“Czechs live for music.”
Prague city centre has many spots affording wonderful views of the River Vltava and Prague Castle. One example, close to the Charles Bridge, is the beautiful neo-Renaissance former Old Town Waterworks, dating from the 1880s. Behind the sgraffito-decorated walls is an original exhibition about the life and work of one of the greatest Czech composers, Bedřich Smetana, who created the Má Vlast (My homeland) cycle of symphonic poems.
The exhibition is made up of four thematic parts, the first of which focuses on Smetana’s childhood in Litomyšl, and his adolescence, education, and artistic beginnings in Prague. The section also looks at his work as a music teacher in Gothenburg, and concert tours in Germany and the Netherlands. In the second part, Smetana’s active involvement in social and cultural life in Prague between 1862 and 1874 is discussed. This period formed an important part of his work as the head of opera at the Prague Provisional Theatre. In his 50s, the composer lost his hearing, following long-term health problems, but these obstacles didn’t prevent him from continuing to produce music. He spent his last years in the country, a period examined as the third theme of the exhibition. The unconventional installation in this section consists of special music stands. With a laser baton, you can use them to create extracts from Smetana’s music, from the conductor’s podium. The fourth theme can be explored in tandem with the entire exhibition: you can see the composer’s correspondence and diaries, as well as notable manuscripts. Also on display are original portraits of Smetana and his family, and personal items, including the maestro’s piano.
Why not visit the Bedřich Smetana Memorial in Jabkenice, near the town of Mladá Boleslav. There, in a gamekeeper’s lodge, with his daughter and son-in-law, Smetana lived out his final years. By then he was deaf. It was also there that he wrote several of his most important works (the operas The Kiss, The Secret, and The Devil's Wall) and completed his Má vlast cycle.Jana