Wednesday, June 17, 2009


At the end of a forgotten street, nothing much more than a car park lined with half empty shops, and one block from a busy mall full of the dregs of crass capitalism, sits solidly still perhaps this city's greatest musical landmark, The Estates Theatre.

It was here that what many consider the greatest opera ever written (a relativity I find meaningless but nonetheless), Don Giovanni, was premiered 29th October 1787 conducted by the composer. That it isn't running every night, like some operatic Mouse Trap, is one of many questions you ask yourself about who comes to Prague and why.

It is an exquisitely beautiful small intimate blue and gold theatre with a capacity of not much more than 600. We joined about 50 others for a short recital by baritone and soprano with wind trio doing something along the lines of Mozart's Greatest Hits. The trio, especially the largish lady on piccolo and flute, was the star. No, correction, the theatre was the star.

The corpulent American gentleman in the neighbouring box, an Oscar Wildish figure of a man, whose svelt and handsome male companion half his age and a third his weight snapped "I'll be waiting downstairs" as we struck up conversation in the corridor, also briefly bemoaned the lack of the genuine article, before he quizzed:

"Have you been to the new bar at the Hotel Augustine yet?"

"No?", as I shook my head. "Then you must, you simply must".

"Of course, and we'll have a drink for you".

"No, have ten. Are you coming to Manhattan?"

We haven't been yet, not for one, let alone ten. There's quite a lot to see.

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