The singer, songwriter and film score composer Petr Skoumal, who passed away last Sunday aged 76, wrote hundreds of songs for both adults and children. He will be remembered as an ingenious composer with a great sense of humour and irony as well as a melancholic streak that came out in many of his tunes.
In recent years, the Czech Republic and Prague specifically have seen an increase in street performance or street theatre. This Saturday, visitors can see troupes perform in the city centre in V Kotcích Street – just a stone’s throw from Můstek, a central meeting point for both locals and tourists. The small one-day festival will provide shows for children and adults in a normally quiet street which used to be home to Prague’s first stone theatre, Divadlo v Kotcích (no longer standing).
The Czech Republic is slowly re-establishing itself as a prime destination for international film and TV productions, mainly thanks to an increasingly generous incentives programme. TV and film producers spent some five billion crowns in the Czech Republic last year, the highest amount in nearly a decade.
This summer, an off-Broadway theatre in New York put on a play about the actress Hana Pravda and the athlete Miloš Dobrý, two extraordinary Czech Jews living in Prague before WWII. The documentary drama “The Good and the True”, which has run for two months, follows the life of the protagonists who however never met in real life. Originally written and directed by Daniel Hrbek for Prague’s Švandovo Theatre, the intimate play conveys the courage and determination which helped the two people survive the horrors of Terezín and Auschwitz.
The new documentary The Old Man and the World explores the life of one of the greatest of Czech travellers, Miroslav Zikmund. The exploits of Zikmund (now almost 96) and his partner Jiří Hanzelka made them big stars in a period beginning in the late 1940s. The film is directed by Petr Horký, a traveller who has himself shot in around 80 countries around the world. Before we discussed the documentary, I asked Horký when his own wanderlust began.
At a crossroads in Europe, the Czech capital has always been an international city and has attracted writers from many parts of the world. But, despite the rich historical links between the two countries going back to the 16th century and beyond, we would not normally associate modern Prague with Spain. One person who has been building literary Spanish-Czech bridges for the best part of two decades is the Prague based Spanish poet, Elena Buixaderas. She is David Vaughan’s guest in Czech Books.
There have been a number of time-lapse videos and would-be viral commercials making use of Prague’s beauty in recent times. But to my mind Magic Carpet Ride Over Prague is in a different league, capturing many of the Czech capital’s most spectacular views with gliding and fast-climbing aerial shots that take the breath away.
Wednesday marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of one of the most distinctive Czech cultural figures of the last century. Perhaps best-known in his native country as a poet, Jiří Kolář is also renowned both home and abroad as a creator of often playful collages – and “crumplages”, works that began with him scrunching up paper. I spoke to Richard Drury, chief curator of the Gallery of Central Bohemia, and asked him where he would place Kolář in context of Czech visual art in the 20th century.
In 1870, Antonín Dvořák, who was yet to become one of the world’s finest composers, wrote his first opera called Alfred. The piece was only performed once, in 1938, long after Dvořák’s death, and then fell into oblivion. Now, nearly seventy years after its first staging, Alfred lived to see its second premiere, this time with the original German libretto, as part of the Dvořák Prague festival.