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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)

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

Kateřina Kněžíková, born 1982 in Bohumín, graduated from Prague Conservatory in 2007 and in 2010 she completed her university degree at Music and Dance Faculty of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague as a student of Jiřina Přívratská. She has been the prize-winner of numerous competitions, for example Antonín Dvořák’s International Singing Competition in Karlovy Vary.

In 2005, Kateřina Kněžíková made her debut in the National Theatre in Prague in the role of Zerlina and she has been a permanent cast member thereof since 2006. This is where her operatic engagements over recent years include roles such as Susanna (Le nozze di Figaro), Serpetta (La Finta giardiniera), Servilia (La Clemenza di Tito), Blonde (Entführung aus dem Serail), Despina (Cosí fan tutte), Ilja (Idomeneo), Almirena (Rinaldo), Adina (Elisir d’amore), Barče (Hubička), Terinka (Jakobín), Nannetta (Falstaff), Aristea (L’Olimpiade) and many others.

She made her guest appearance in F. X. Šalda Theatre Liberec, J. K. Tyl Theatre in Pilsen, National Moravian-Silesian Theatre in Ostrava, Slovak National Theatre in Bratislava, Theatre de Caen, Opéra Royal de Versailles, Theatre Royal de La Monnaie in Brussels and Opéra de Dijon.

She has been performing in productions of various directors - D. Beneš, Karl-Ernst and Ursel Herrmann, J. Heřman, L. Keprtová, L. Moaty, J. Nekvasil, V. Věžník etc.

Her professional concert and operatic engagements have involved work with conductors such as S. Baudo, J. Bělohlávek, A. Fisch, J. Gaffigan, M. Honeck, H. M. Förster, J. Hrůša, R. Jindra, V. Luks, E. Mazzola, J. Nelson, T. Netopil and outstanding orchestras including BBC Symphony orchestra, Camerata Salzburg, Collegium 1704, Czech Philharmonic, Hessischer Rundfunk Frankfurt am Main, PKF - Prague Philharmonia, Prague Symphony Orchestra, Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra and many others.

She regularly makes her appearance at prestigious international festivals in the Czech Republic and abroad (Dvořákova Praha International Music Festival, International Music Festival Janáček Máj, Prague Spring International Music Festival, International Opera Festival Smetana’s Litomyšl, St. Venceslav Music Festival, Strings of Autumn, Festival de La Chaise-Dieu, Festival Rencontres Musicales de Vétzelay, Festival Baroque de Pontoise, Music Bridge Prague – Dresden, Uckermärkische Musikwochen, Tage Alte Musik Regensburg etc.).

She made recordings for Czech Radio, television channel MEZZO and Belgian radio station RTFB International. She recorded Bartered Bride by Bedřich Smetana for HARMONIA MUNDI and her recording of Dove é amore é gelosia produced for OPUS ARTE DVD was awarded “Preis der deutschen Schallplattenkritik“.

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  

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

Jan Štáva (*1988, Brno) has been an ensemble member of the Janáček Opera of the National Theatre in Brno since 2010. His repertoire there includes the roles of Baron Ochs (Der Rosenkavalier), Leporello (Don Giovanni), and Kecal (The Bartered Bride). In 2011 he made his debut at the National Theatre in Prague as Osmin (Die Entführung aus dem Serail). Since then, he has appeared there in a number of other roles such as Leporello (Don Giovanni) and Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro). The stages where he has appeared abroad include the Opéra de Paris, the opera house in Montpellier, the Angers-Nantes Opéra, and the Opéra National de Lorraine in Nancy. He has appeared in concert in collaborations with such orchestras as the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the Orchestre National de Lyon, and the Philharmonie Leipzig. His concert repertoire includes bass parts in works by J. S. Bach (St John Passion), J. Haydn (The Creation), W. A. Mozart, A. Dvořák, and G. Verdi (Requiem). This season, his appearances will include Papageno (The Magic Flute) at Brno’s National Theatre.

Jiří Brückler  baritone

Jiří Brückler

The baritone Jiří Brückler completed his vocal studies at the Prague Conservatoire under Jiří Kotouč and at the Academy of Performing Arts under Roman Janál. Already as a student he was making guest appearances at the State Opera in Prague. Victory at the Antonín Dvořák International Singing Competition in Karlovy Vary earned him the opportunity of long-term engagements with opera houses in his native Liberec, and in Pilsen and Brno, where he appeared at first in minor roles. Later he obtained a key engagement at Prague’s State Opera and National Theatre. He is gradually building up a repertoire of leading baritone roles in the worldwide repertoire – The Marriage of Figaro, The Magic Flute, The Barber of Seville, Cinderella, Faust, Romeo and Juliet, Eugene Onegin, The Jacobin, and Werther. He has been repeatedly honoured with nominations for Thalia Awards (for portrayals of Silvia in Pagliacci and of Rodrigo in Don Carlos). He also sings in operas by Janáček, Martinů, and Britten as well as new works by contemporary composers. Jiří Brückler has been honoured by invitations to collaborate with the world famous artists José Cura and Plácido Domingo.

Alžběta Poláčková  soprano

Alžběta Poláčková

Alžběta Poláčková is one of today’s most sought-after Czech sopranos. The steady, radiant tone of her instantly recognisable soprano voice lies comfortably on the border between the lyric and the dramatic.

As a opera soloist at the National Theatre in Prague as well as at theatres outside of Prague and on foreign stages, she has performed many title roles in operas in a broad range of styles. She has also presented herself to the public at several festivals in this country and abroad (including the Glyndebourne Opera Festival and Smetana’s Litomyšl) under the leadership of important conductors. In the role of Jitka she took part in a recording of Smetana’s opera Dalibor with the BBC Symphony Orchestra led by Jiří Bělohlávek. Alžběta has collaborated with many important stage directors including Robert Carsen, Alice Nellis, and Calixto Bieito. Alongside Rolando Villazón she took part in the filming of the documentary “Rolando meets Don Giovanni”.

She was born in Prague, where she completed secondary school and then studied at the Academy of Performing Arts in the studio of René Tuček. She is a laureate of several international singing competitions.

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  

Tamara Morozová  

Jarmila Balážová  mezzo-soprano

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 Bohuslava 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 the 2023 Opus Klassik Conductor of the Year.

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. In the 2023/2024 season, he conducts Janacek’s Jenůfa for the Lyric Opera of Chicago. 

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 Hrusa has received numerous awards and nominations for his discography. Most recently with Bamberg Symphony, he received the ICMA Prize for Symphonic Music in both 2023 and 2022, for his recordings of Rott’s Symphony No. 1 and Bruckner’s Symphony No. 4. He was awarded the Preis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik for his recording of Mahler’s Symphony No. 4, and in 2021 his recording of Martinů and Bartók violin concertos with Frank Peter Zimmermann was nominated for BBC Music Magazine and Gramophone awards, and his disc of the Dvořák Violin Concerto with the Bavarian Radio Symphony and Augustin Hadelich was nominated for a Grammy® Award. His recordings of Dvořák and Martinů Piano Concertos with Ivo Kahánek and the Bamberg Symphony (Supraphon), and Vanessa from Glyndebourne (Opus Arte) both won BBC Music Magazine Awards in 2020. 

Jakub Hrůša studied conducting at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague, where his teachers included Jiří Bělohlávek. He is currently President of the International Martinů Circle and The Dvořák Society, and an Honorary Member of the Royal Academy of Music in London. 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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