On Sunday, April 21, the Famous Opera Choruses concert took place in the Spanish Hall, which was broadcast live by Czech Television on the ČT art channel. The viewership reached 147 thousand viewers. The Prague Philharmonic Choir, led by its principal choirmaster and also the conductor of the entire concert, Lukáš Vasilek, convinced everyone in the hall and in front of the television screens that it mastered, among other things, “…the art of delicate dynamic shading, sound plasticity, and exemplary articulation of the text,” as Radmila Hrdinová writes in her review on the Novinky.cz portal. You can read the text below.

A choral tribute to Czech music resounded through the Spanish Hall

Radmila Hrdinová

22 April, 16:09
A concert of the Prague Philharmonic Choir and the Prague Philharmonia (formerly PKF – Prague Philharmonia) entitled “Famous Opera Choruses” was held in the Spanish Hall of Prague Castle on Sunday. In the spirit of the Year of Czech Music 2024, the programme focused on the works of Bedřich Smetana, Antonín Dvořák, Leoš Janáček and Bohuslav Martinů. The concert was broadcast live by Czech Television on its ČT ART channel. The concert was held under the patronage of Eva Pavlová, the wife of the president of the Czech Republic.

The concert was staged and conducted by the conductor, principal choirmaster and art director of the Prague Philharmonic Choir, Lukáš Vasilek, under whose direction our leading choral ensemble has reached a peak level of interpretation in the last few decades. He also deserves credit for the wonderful selection of dramatic composition.

The introduction resounded with a selection of choral and solo pieces from Martinů’s “The Miracle of Our Lady”, then from Leoš Janáček’s “Jenůfa” and the first part was brought to an end with three excerpts from Dvořák’s “Rusalka”.

After the interval, the programme was devoted entirely to Bedřich Smetana when both ensembles and the soloists celebrated six out of his eight completed operas.

The seventy-member choir demonstrated its artistry in precisely structured and expressively well-differentiated pitches. The pure intonation and perfect singing was its main strength so it also demonstrated the artistry of fine dynamic tones, sound structure and exemplary text articulation.

The male part of the choir thrilled the audience with a sensitive performance of the wonderful chorus “The Night Is So Still” from Smetana’s “The Brandenburgers in Bohemia” and the temperamental ditty “And the Most Cheerful Thing Is this World” from “Dalibor”.

The women were immediately enthralled in the first entry of the Halellujah from the second part of Martinů’s “The Miracle of Our Lady”, by the hushed delivery of the chorus “Hey mum” from Janáček’s “Jenůfa” and the gentle lullaby “A White Dove Was Flying” from “The Kiss” in the less known, but impressive choral arrangement of Smetana’s contemporary Ferdinand Heller.
And, among others, the ensemble shined out together in Dvořák’s chorus ‘White blooms all along the road’ or in the closing number “Let us Rejoice, Let’s Be Merry” from “The Bartered Bride”.

The concert soloists were soprano Veronika Rovná, whose perfect delivery resounded in Jenůfa’s prayer or Mařenka’s aria “That dream of love”, and bass Pavel Švingr, with his particularly pleasing sound and expressively precise delivery of the Water Sprite’s aria from Dvořák’s “Rusalka”.
The Prague Philharmonia also got its opportunity to demonstrate its playing skills in several orchestral pieces. Marek Eben provided an amusing and musically erudite commentary of the concert programme.

Choral art forms part of the treasury of Czech music and only few nations have such a rich legacy of choral work. The “Famous Opera Choruses” concert was proof of this and an extraordinary experience, and will certainly rank among the highlights of the events of the Year of Czech Music.

The Prague Philharmonic Choir is returning to Czech opera music and Prague Castle where it will appear in the concert performance of Smetana’s “Libuše” conducted by Jakub Hrůša.