Saturday, March 31, 2012

A Night at the Opera

The world seems to change in just a few hours

By Yuliya Ni

Spring finally came to Prague, and it is a perfect time to try something new, enrich your cultural awareness and discover new colors in your life. When you tire of parties with enormous amounts of alcohol and a hangover the next morning, I suggest you spend your next weekend evening at the State Opera. Going to the opera will give you completely different results, like enlightened feelings and a long-term sense of beauty.

A lot of students consider operas, ballets and similar entertainments as a boring way to spend time. Moreover, there is a belief that it is incredibly expensive to visit such cultural events. But these are myths.

Originally named the German Theatre
Just going to a place like the State Opera, where the tickets advise you to dress smartly, creates a special mood and feeling. You will have a great chance to show off your classic suit or dress. Moreover, it is a pleasure to see a lot of dressed-up, beautiful, elegant people interested in the cultural life of Prague.

A little history: Originally named the German Theatre, the State Opera opened in 1888 to great applause. After World War II, it was renamed the Smetana Theatre, after the famous Czech composer. When Czechoslovakia became a communist state, opera was considered elitist, and performances were few and far between. The opera house building suffered from neglect during this period. The theatre’s renaissance came in 1992, after the fall of communism, which brought another name change to the now-familiar Prague State Opera.

Today, the Prague State Opera presents a varied repertoire of opera and ballet by Verdi, Tchaikovsky, Puccini, Rossini, Donizetti, Prokofiev and other famous composers.

Spacious auditorium and Rococo decorations
With its spacious auditorium and Rococo decorations, the State Opera is one of the most beautiful theater buildings in Europe. I got as much pleasure exploring the place as I did from the performance. A tympanum on the front of the building is adorned with sculptures depicting scenes from antique mythology. In the interior, you can see busts of artists and victims of fascism. Especially intriguing are the angelic statues of young women in the auditorium, which look in the direction of the stage and seem to be enjoying the performance along with visitors.

I bought my ticket for just 100 CZK on the State Opera website, although admission can be even cheaper with a student card – sometimes as low as 50 CZK. The price depends on the performance and date when you buy the ticket. As I had the cheapest ticket, I sat on the left side in a fourth-level loge. But I could still see everything perfectly, as the hall was built in a way so generally there are no bad seats. And the acoustics are excellent.

I was lucky to have a chance to see one of the most beautiful operas ever written, Madama Butterfly by Giacomo Puccini. When Puccini was in London he was inspired by American playwright David Belasco’s drama dealing with the story of a Japanese geisha. Despite his inability to understand a single word of English, Puccini was moved to tears, and chose the subject matter for his next opera.

A tense moment from the opera
The performance I attended was most enjoyable. The role of Madame Butterfly was sung by Jitka Burgetovรก, who has an exquisite voice and left nobody indifferent. The production was classically performed with an excellent set and costumes, and principal performers of high standard. The performance was subtitled in English and Czech on a screen above the stage, and the text was so deep and beautiful that the first thing I did upon returning home was to find the libretto and enjoy it again.

The story is about a 15 year-old Japanese girl who marries an American, who leaves her shortly after the wedding. She waits a long time for his return. Finally, he comes back with his new American wife. To find out the rest, I suggest you see the opera for yourself!

During the whole opera, I was thinking that I found the reason why art is so appreciated, and how amazing it is that humankind has found a way to express the beauty of human life and  feelings. When you go outside the building afterward, the world seems to have changed in just a few hours. You feel inspired, and start to see the beauty of the world, human feelings and relationships. At that moment, I just wanted to share these beautiful feelings with the people closest to me.

Prague State Opera is located just a couple minutes walk from the top of Wenceslas Square (Legerova 75, Prague 1). The closest metro station is Muzeum (lines A & C).

For more information, schedules and tickets, visit the State Opera website: http://www.sop.cz/

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