Music Theatre

Opera has occupied an important place in Czech music and theatre since the baroque period and it was the core component in the repertoires of the chateau theatres and the fi rst public professional companies. Until 1918 and the founding of Czechoslovakia, most opera houses in the country were German and initially most companies were Italian. After the fi rst and second world wars Czech companies moved into the German town theatres, which is why there are opera theatres in areas of the former Sudetland (Liberec, Ústí nad Labem, České Budějovice, Opava, Olomouc, Ostrava) and in large towns that had a strong German cultural element (Prague, Brno). Opera is today still most often performed in a historical venue, the oldest example of which is the Estates Theatre in Prague (Stavovské divadlo; 1783), where Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart conducted the premiere performance of his opera Don Giovanni (in 1787). From 1888 to 1938 the New German Theatre was a top opera company in Prague and the stately building it occupied is now home to the Prague State Opera. Opera played an important role in the 19th-century National Revival. Czech opera culture became internationally renowned thanks to the work of composers Bedřich Smetana, Antonín Dvořák, Leoš Janáček and Bohuslav Martinů. Construction of the National Theatre in Prague (1881–1883) symbolised the development of the Czech nation and is still an important centre of Czech opera culture. There are currently ten permanent opera theatres in the Czech Republic. After November 1989 the Czech opera scene overcame the international isolation it was forced into by the Iron Curtain and opened up to the world, hosting directors from abroad (e.g. David Pountney, Robert Wilson) and singers from the former Soviet bloc and southern and western Europe. Domestic opera theatres gradually began cooperating with opera houses in Europe. Independent, alternative opera projects and groups have emerged alongside the permanent opera companies. Recent examples are the Ensemble Opera Diversa and Ensemble Damian. In the summer months, opera is also performed outdoors, for instance, at the unique Revolving Theatre in Český Krumlov.