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A weekend in Prague
Opera Now

A weekend in Prague

Posted Tuesday, November 22, 2016   |   1469 views   |   Music By Hannah Nepil

WHAT’S THERE

It has been called the ‘City of a Hundred Spires’. But a city as culturally rich as Prague is difficult to package in a few words. Like Rome, it surprises at every turning, with objects of beauty: churches, palaces, bridges, concert halls and theatres, some dating back as far as the Romanesque period. The sheer number of lavish churches would indicate that the Czechs are uniformly ardent Catholics. In fact, Bohemia was one of the fi rst regions to adopt Protestantism, thanks to the 14th-century reformer Jan Hus, who used to preach his doctrine – based on John Wycliff e’s writings – at the city’s Bethlehem Chapel. As a punishment, he was burned at the stake. A ferocious series of wars followed, and Baroque churches mushroomed during the Counter-Reformation. Nowadays, only a small proportion of Czechs go regularly to church. Still, they take pride in their religious heritage, as they do in their culture as a whole – even if they can seem somewhat abrupt with tourists. You don’t have to look far in Prague to fi nd a play or exhibition; and, with three opera houses to its name, it is one of the most musical cities in the world.

 

ARRIVALS

For inexpensive, direct fl ights, Ryanair, Easyjet and Wizzair fl y into Vaclav Havel Airport, 17 km outside the city. Having been recently expanded, the airport is well stocked with facilities, including duty free shops, a self-service restaurant and sandwich bars. A cheap and regular bus service (the 119), takes visitors to Dejvicka station, where they can hop on the metro for 10 minutes to reach the opera houses in the city centre.

 

SLEEPOVER

The palatial, Art Nouveau Hotel Paris is famous across the Czech Republic and is located in the centre of the Old Town, fi ve minutes’ walk from the Estate Theatre. Prices range from ?100 for a deluxe double or twin room to ?600 for a luxury suite. www.hotel-paris.cz

 

Originally a medieval monastery complex founded by the Jesuits, the clean and cosy Cloister Inn Hotel is located in the Old Town, about five minutes’ walk from the National Theatre. Prices range from ?40 to ?65 for a single room.

www.hotel-cloister.com

 

Located 15 minutes’ walk from the State Opera, the Saint George hotel is an elegant budget option, decorated with Biedermeier-style furniture. Prices range from ?25-?40 for a single room.

www.hotelsaintgeorgeprague.com/en

 

A NIGHT AT THE OPERA

Prague has good reason to be proud of its three opera houses. With its sumptuous neo-Renaissance decor and prime location on the bank of the river Vltava, the National Theatre (dating from 1881) is emblematic of Czech national identity, funded from a national collection with no government assistance, and built during a period of great industrial and cultural growth in the Czech lands. A few minutes’ walk away lies the Estates Theatre, an ornate baroque monument, here, in 1787, Mozart conducted the world premiere of Don Giovanni. Then there’s the State Opera, which started life in January 1888 as the New German Theatre catering to the large German minority in Prague, but now hosts a varied repertoire. (Due to reconstruction, the State Opera is temporarily closed, so part of the repertoire will be performed at the Karlin, an 1881 building usually devoted to musical theatre.) All three are worth visiting simply for their interiors, which feature artworks from the best Czech artists of their period. In terms of musical quality, their golden age is probably behind them.

 

That w

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