Prague Spring Festival

Frank Gehry’s Fred and Ginger Building in Prague

In gorgeous Prague, we started our third successive tour in three months. But this is our first private tour this year, and promises to be great fun as everyone in the group are our friends. It is the famous Prague Spring Festival and the first concert was magical. The last three sonatas of Beethoven played by top British pianist Paul Lewis, in the Rudolfinum Dvorak Hall, the home of the Czech Philharmonic, with a very high ceiling, short sightlines and a very bright resonant acoustic. Lewis has a quiet concentrated presence on the stage and was completely inside these three profound works. An absolutely mesmerising experience – the sort of memorable musical experience you come on tours like this hoping to find.

The time in Prague was lovely for its sightseeing but the other three performences didn’t live up to the splendour of the first, though the performance by the Liverpool Philharmonic under Vasily Petrenko of Elgar’s A flat symphony in the beautiful art nouveau Obecni Dum (Town Hall) concert hall was excellent and Andrew Neill, my tour co-leader, and Elgar expert pronounced the performance top rate. A performance of Marriage of Figaro in the elegantly restored baroque Estates Theatre was something of a miracle to be there at all as on the morning of the performance it was scheduled to be Cosi fan Tutte, but apparently somone crucial fell ill, and it was hastily replaced by Figaro. Not a great performance, nevertheless the show went on without a hitch.

The rare production of Arrigo Boito’s Mefistofele was best forgotten. Boito was a terrific writer and poet and sometime composer, librettist for Verdi’s great late operas, Otello and Falstaff, but this strange piece needed an illuminating production and instead received a farrago of obscurantist nonsense.

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