Schwanda the Bagpiper

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December 2022
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National Theatre Chorus
National Theatre Orchestra
Actors, dancers

“Czechs, German, citizens of the world – gather round! See a fairy tale in two acts and five scenes, penned by Miloš Kareš and adapted by Max Brod. What is it about? About lime-trees in bloom. About Queens of Darkness who fail to do what they desire to do. About bandits who do great good. About the Devil who loses a card-game. Dorotka is here. And Švanda can do incredible things – with that instrument of his. Long live the Czech bagpiper! Long live Dorotka! Horses, varlets, men with scythes, a soup for lunch, an astronomical clock stolen from the Devil, carriages, carts, bells of all tunes, thunders and thunderbolts, ominous figures, bats and an infernal marriage game. In the end, they all shout: Hail!” That is how the stage director Vladimír Morávek invites audiences of all generations, particularly children and their parents, to attend an extraordinary performance of the opera Schwanda the Bagpiper by the Czech (and later on, American too) composer Jaromír Weinberger. Along with Smetana, Dvořák, Janáček and Martinů, he was one of the select few Czechs whose music gained global acclaim. In the mid-1920s, during the time of the first Czechoslovak Republic, Weinberger and the humourist Miloš Kareš wrote a loose sequel to J. K. Tyl’s tall story The Strakonice Bagpiper. Švanda is married to his beloved Dorotka, yet he feels restless at home. And so, when the bandit Babinský tells him what is there to enjoy abroad ...

What follows is a crazy story, something like an opera-comic strip, giving an account of the adventures of Švanda the bagpiper and his bandit companion, who experience merry, as well as rather torrid moments. And whenever it seems that our heroes are done for good, the best of the Czech nature prevails – craftiness and love of music.

Weinberger’s fabulous – and truly folksy – opera garnered ovations at many theatres in Europe. As translated by Max Brod (a friend and associate of Franz Kafka and Leoš Janáček), in 1931 Schwanda the Bagpiper was even staged at the Metropolitan Opera in New York.

The production is part of the Musica non grata cycle.

Program and cast

Cast

Conductor

Zbyněk
Müller

Creatives

Direction and Lighting design

Vladimír Morávek

Sets

Martin Chocholoušek

Costumes

Sylva Zimula Hanáková

Choreography

Martina Hajdyla Lacová

Musical preparation

Zbyněk Müller

Dramaturgy

Ondřej Hučín

Prague National Theatre

The National Theatre today

 

The historical building of the National Theatre, constructed in 1883, is generally considered the prime stage in the CzechRepublic. It is the flagship of the National Theatre institution, today amounting to five buildings and encompassing four companies. You can see there Opera, Drama and Ballet performances.

 

Idea of building a stately theatre for the Czech nation

 

The National Theatre is the embodiment of the will of the Czech nation for a national identity and independence. Collections of money among the broad mass of the people facilitated its construction and hence the ceremonial laying of its foundation stone on 16 May 1868 was tantamount a nationwide political manifestation.

 

The idea of building a stately edifice to serve as a theatre was first mooted in the autumn of 1844 at meetings of patriots in Prague. It began to materialise through a request for “the privilege of constructing, furnishing, maintaining and managing” an independent Czech theatre, which was submitted to the Provincial Committee of the Czech Assembly by František Palacký on 29 January 1845. The privilege was granted in April 1845. Yet it was not until six years later – in April 1851 – that the Society for the Establishment of a Czech National Theatre in Prague (founded in the meantime) made its first public appeal to start collections. A year later the proceeds of the first collections allowed for the purchase of land belonging to a former salt works with the area of less than 28 acres, which predetermined the magnificent location of the theatre on the bank of the river Vltava facing the panorama of Prague Castle, yet at the same time the cramped area and trapezoidal shape posed challenging problems for the building’s designers.
 

By car

To the centre (OldTown), approach on Masarykovo nábřeží (Masaryk embankment) in the direction from the Dancing House, at the crossroads in front of the National Theatre turn right to Divadelní street and then right again to Ostrovní street to the National Theatre car park. Parking costs 50 CZK/h.

 

By tram

By daytime trams Nos. 6, 9, 18 and 22 and night trams Nos. 53, 57, 58, 59 to the stop “Národní divadlo” – in front of the NT historical building; by daytime tram No. 17 to the stop “Národní divadlo”.

 

By metro

To the station “Můstek”, line B (yellow), and then by foot on Národní street; or to the station “Karlovo náměstí” and then two stops by tram No. 6, 18 or 22 to the stop “Národní divadlo”. To the station “Staroměstská”, line A (green), and then two stops by tram No. 17 to the stop “Národní divadlo”. 

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