Maestro move: Prague has a new chief

Karl-Heinz Steffens was named today music director of the State Opera in Prague.

He starts work in August 2019.

Steffens, 57, has been music director of the Deutsche Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Pfalz. Before that, he was principal clarinet of the Berlin Philharmonic.


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  • He replaced Mehta with Beethoven’s 9th last year at the IPO and was very good
    It seemed that the orchestra connected very well to him.

  • Interesting. I don’t really know his background in opera. Between Prague’s three houses, they probably put on more performances than nearly any company in the world. What I found both a virtue and a problem is that performers operate with considerable anonymity; most times I went to a show I had no idea who the singers were or the conductor. It was all very competent but no “star system” to speak of. And tickets are generally pretty cheap. But a great place to hear operas by Dvorak and Smetana other than Rusalka and Bartered Bride. Janacek has more successfully crossed borders (but is oddly unpopular in Prague; even there they prefer Puccini).

    To my knowledge each house (State Opera, National Theatre, and Estates Theatre) each has its own orchestra, instead of one large group that interchanges between houses depending on the production. They’re all quite decent, but they’re not the Czech Philharmonic. Much opportunity to raise their profile.

    • There are only two orchestras and choruses. One of each from Narodni Divadlo and State Opera. The whole National Theater organization has 4 stages were it presents opera productions – Narodni Divadlo, State Opera, Estates Theater and New Stage. Due to reconstruction State Opera performs on all stages currently, however basically Estates Theater shares orchestra and chorus with Narodni Divadlo (they don’t have ensemble of their own). The same is true for New Stage where contemporary and experimental operas are performed, it’s used only by Narodni Divadlo. This though might change in the future as there are plans to stress this part of activities and focus more on new operas so maybe ensemble from State Opera will be envolces as well.

      As for “star system” National Theater has its own permanent ensemble like most Central European theaters. Outside of few major opera houses most other opera companies in this part of the world also don’t have “star system”. However, National Theater does invite regularly “stars” for several of its productions during the year.

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