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The three opera houses in Prague will launch their extensive, Czech-German project, “Musica non grata”, in September 2020

75 years following the end of the war, the four-year cycle, “Musica non grata”, will commence in Prague and pick up on the rich musical tradition that existed in the city before 1938. With the support of the Czech government and the German Bundestag, which has provided the German Foreign Office with the financial means for the project, numerous concerts, opera productions and chamber music concerts featuring works of Czech-Jewish-German origin will be performed at the three Prague opera houses. Over a period of four years, the memory of a group of composers, and women composers in particular, who maintained a unique connection with Prague and the Czech Republic, will be honoured. The three historic Prague opera buildings - the State Opera, the National Theatre Opera and the Estates Theatre - will be involved in the cycle, which is scheduled to have its opening on September 6, 2020 with a concert at the State Opera (formerly the German Theatre). Additional items on the programme, such as the Weinberger's “Schwanda, the Bagpiper”, will be announced at a later date. 

 

Initiated by the new Artistic Director of the National Theatre Opera and State Opera, Per Boye Hansen, this ambitious project is supported by the two Music Directors Jaroslav Kyzlink (National Theatre Opera) and Karl-Heinz Steffens (State Opera), Ondřej Hučín as Chief Dramatic Advisor of the Opera and Artistic Director of Musica non grata, the Prague ensembles, renowned Czech artists and numerous international guests. The eclectic programme combines grand operas with symphonies, chamber music and lieder recitals and is complemented by symposia and additional research projects.

 

One focus of the project lies on so-called “Entartete Musik” (Degenerate Music) and its creators. Numerous artists were robbed of their existence by the National Socialists and many of them were expelled or murdered. Works by the Theresienstadt Ghetto composers Pavel Haas, Hans Krása, Gideon Klein and Viktor Ullmann will be heard, as well as a number of composers whose fates were affected by the ideology of the emerging power of the “Third Reich”, such as Franz Schreker, Erwin Schulhoff, Rudolf Karel, Emil František Burian, Karel Berman and Ludmila Peškařová.  Works by emigrated composers such as Ernst Křenek, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Alexander Zemlinsky, Jaromír Weinberger, Bohuslav Martinů, Jaroslav Ježek, Vítězslava Kaprálová, Paul Hindemith, Kurt Weill and Hanns Eisler will also be performed.

 

A particular focus lies on musical works written by women. After all, the 20s and early 30s marked a time of emancipation for female composers. Women such as Vítězslava Kaprálová, Ludmila Peškařová, Emmy Destinn, Julie Reisserová and the Scottish-Czech composer Geraldine Mucha stepped out of the shadows of their male colleagues. This is why this hitherto unexplored facet of musical life is to be freed from obscurity and made accessible to a broad public, beyond the borders of Prague. All performances of “Musica non grata” will be made available digitally by streaming and some of them will be available subsequently on DVD, CD and in online archives.

 

“Musica non grata” will also feature some of the classics of the 20th century: Igor Stravinsky, Alban Berg and Arnold Schönberg, whose “degenerate music” was also condemned by the National Socialist ideology. Even works by Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy and Gustav Mahler - who had a significant influence on European music history - fell victim to the regime's racial delusion. One of the aims of the “Musica non grata” project is consequently to remind us of the conditions that prevailed in our joint Central European region not too long ago, and to help prevent subsequent generations from repeating the mistakes of their forefathers. Above all, however, “Musica non grata” is meant as a tribute to music, a homage to an art that can never be silenced.

 

 

 

Quotations:

 

Heiko Maas, German Minister of Foreign Affairs, Berlin

“75 years after the end of world war II and 30 years after the velvet revolution, the coming years will hear music by those composers that were persecuted and ostracized by the Nazis. Remembering them and their creative power is an important part of dealing with the injustice suffered. With this project, we emphasize our partnership with the Czech Republic and show how valuable our joint cultural history in Europe is. This message is more important than ever in this current time of crisis.“

 

Per Boye Hansen, Artistic Director of the National Theatre Opera and the State Opera

“The first season of the Musica non grata project will encompass productions of Hans Krása’s Verlobung im Traum and Franz Schreker’s Der ferne Klang. Furthermore, the State Opera will host a concert performance of Erwin Schulhoff’s Flammen. The National Theatre Opera will stage a new adaptation of Jaromír Weinberger’s Schwanda the Bagpiper and present in concert Bohuslav Martinů´s The Chapbook.”    

 

Karl Heinz Steffens, Artistic Director of the State Opera

“Totalitarian regimes can imprison, banish, even kill artists. Our project serves to prove that art is eternal and imperishable. I am happy to have the opportunity to participate in Musica non grata, a cycle that over the next four years will present the diverse creation of composers some of whom did not survive the Nazi era but who have remained with us thanks to their music.”

 

Jaroslav Kyzlink, Artistic Director of the National Theatre Opera

“Every music director and every performing artist finds it immensely encouraging, but also binding, when their company joins a multiyear subsidised project as significant as Musica non grata. In my opinion, Bohuslav Martinů´s and Jaromír Weinberger’s works, which we will perform at the National Theatre within the project’s first season, fully comply with the cycle’s intentions – even though not overly frequently staged, their quality is beyond dispute, while the two pieces are also attractive for the audience, whom we highly regard, in this time in particular.”

 

Ondřej Hučín, Chief dramaturge of the National Theatre Opera and State Opera

“At the present time, when some again flirt with the notion of directive control of society and when political marketers are cunningly capable of abusing human folly in this respect, it is appropriate to recall the possible consequences of forsaking freedom involuntarily or voluntarily, and hatred against other cultures. The Musica non grata project aims not only to draw attention to “unwelcome music”, music that was to be silenced, but also to rewind the whole “film” about the 20th–century dictatorships that ruined or afflicted the lives of many great musicians.”

 

 

 

Opening Concert Musica non grata

September 6th 2020, 19.00 h, State Opera (Státní opera)

Conductor: Karl Heinz Steffens

 

Programme:

Vítězslava Kaprálová: Concerto for Piano and Orchestra d minor, Op. 7

Alexander Zemlinsky:
Psalm 23 for mixed Chorus and Orchestra

Psalm 13 for mixed Chorus and Orchestra

Bohuslav Martinů:

Czech Rhapsody for Baritone, mixed Chorus, Orchestra and Organ

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