“That would be my idea of heaven.” I have often heard people make some remark like that after enjoying a particular event, experience or place. One of my own contenders to be considered in the “quarter finals” is an annual event on a Sunday afternoon at the beginning of September in the valley where theIBTS campus is currently situated.
Thanks to the benevolence of Prague 6, the local authority of this part of Prague, the Czech National Opera and orchestra perform a classic Czech opera in our ŠárkaValley. This year saw thousands of people sat in the sunshine on the 100th anniversary year of the first such performance. This year it was the classic Bedřich Smetana opera, “The Bartered Bride”, with libretto by the Czech nationalist poet, Karel Sabrina. First performed in 1866, it’s a story of young love finally triumphing over an attempt by the parents of the heroine to organise an arranged marriage. It includes mistaken identity, a background of happy, simple, village life and the visit of a travelling circus.
It has some excellent and memorable tunes, reflecting Smetana’s interest in Bohemian folk music and the three act opera has some fun moments, typically reflecting Czech culture, with Act 2 opening to the men of the village singing a song “to beer”. The third act features the fun and antics of a travelling circus and cries of alarm when there is a story of an escaped bear from the circus, though the bear turns out to be the potential bridegroom of the arranged marriage in costume, thus demonstrating to everyone he is not yet ready to marry anyone.
So, the music, the acting, the setting are excellent and to keep you sustained during the free afternoon performance there are numerous food and drink stalls serving grilled sausage, fried cheese, potatoes in various forms, including freshly-cooked bramborove spiralky [fried potato spirals].
A party from IBTS, students and lecturers, thoroughly enjoyed the event, something we have been doing for most of the past 15 years. Where else could you enjoy top quality opera for free, in a silvine open air setting and with a range of very acceptable refreshments on hand at very modest prices?
It’s the totality of the experience, addressing the eye, the ear, the nose and the mouth and the sense of community engagement and enjoyment, the participation with BTS riends and colleagues which causes me to suggest this as a candidate for a possible image of heaven.