Prague Spring wraps its first-ever digital festival this week, an amazing achievement for a grand dame that turned 75 this year. Faced with shuttered concert halls, artists unable to travel and a quarantined audience, Director Roman Bělor and his staff essentially reinvented Prague’s signature music festival. They rewrote programs for local ensembles like the Czech Philharmonic and Collegium 1704, cut a deal with Czech TV to pull vintage concerts from its archives, hired a production company and plugged in.
The result has been better than anyone expected. Online broadcasts greatly enlarged the audience – in the case of the Czech Philharmonic’s all-Mozart concert, to more than 300,000 viewers – and brought viewers close to the performers, taking them deep inside the music. The concerts were remote but the experience was intimate.
The closing week may be the best yet, with live performances by a virtuoso crossover artist and two of the country’s finest conductors leading great orchestras. From the vaults, there’s a bracing mix of music and politics in a Budapest Festival Orchestra performance, and Leonard Bernstein’s historic appearance at the festival in 1990, which turned out to be the last concert he ever gave in Europe.
This is also the week to catch up on earlier performances you may have missed, before they’re taken down. If you don’t watch anything else, do not miss the all-star birthday tribute created by the clever Czech composer Petr Wajsar.
Other online offerings remain strong, and are becoming increasingly diversified. You can see some of Spain’s best flamenco dancers, or dip into an unprecedented 10-day cinema extravaganza put together by a group of the world’s most prominent film festivals, from Cannes to Karlovy Vary.
Meanwhile, Prague continues to open up, albeit slowly. The Czech Philharmonic is starting a series of summer chamber music concerts at the Rudolfinum, and Joe’s Garage is launching a lineup of outdoor concerts featuring Czech rock stars like Michal Prokop, who gets things underway at a riverside park in Prague 4. A reminder: Social distancing is being maintained at most live performances, which means there are fewer seats available, which means you should buy tickets in advance.
If the listings seem weighted a bit on the classical side, it’s mostly because the well-behaved classical crowd schedules performances at specific times. Rock and pop stars tend to be more, um, relaxed, which actually works to the viewers’ advantage. Bands are posting entire concerts that you can watch anytime. Radiohead is posting a new concert every Thursday night on its YouTube channel. Metallica fans can catch head-banging shows in Europe, South American and the US. And maybe one of these days Neil Young will finally get his promised fireside sessions together.
Prague Spring Live: Lukáš Sommer
The guitarist and composer (pictured above) plays an evening of his compositions at the Technical Museum.
We Are One Global Film Festival
A 10-day digital film feast culled from A-list festivals ranging from Sundance to Karlovy Vary.
The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: California Dreaming
A trip down memory lane with rock stars who came to fame in the Golden State.
Prague Spring Live: Prague Symphony Orchestra
An opportunity to see FOK under the baton of its new chief conductor, Tomáš Brauner.
Czech Philharmonic Summer Concert Series
The orchestra is easing its way back into live performances with a smart set of chamber concerts.
Prague Spring Encore: Budapest Festival Orchestra
A reprise of a 2008 performance with superstar pianist András Schiff, who was slated to be this year’s artist-in-residence.
Prague Spring Encore: Leonard Bernstein conducts Beethoven
A reprise of the legendary composer and conductor’s final appearance at the festival in 1990.
Czech Philharmonic Summer Concert Series: Prague Vivaldi Ensemble
A program of popular favorites performed with aplomb by some of the orchestra’s finest.
Bergen International Festival: Leif Ove Andsnes
The virtuoso pianist plays an all-Mozart program with the Oslo Philharmonic.
Prague Spring Finale: Czech Philharmonic
The festival wraps its digital debut with an anniversary tribute to Beethoven.
An online dance festival? Why not, especially if it’s everybody’s hot-blooded favorite.
Whimsical Music Summer: Michal Prokop and Framus Five
Czech rock goes lives again, starting with this outdoor concert on the banks of the Vltava.
Royal Albert Home: Tim Burgess
The Charltans frontman shows the new guitar licks he’s learned during quarantine.
Czech Philharmonic Summer Concert Series: Cinque Archi
A smart selection of chamber music favorites ranging from Mozart to Bartók.
British bands are the featured performers in this weekend party in Karlín.
Dear Class of 2000: A Virtual Graduation Event
Barack and Michelle Obama headline a gathering of stars for this feel-good celebration of academic achievement.