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Municipal House, Estates Theatre, or National Theatre?

Hello, I will be visiting Prague for the first time over the next two weeks. I'd love to attend one classical performance, and I'm having trouble deciding which theater I'd like to attend, since the venue is part of the experience I'm looking for. There are several performance options that look interesting:
- Prague Symphony Orchestra @ the Municipal House
- The Magic Flute @ the Estates Theatre
- Lohengrin @ the National Theatre
- Rusalka @ the National Theatre
- La nozze di Figaro @ the National Theatre
- Advent concert (Czech Christmas Mass) @ the National Theatre
- La Traviata @ the National Theatre

I actually just saw Rusalka in San Francisco a few months ago, but loved it and would see it again already! That said, the Estates looks like an intriguingly beautiful theater, so Die Zauberflote appeals. And the Czech Christmas Mass I haven't heard before, and that seems uniquely Czech, though so does the genre-crossing "Velvet Minutes" with the Prague Symphony Orchestra... I feel spoiled for choice. Let me know if you have any strong opinions you'd be willing to share. I am forewarned that I will need relatively formal clothes. =)

Posted by
4411 posts

I enjoy finding a beautiful venue and a local composer or production. If you're in Prague already, I thoroughly enjoyed the Czech flavor of Smetana's Bartered Bride, which is playing at the National Theater Nov 20th.

Purely based on venue, the National Theater feels elegant, but the Estates Theater (which I haven't been to) looks more like an experience you wouldn't get in San Francisco.

And to add to your options, you might check the program at the Karlin Theater (1881, "mock-Baroque" style theater) which is also beautifully detailed. Carmen is on the schedule later this month.

Posted by
26411 posts

The Municipal House is a stunning Art Nouveau building, but you can take a tour of it that gets you into rooms you couldn't see just by buying a ticket to a performance there. It's very worthwhile, and I highly recommend paying the modest extra charge for photo privileges. I did not, and I regretted it.

I haven't been inside the other theatres you mentioned.

Posted by
356 posts

The Estates' Theatre is celebrated for several reasons. It's the oldest theatre in Prague. It opened in 1783, a century before the National Theatre. It's where Mozart premiered his Don Giovanni, and it claims to be the only opera house in the world where Mozart played that still stands today. Also, it is the place where the Czech national anthem, Kde domov můj was heard for the first time. The design of the auditorium is quite interesting. The seating isn't tiered, instead the boxes ascend in a shear verticle fashion - it can be quite the drop if you find yourself at one of the upper levels.

On the other hand, the National Theatre is a spectacular of 19th-century nation-building. It's considerably larger than the Estates' Theatre, and the seating is tiered. The grandeur goes all the way to the top too, so don't be afraid of the cheap seats.

Finally, the Smetana Hall in the Municipal House is a hall, rather than a theatre. It's longer and lower than either of the two theatres, and the seating isn't tiered.

All three are magnificent spaces, and the quality of the performance in each will be excellent. At the end of the day, it really comes down to what you would prefer to hear.

Posted by
19223 posts

Second Marcus's opinion of the Estates Theater. It only has about 600 seats, so you'll be close to the action no matter where you sit. I saw Don Giovanni there 12 years ago. Mozart himself conducted the premier there, so it is indeed a special place. It was in Italian, with both Czech and English supertitles. Magic Flute should be in German, with Czech and English supertitles, although since it is a "Singspiel", more like a musical with some spoken dialog, it is often performed in translation in the local language.

The Municipal House is quite nice. Saw a local orchestra do Dvorak's 9th Symphony (From the New World) there during an afternoon concert. It would probably be classed as a "tourist" concert. The audience was sophisticated enough not to clap between movements, but did not know when the piece was over after the finale. The conductor had to turn around and spread her arms to say "Uh, that's all folks!"

Me, I'd go for Lohengrin, but then I'm an admitted Wagner addict.

PS, just looked at the Estates website. Magic Flute, sung in German with Czech and English supertitles

Posted by
6 posts

Thank you for the great advice! Went and saw Magic Flute at the Estates, and were happy with the decision. Such a beautiful theatre! And quite right, unlike anything we have in San Francisco.

Joanna