version of Janáčekʼs Kátya Kabanová. The Prague Symphony Orchestra is offering Mendelssohnʼs Elijah and Dvořákʼs Spectreʼs Bride, and at Eastertide kicks off a trio of Stabat Maters by Dvořák, Jakub Jan Ryba (performed by LʼArmonia Terrena) and Domenico Scarlatti (performed by Collegium 1704). As always, the orchestras are hosting an A-list of guest stars for symphonic concerts: Rudolf Buchbinder, Gautier Capuçon and Lisa Batiashvili with the Czech Philharmonic, Pinchas Zukerman with the Prague Symphony Orchestra.

Vaclav Luks conducts Collegium 1704 in Vivaldi's <i>Arsilda</i>, November 2019 © Petra Hajská
Vaclav Luks conducts Collegium 1704 in Vivaldi's Arsilda, November 2019
© Petra Hajská

The stars are also out for recitals, world-class artists like Elisabeth Leonskaja, Maria João Pires and Jordi Savall with his Hespèrion XXI ensemble. Equally interesting is the fine homegrown talent appearing in recitals and with the orchestras: violinists Josef Špaček, Ivan Ženatý and Pavel Šporcl, pianists Ivo Kahánek and Adam Skoumal, and tenor Petr Nekoranec. One of the best of the current generation of Czech composers, Kryštof Mařatka, is bringing a collection of rare folk instruments for the premiere of his Pastoral Fables.

Baroque enthusiasts are in for a feast, with the superb early music ensemble Collegium 1704 presenting carefully crafted performances of Bach and his contemporaries, Monteverdi madrigals, sacred works by Zelenka (paired with Scarlattiʼs Stabat Mater), cantatas by Caldara and dʼAstorga, and vocal works by Handel and Stradella. Germanyʼs Sferraina Ensemble is bringing a programme of Sephardic and Baroque songs, and Kiya Tabassianʼs East-West Ensemble Constantinople is offering an insightful blend of music from the Italian, Ottoman and Persian renaissances.

Semyon Bychkov conducts the Czech Philharmonic at the Rudolfinum, January 2020 © Petra Hajská
Semyon Bychkov conducts the Czech Philharmonic at the Rudolfinum, January 2020
© Petra Hajská

During May and early June, the focus is on the Prague Spring festival, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year. The Berlin Philharmonic, led by new chief conductor Kirill Petrenko, heads a stellar cast of visiting orchestras that includes the BBC Symphony, Vienna Symphony and St Petersburg Philharmonic. Old friends Gidon Kremer, Bernarda Fink, Garrick Ohlsson, Murray Perahia and Peter Oundjian are returning, and Sir András Schiff is artist-in-residence. While honoring the classics – Leif Ove Andsnes and the Mahler Chamber Orchestra are bringing their “Mozart Momentum” project – the festival stays fresh with new music played by specialty groups like Ensemble Modern, and young talent like Czech conductor Jiří Rožeň leading PKF – Prague Philharmonia and soloist Mahan Esfahani in a programme featuring the music of Benjamin Britten.

Prague Castle gates at Hradčanské náměsti © David Karlin | Bachtrack Ltd
Prague Castle gates at Hradčanské náměsti
© David Karlin | Bachtrack Ltd

The Czech Philharmonic has the opening honours for the Dvořákʼs Prague festival in the autumn – the full programme will be announced in March. In the meantime, the countryʼs flagship orchestra will close out this season with an outdoor concert in late June on Hradčanské náměsti, the scenic entryway to Prague Castle, with percussionist Martin Grubinger – combining the artistry, historic atmosphere, and sheer joy of music-making that make hearing classical music in Prague a special experience.


This article was sponsored by the Prague City Tourist Board