Great art in a petite town (Bohemia,CZ)

01/05/2017

Smetana's Litomyšl is the name of one of the largest opera and classical music festivals in the Czech Republic, founded in 1949. More famous (and older) is the Prague Spring (1945) and relatively young is the festival Dvořák's Prague, which welcomed visitors for the first time in 2008. 

Litomyšl is a kind of hidden jewel among Czech towns, delighting its visitors not only by a castle and a museum of the famous native son - composer Bedřich Smetana but also by a nice town square and interesting cafes and restaurants.

We also cannot leave without a notice the beautifully restored Piarist church by Giovanni Battista Alliprandi, who also built, for example, Prague manor houses for the Czernin, Sternberg, and Hrzán aristocratic families.

The festival Smetana's Litomyšl does not pay tributes only to classical music performed by symphonic orchestras composed by the best Czech musicians, but it is also a multi-genre and international festival. Fans of orchestral music, opera, theater, chamber music, as well as fine arts will find something good to see. Members of all the Czech national theaters and orchestras, as well as important foreign actors and musicians, perform there.

During our visit to the festival, we chose three events: chamber music concert by Ensemble Berlin-Prague, viewing of sculptures by Olbram Zoubek, and a visit to Litomyšl castle. The concert was at the previously mentioned Piarist church, named the Finding of the Holy Cross.

The building, which is from 1722, certainly belongs among the treasures of high baroque. It's architect, G. B. Alliprandi is one of the most important representatives of this art style.The church is a part of the Piarist college. The Piarist order strived to make education available to boys from poor families and there is still a secondary school by the college, which is celebrating 370 years since its foundation.

The concert was a great experience for all of us. It delighted us not only by the music but also by the beautiful surrounding. The 2014 restoration of the church was done very sensitively and well. A visitor would not be able to help themselves and instead of watching the orchestra, look at the beautiful altar, the stucco and sculpture decorations, and the graceful baroque organ. Some other interesting elements, for example, area modern footbridge between two side apses, or a crystal hung from the ceiling of the nave instead of a chandelier, reflecting together with the musicians on a black marble slab. 

Ensemble Berlin-Prague is a group of six international artists presenting mainly compositions by J. D. Zelenka and F. Couperin. It is a performance of baroque music in its purest and most classical form, including usage of historical harpsichord, masterfully played by Barbara Maria Willi, She is the only female member of the assembly with Czech-German roots, and also heads the department of old music at Janáček Academy in Brno. As you can tell from the name of the assembly, the members are from the Czech Republic, but also from neighboring Germany as well as a bassoonist from Israel.

The concert in the Piarist church was our only musical experience during this year's festival, and it certainly tempted us to visit the festival again. Next year, we must go to the festival's Grand Finale - a symphony concert Má Vlast (My Homeland) by Bedřich Smetana. It is presented at the castle's gardens, and unlike all the other events of the festival, this one is free and accessible to all.