The State Opera in Prague has the most dreadful location of any opera house I can think of.
The front entrance is cut off from the city by a high-speed four-lane motorway called Wilsonova with no pedestrian crossing, just a dank narrow tunnel that looks like the perfect place for a mugging.
At the back is another four-lane motorway called Legerova without even a tunnel for pedestrians.
On the left is a multi-story parking garage which is almost as high as the opera house itself. On the right is a massive modern museum building which is higher than the opera house and is only a few meters away.
The building itself, though, is quite attractive and immediately looks familiar, since it is a typical late nineteenth-century opera house by those diligent Viennese architects Ferdinand Fellner (1847-1916) and Hermann Helmer (1849-1919), who also designed theaters and opera houses in Budapest, Augsburg, Hamburg, Wiesbaden, Gablonz an der Neiße (now Jablonec nad Nisou), Zürich, Vienna, Gießen and dozens of other cities large and small throughout central and eastern Europe.
Originally this building was called the New German Theater. It was built in the 1880s and inaugurated in January 1888 as the German response to the Czech community's National Theater, which had opened a few years before. Evidently the German population of Prague couldn't bear the thought that the Czechs had a newer and better theater than they did.
When I went to the State Opera in the spring of 2011 there was an exhibit in the hallways and foyers about the first director of the New German Theater, Angelo Neumann, who ran the theater from 1888 until his death in 1910.
From 1911 to 1927 the director of the New German Theater (which at times seems to have been called the New German Opera) was the composer and conductor Alexander von Zemlinsky (1871-1942). I have written about Zemlinsky in one of my Zürich tips entitled The lost generation of opera composers. These were Jewish or half-Jewish composers whose works were banned by the Nazis as soon as they came to power in Germany in 1933.
Zemlinsky died in poverty in New York in 1942, leaving a not-quite-finished opera called Der König Kandaules which was not performed until 1996. I have seen it twice, in Cologne and Kaiserslautern. Also I saw two of Zemlinsky's shorter operas when they were performed several years ago in Frankfurt am Main.
Second photo: Cars speeding past the State Opera on the four-lane motorway called Wilsonova.
Third photo: The State Opera from behind parked cars.
Fourth photo: The State Opera dwarfed by newer buildings.
Historic images of the State Opera on carthalia.
Across from Washingtonova street and the park, I could see The Prague State Opera House. After finding my way across the very busy four lane Legerova street, I was at the Opera House. This was once the German Theatre, then the Opera house in 1888, then after the end of WW II, it was renamed the Smetana Theatre, after the famous Czech composer. This wasn't the last name change, that was in 1992 when it became known as the Prague State Opera House.
The first performance was January 1888, with Richard Wagner's opera Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg
I had hoped to go inside and see if a tour was on offer, no luck here, the Opera House was closed! Luck wasn't with me, a shame as I read it had an elaborate neo-rococo interior and was one of the most beautiful in Europe.
A regular programme of opera and ballet can be seen in the Opera theatre.
At Christmas the Prague State Opera is the grand setting for classical music concerts, and on New Year's Eve it hosts a celebrated gala ball.
Monday to Friday - 10:00 am to 5:30 pm
Saturday and Sunday - 10:00 am to noon and 1:00 pm to 5:30 pm
and one hour before each performance
Tours of the National Theatre and The State Opera in English, German, French and Russian:
Tour takes 1 hour.
Adults and students (age 15+): CZK 200 / person
Seniors and children up to 15 years: CZK 150 / person
Up to 10 persons in the group: CZK 2000 / group
The price of the tour added extra charge for a guide: Monday-Friday CZK 800; Saturday/Sunday and public holidays CZK 1000
tel: +420 224 901 506
When the curtain went up on Verdi's Aida, the entire cast and chorus were standing motionless on the stage. One of the singers had a microphone and made a long speech in Czech, of which I understood nothing, though I could well imagine what it was about. At the end she just said one sentence in English, welcoming us to the State Opera and saying we could find English and German translations of her speech in the lobbies at intermission if we were interested.
The translations confirmed what I had assumed, namely that they were protesting the plan of the Czech government to merge the two opera companies of the State Opera and the National Theater as a money-saving measure. Since the director of the State Opera had recently been fired, it was obvious that this merger would in effect be a takeover of the State Opera by the National Theater.
The performance of Verdi's Aida was competent but rather routine, which was no wonder since it was the 238th performance of a very old production. (When older opera productions are revived year after year with numerous cast changes, the stage director's original intentions tend to get a bit blurred, understandably.)
Second photo: Seating at the State Opera.
Third photo: Bows after Verdi's Aida. From left to right: mezzo-soprano Galla Ibragimova as Amneris, tenor Nikolaj Višňakov as Radames, soprano Anna Todorova as Aida, baritone Miguelangelo Cavalcanti as Amonasro.
Fourth photo: Conductor Jirí Mikula thanking the orchestra.
This is the nice building of the State Opera which its unique columns and lovely decorations on the top. Traditionally the Prague State Opera is known for being one of the best and might be that for the popular shows tickets needed to buy in advance.
just down the street from the train station on wilsonova is the state opera. originally known as the german theatre it was built in 1885. the facade of the building has a beautiful neo-classical frieze. in 1945 the theatre became prague's opera house. for information on performaces check their website.
Even if you are not an opera fan - and I certainly am not - you still need to visit this - one of the great Opera Houses of Europe. The fact that Mozart has produced performances here only adds to the mistique.
If you are an Opera lover this is the place to visit. Prices range from 200 to 950kc
The box office is open
10-5 Monday - friday
10-Noon and 1-5pm Saturday and Sunday
Such famous people as Enrico Caruso and Dame Nellie Melba have sang here.
While not as beautiful or ornate as Vienna's opera house, the Prague State Opera is still a great and inexpensive place to go if you're a lover of classical music. It's extremely affordable and the people still generally dress up when they attend.
This opera house often presents performances from the Italian repertoire: Donizetti, Rossini, Verdi and Puccini with occasional excursions into German and French opera. The State Opera (then called the German Theatre) opened in 1887. Until World War II the theatre was regarded as one of the finest German opera houses outside Germany. Immediately after the war it changed its name to the Smetana Theatre and later again to the State Opera
Originally a German theatre, this Neo-Rococo building was designed by famous architects from Vienna and built around 1886 to rival the Czech's National Theatre. On the pediment of the Classical facade are figures of Dionysos and Thalia. Until 1882 Bedzich Smetana was the director of the theatre, in 1945 it became the city's main opera house.
Why not go to the opera? The Prague State Opera building, decorated in the neo-Rococo style, was opened in 1888 and it is among the most beautiful opera houses in Europe. Originally it was built for the German Theater Association in Prague, but the association sold the theater building to the Czechoslovak state in 1938. After the German occupation it was handed over to the National Theater.
We got tickets for €25 each which were for box seats in the state Opera. The Opera was wonderful as were the seats. During the break we went upstairs for a glass of wine and on to the balcony for some fresh air and a lovely view.