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Smetana Litomyšl Festival • Libuše


A concert performance of Smetana’s opera Libuše is the main and most celebratory event for commemorations of the 200th birthday of the founder of Czech classical music. Selected soloists, the Prague Philharmonic Choir, the Czech Philharmonic, and conductor Jakub Hrůša are preparing to perform the iconic opera especially for Smetana’s birthplace.

Programme

Bedřich Smetana
Libuše, concert performance of the opera

Performers

Kateřina Kněžíková
Adam Plachetka
Martin Bárta
Richard Samek
Jan Šťáva
Jiří Brückler
Alžběta Poláčková
Václava Krejčí Housková
Eva Esterková
Tamara Morozová
Jarmila Vantuchová Balážová
Martin Šrejma

Prague Philharmonic Choir
Lukáš Vasilek choirmaster

Jakub Hrůša conductor

Czech Philharmonic

Photo illustrating the event Smetana Litomyšl Festival • Libuše

Litomyšl — Festival Hall

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Performers

Kateřina Kněžíková  soprano

Kateřina Kněžíková

Soprano Kateřina Kněžíková is one of today’s most promising singers. Besides performing opera, she is increasingly devoting herself to the concert repertoire, collaborating with such ensembles as the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the Bamberg Symphony, the Camerata Salzburg, or the Orchestra dellʼAccademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia. Her core repertoire consists of works by Dvořák, Martinů, and Janáček and the song repertoire. She is a laureate of several vocal competitions and was honoured at the 2018 Classic Prague Awards for the best chamber music performance. She earned a Thalia Award for her outstanding performance in Julietta (Martinů) on the stage of the National Moravian-Silesian Theatre.

In 2006 she became a full-time opera ensemble member at the National Theatre, where she is now appearing in many productions including Rusalka, Così fan tutte, Carmen, The Magic Flute, The Bartered Bride, and The Jacobin. Nonetheless, she sees one of her greatest successes as having been the title role in Káťa Kabanová at the Glyndebourne Opera Festival in 2021. 

Adam Plachetka  bass baritone

Adam Plachetka

Adam Plachetka was educated at the conservatory in his native town of Prague. In addition to his many national competition victories, Adam won First Prize at the Antonín Dvořákʼs International Vocal Competition.

In 2005 he made his debut at the National Theatre in Prague, since when he has appeared in Prague as Don Giovanni, Figaro (Le nozze di Figaro), Nardo (La finta giardiniera), Argante (Rinaldo) and Guglielmo (Così fan tutte), among others.

In september 2010 Adam became a member of the Ensemble of the Wiener Staatsoper. After his debut as Schaunard (La bohéme), he moved on to roles such as Melisso (Alcina), Don Giovanni, Dulcamara (Lʼelisir dʼamore), Figaro, Guglielmo, Publio (La clemenza di Tito), Mustafá (LʼItaliana in Algeri) and Alidoro (La Cenerentola).

Adamʼs engagements include appearances at the Salzburger Festspiele, Bayerische Staatsoper Munich, Pražské jaro, Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie in Bruxelles, Royal Opera House Covent Garden in London, Musikverein in Vienna, Festpielhaus Baden-Baden, Glyndebourne Festival, Deutsche Oper and Deutsche Staatsoper Berlin, Carnegie Hall in New York, Teatro alla Scala in Milan, Wigmore Hall in London and at the Metropolitan Opera in New York.

He has taken part in recordings for Arte, Arthaus Musik, Česká televize, Český rozhlas, Deutsche Grammophon, Mezzo, Naxos, Orfeo, ORF and Supraphon.

Adam performs under the baton of such conductors as Alain Altinoglu, Marco Armiliato, Daniel Barenboim, Ivor Bolton, Bruno Campanella, John Fiore, Asher Fisch, Valery Gergiev, Friedrich Haider, Daniel Harding, Patrick Lange, Louis Langrée, Marc Minkowski, Riccardo Muti, John Nelson, Tomáš Netopil, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Robin Ticciati or Franz Welser-Möst.

Martin Bárta  baritone

Richard Samek  tenor

Richard Samek

Prague audiences have primarily heard and seen the tenor Richard Samek at the National Theatre, where he has portrayed the Prince (Rusalka), Don Ottavio (Don Giovanni), Tamino (Die Zauberflöte) and Alfredo (La traviata). He has also dazzled in Classical and Romantic roles (as well as the 20th-century repertoire) in Plzeň, Brno and Ostrava, as well as abroad, including in Germany (four years ago, he appeared at the prestigious Semperoper) and France.

His performances are captured on recordings of Johann Strauss’s operettas, and operas by Bedřich Smetana (with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Jiří Bělohlávek) and Zdeněk Fibich. His discography includes an acclaimed recording of Gustav Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde, made with the mezzo-soprano Dagmar Pecková.

Moreover, Richard Samek is a sought-after concert soloist, frequently performing with the Czech and Brno Philharmonics (appearing at major Czech festivals too). He has also closely collaborated with the Orchestra dell’Academia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, with whom in the current season he will give a concert of Antonín Dvořák’s cantata The Spectre’s Bride.

Jan Šťáva  bass

Jan Šťáva

The youthful bass Jan Šťáva might still seem to be an “embryonic specimen” of his vocal type, as he referred to himself a few years ago, but he now has more than 100 roles under his belt and many successes both at home and abroad. After graduating from the Janáček Academy of Performing Arts in Brno under Zdeněk Šmukař, he accepted an engagement at the Janáček Opera of the National Theatre in Brno, where he has been heard since 2010 mainly in the repertoire of the 18th and 19th centuries. He also collaborates with the National Moravian-Silesian Theatre in Ostrava. Abroad, he has performed at the Opéra de Paris, the Opéra de Toulon, and the Opéra national de Lorraine in Nancy. He is critically acclaimed both for his vocal quality and his acting talent: “he does not sing a role, but plays it, does not present a part, but lives it, bringing much that is new to the interpretive tradition” (KlasikaPlus, 2018).

He has been heard on the concert stage with such ensembles as the BBC Symphony Orchestra and the Orchestre National de Lyon, and he appears regularly with the Czech Philharmonic at prestigious festivals including the BBC Proms, the Salzburger Festspiele, Prague Spring, and Smetana’s Litomyšl.

Jiří Brückler  baritone

Jiří Brückler

A winner of the National Theatre’s Prize for Artists up to Age 35, Jiří Brückler is admired for his “unique voice, in which we hear lyrical warmth with a shade of melancholy and steely power with dramatic potential”. He studied singing at the Prague Conservatoire under the guidance of Jiří Kotouč and at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague under Roman Janál. He is a winner of the Antonín Dvořák International Singing Competition in Karlovy Vary in the Junior Category. 

At the Opera of the National Theatre and the State Opera, where he has been under engagement since 2012, he has performed key roles in operas ranging from Mozart to Britten. For the role of Rodrigo in Verdi’s Don Carlo, he was nominated for the 2013 Thalia Award. He had already been nominated for that prestigious honour four years earlier for the role of Silvio in Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci as a guest at the F. X. Šalda Theatre in Liberec; later, he sang that role at the Český Krumlov International Music Festival alongside José Cura. He is a regular guest at the J. K. Tyl Theatre in Pilsen, the National Theatre in Brno, and the Bulgarian Opera in Sofia. He also appears in the concert repertoire, collaborating with the leading Czech orchestras.

Alžběta Poláčková  soprano

Alžběta Poláčková

Since 2003, the soprano Alžběta Poláčková has been a soloist with the Opera of the National Theatre in Prague, where she has sung roles spanning from Mozart to the present. Leoš Janáček has a special place in her repertoire; she greatly admires his operas and is often cast in his roles. She has even appeared at the festival in Glyndebourne as Gold-Stripe the Fox in The Cunning Little Vixen. Her other successes abroad include the role of the Second Wood Sprite in a production of Dvořák’s Rusalka at Paris’s Opéra national and the part of Jitka from Smetana’s Dalibor in collaboration with the BBC Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Jiří Bělohlávek.

A graduate of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague under René Tuček, she has also taken part in numerous international competitions with triumphs, for example, in London at the Anglo-Czechoslovak Trust Competition, and at the Antonín Dvořák International Singing Competition in Karlovy Vary she brought home the National Theatre Prize. She has also taken part in several CD recordings including Janáček’s Eternal Gospel led by Tomáš Netopil; with the trio ArteMiss, she has recorded Shostakovich’s Seven Verses, Op. 127.

Václava Krejčí Housková  alto, mezzo-soprano

Václava Krejčí Housková

The mezzo-soprano Václava Krejčí Housková studied at the České Budějovice Conservatory (with Dagmar Volfová) and the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague (with Jiřina Přívratská) and attended masterclasses under the tutelage of Margaret Honig. In 2010, she was engaged at the Moravian Theatre in Olomouc, in 2014, she made her debut at the National Theatre in Prague, and since 2015 she has been a soloist of the National Theatre in Brno. She has received two nominations for the coveted Czech Thalia Prize for her portrayals of the roles of Smeton (Anna Bolena, National Moravian-Silesian Theatre in Ostrava, 2014) and Carmen (J. K. Tyl Theatre in Pilsen, 2020). Her recording of Leoš Janáček’s Diary of One Who Disappeared with the tenor Nicky Spence and the pianist Julius Drake earned the prestigious BBC Music Magazine Award and Gramophone Classical Music Award. Václava Krejčí Housková has worked with renowned orchestras and has performed at major international events (Edinburgh International Festival, Prague Spring, Smetana Litomyšl, Prague Proms etc.).

Eva Esterková  soprano

Tamara Morozová  soprano

Jarmila Vantuchová Balážová  mezzo-soprano

Jarmila Vantuchová Balážová

Mezzo-soprano Jarmila Vantuchová performs at theatres and on concert stages. She also devotes herself to the historically informed interpretation of baroque music mainly in collaboration with Collegium 1704. At the National Theatre in Brno she has sung such roles as the Mayor’s Wife in Janáček’s Jenůfa and Polina in Tchaikovsky’s Queen of Spades. Next came the role of Aljeja in Janáček’s opera From the House of the Dead directed by Jiří Heřman and conducted by Jakub Hrůša. Certainly one of her greatest successes last season was her Salzburg Festival debut as Varvara in Leoš Janáček’s Káťa Kabanová, so she is intimately familiar with the operatic works of the famed Moravian composer. She has also been invited recently to collaborate with the Bamberg Symphony, the Warsaw Philharmonic, and LʼOrchestra dellʼAccademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia. Another curiosity is the use of her recording of the Habanera from the opera Carmen, which appeared as a remix in the final episode of the second season of the American series Emily in Paris on the Netflix streaming platform.

Martin Šrejma  tenor

Prague Philharmonic Choir  

The Prague Philharmonic Choir (PPC), founded in 1935 by the choirmaster Jan Kühn, is the oldest professional mixed choir in the Czech Republic. Their current choirmaster and artistic director is Lukáš Vasilek, and the second choirmaster is Lukáš Kozubík.

The choir has earned the highest acclaim in the oratorio and cantata repertoire, performing with the world’s most famous orchestras. In this country, they collaborate regularly with the Czech Philharmonic and the Prague Philharmonia. They also perform opera as the choir-in-residence of the opera festival in Bregenz, Austria.

This season, they will appear at four choral concerts of their own, with programmes focusing mainly on difficult, lesser-known works of the choral repertoire. Again this year they will be devoting themselves to educational projects: for voice students, they are organising the Academy of Choral Singing, and for young children there is a cycle of educational concerts.

The choir has been honoured with the 2018 Classic Prague Award and the 2022 Antonín Dvořák Prize.

Lukáš Vasilek  choirmaster

Lukáš Vasilek

Lukáš Vasilek studied conducting and musicology. Since 2007, he has been the chief choirmaster of the Prague Philharmonic Choir (PPC). Most of his artistic work with the choir consists of rehearsing and performing the a cappella repertoire and preparing the choir to perform in large-scale cantatas, oratorios, and operatic projects, during which he collaborates with world-famous conductors and orchestras (such as the Berlin Philharmonic, the Czech Philharmonic, the Israel Philharmonic, and the Saint Petersburg Philharmonic).

Besides leading the PPC, he also engages in other artistic activities, especially in collaboration with the vocal ensemble Martinů Voices, which he founded in 2010. As a conductor or choirmaster, his name appears on a large number of recordings that the PPC have made for important international labels (Decca Classics, Supraphon); in recent years, he has been devoting himself systematically to the recording of Bohuslav Martinů’s choral music. His recordings have received extraordinary acclaim abroad and have earned honours including awards from the prestigious journals Gramophone, BBC Music Magazine, and Diapason.

Jakub Hrůša  principal guest conductor

Jakub Hrůša

Born in the Czech Republic, Jakub Hrůša is Chief Conductor of the Bamberg Symphony, Music Director Designate of The Royal Opera, Covent Garden (Music Director from 2025), Principal Guest Conductor of the Czech Philharmonic, and Principal Guest Conductor of the Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia. 

He is a frequent guest with the world’s greatest orchestras, including the Vienna, Berlin, Munich and New York Philharmonics; Bavarian Radio, NHK, Chicago and Boston Symphonies; Leipzig Gewandhaus, Lucerne Festival, Royal Concertgebouw, Mahler Chamber and The Cleveland Orchestras; Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, and Tonhalle Orchester Zürich. He has led opera productions for the Salzburg Festival (Káťa Kabanová with the Vienna Philharmonic in 2022), Vienna State Opera, Royal Opera House, and Opéra National de Paris. He has also been a regular guest with Glyndebourne Festival and served as Music Director of Glyndebourne On Tour for three years.

His relationships with leading vocal and instrumental soloists have included collaborations in recent seasons with Daniil Trifonov, Mitsuko Uchida, Hélène Grimaud, Behzod Abduraimov, Anne Sofie Mutter, Lisa Batiashvili, Joshua Bell, Yefim Bronfman, Rudolf Buchbinder, Gautier Capuçon, Julia Fischer, Sol Gabetta, Hilary Hahn, Janine Jansen, Karita Mattila, Leonidas Kavakos, Lang Lang, Josef Špaček, Jean-Yves Thibaudet, Yuja Wang, Frank Peter Zimmermann, Alisa Weilerstein and others. 

As a recording artist, Jakub Hrůša has received numerous awards and nominations for his discography. Most recently, he received the Opus Klassik Conductor of the Year 2023 prize and the ICMA prize for Symphonic Music for his recording of Bruckner’s Symphony No. 4, and the Preis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik for his recording of Mahler’s Symphony No. 4, both with Bamberg Symphony. In 2021, his disc of Martinů and Bartók violin concertos with Bamberg Symphony and Frank Peter Zimmermann was nominated for BBC Music Magazine and Gramophone awards, and his recording of the Dvořák Violin Concerto with the Bavarian Radio Symphony and Augustin Hadelich was nominated for a Grammy Award. 

Jakub Hrůša studied at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague, where his teachers included Jiří Bělohlávek. He is President of the International Martinů Circle and The Dvořák Society. He was the inaugural recipient of the Sir Charles Mackerras Prize, and in 2020 was awarded both the Antonín Dvořák Prize by the Czech Republic’s Academy of Classical Music, and – together with Bamberg Symphony – the Bavarian State Prize for Music. 

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