Hana Hegerová, who is sometimes nicknamed the Czechoslovakia’s Edith Piaf, celebrated her 88th birthday this month. Known for her ability to dramatically interpret lyrics, the Bratislava born singer and actress dominated the Czechoslovak chanson scene for many decades and received critical acclaim from abroad.
The 23rd edition of the annual Jihlava International Documentary Film Festival gets underway on Thursday evening. Over the course of the next five days, the festival will showcase a total of 277 films, including a section dedicated to the anniversary of the Velvet Revolution. I spoke to Marek Hovorka, the festival’s director, and asked to tell me more about the opening film, a tribute to the great Czech cinematographer Jaroslav Kučera:
Ondřej Sekora is perhaps best-known as the author of the beloved cartoon character Ferda Mravenec or Ferdy the Ant. But Sekora was more than just an illustrator and comics author. He was also a journalist, an amateur entomologist, and one of the first propagators of rugby in Czechoslovakia. The Moravian Museum in Brno will mark 120 years since Ondřej Sekora’s birth with an exhibition and a new monography.
Czechoslovakia’s new-found freedom was underlined in August 1990 by a concert at Prague’s Strahov Stadium by the Rolling Stones, who became the first major Western band to perform in the country. In a now famous video message broadcast before the gig, Mick Jagger told fans – in Czech – “the Stones are rolling to Prague”. The man who taught the rock star the phrase was Jan Rubeš. A Czechoslovak TV employee in those years, he later brought shows such as Dallas and The Simpsons to the country’s TV screens. When I spoke to Rubeš, who now works in film
The Dvořák Prague Festival held in September offered opera buffs a special treat: a performance of the generally unknown opera King and Collier, from Dvořák’s early period which was never performed during the composer’s lifetime. Its first and last production took place in 1929 at the National Theatre. And because the opera was never recorded, its 2019 premiere in the form of a concert performance afforded the unique opportunity of hearing music by Dvořák that was entirely new to listeners.
In a book just out, the renowned Czech author and illustrator Renáta Fučíková tells the story of Czechs in North America. The idea to chronicle stories of Czech immigrants originated in Chicago, which is sometimes referred to as “the most Czech city” in the US. I met up with Renáta Fučíková at her studio in the Old Town district of Prague, where she was putting finishing touches on the final illustrations for her new book.
Celebrations marking the 30th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution are taking place not only in the Czech Republic but also among Czech and Slovak communities abroad. The Czech consulate in Chicago has prepared several events highlighting the 30 years of freedom, including a showcase of photos by the award-winning photographer Karel Cudlín.
The National Library of Israel has started digitising a long-lost batch of archival materials, belonging to Franz Kafka’s friend Max Brod. They include, among other things, Kafka’s personal diary and a notebook in which he practiced Hebrew. Israel received the missing documents from a Swiss bank in August after years of international searches and legal disputes over the author’s legacy.
The new pipe organ for St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague resounded for the first time on Monday in a workshop near Barcelona, in Spain, where the instrument is being built. The pipe organ was commissioned by the Catholic Church and part of its cost, estimated at 80 million crowns, was raised in a public collection.
Band leader Ondřej Havelka, with a look straight out of Jeeves and Wooster, has just reached the age of 65. The singer, actor (he has appeared in several movies), theatre, opera and music video director and tap dancer is the most recognizable proponent of interwar jazz in the Czech Republic and has a repertoire jammed with both domestic and English-language classics. He started out in the mid-1970s with the Original Prague Syncopated Orchestra before in 1995 launching a new group, Ondřej Havelka and his Melody Makers, with whom he continues to regularly