There is a very long and rich Czech tradition of children’s book illustration – from Mikoláš Aleš in the 19th century to Zdeněk Miler (of Mole fame) and Jiří Trnka in the twentieth century. In fact, the first picture book for children in Europe was produced by the Czech educator Comenius in the 17th century. An important part of this tradition is the illustrator Štěpán Zavřel (b.1932), a charismatic and influential artist who escaped to Italy from communist Czechoslovakia in 1959 and established the biggest centre for children’s book illustration
The new director of the Czech Philharmonic is Vladimír Darjanin. Already within his first month in the post, Mr Darjanin is ringing some considerable changes. Upon taking over on July 1, the straight-talking Mr Darjanin said he believed the reputation of a world-class orchestra lay in tatters, and that he was the man to fix it. When I met him recently in his office in Prague’s Rudolfinum concert hall, he outlined his plans:
This Wednesday sees the Prague Proms Music festival continue in the Czech capital at the Obecní Dům - a very special evening with world-famous conductor and composer Carl Davis. Mr Davis, who has composed hundreds of scores for TV and film, including the series Pride & Prejudice and The French Lieutenant’s Woman, will be conducting the Czech National Symphony Orchestra, performing scores from the James Bond films – from Casino Royale to Live and Let Die.
The band Lesní zvěř has been around for some eight years, touring clubs and festival in the Czech Republic, Germany, Slovakia, and beyond. In June, the Brno-based group released their debut album. Their live acts are famous for high energy levels and a powerful sound; on the eponymous album, the mixture of jazz, psychedelia and drum’n’bass gets yet another twist with a guest Moravian folk band
It wasn’t a very auspicious start, and it didn’t end very well either – Czech Television, the country’s national broadcaster, has confirmed that it’s withdrawing from the 2010 Eurovision Song Contest due to lack of public interest. The Czech Republic only made its debut in the competition in 2007, but its first three attempts have been disastrous – the most recent gaining the dreaded “nul points”.
Imagine being invited - as a member of a stadium audience – to perform on stage with one of the world’s greatest bands. It could never happen, right? But that’s exactly how it was for a trio of Czech musicians at a U2 concert in Berlin last weekend. Incredibly, U2 singer Bono invited the Czechs – all strangers to him – to come up for the song Angel of Harlem.
As always there was plenty going on at the Karlovy Vary film festival this year. Alongside the marathon of movies, there were bars and beer tents, swanky soirees and grotty clubs. There were also a number of live concerts, with perhaps the most unlikely the appearance of Boney M in a nite spot in the basement of the festival’s centre, the Thermal hotel.
The high point of this year’s Český Krumlov International Music Festival will surely be Saturday’s performance by Renée Fleming, whose programme includes her “signature piece”, Song to the Moon from Dvořák’s Rusalka. On the eve of the festival, the great American soprano discussed that aria, her Czech roots, performing at the Obama inauguration, and plans to duet with Lou Reed in Prague to mark the anniversary of the Velvet Revolution.