Artists to wear white ribbons at Prague opera premiere

Artists to wear white ribbons at Prague opera premiere


norman lebrecht

June 27, 2019

Artists at the Czech National Theatre who are fighting the introduction of a Norwegian artistic director have promised to wear white ribbons at this week’s much-vaunted premiere of a new production of Smetana’s Dalibor.

We are awaiting pictures of the protest.



  • Bob Boles says:

    Sad, parochial little nationalists, opposed to international work in opera. They’ve been unable to express any concrete objections to Hansen – their opposition stems entirely from his nationality alone.

    • Richard Kolář says:

      No nationalist reasons, Bob, indeed.

      There weren’t any protests after September 2018 Hansen was designated. The concrete objections to Hansen were arising step by step and broke out just 9 months after, in May when the crisis in managing the Prague Opera got unsupportable:

      Hansen instantly began intervene in the management of the season 2019/2020 he hadn’t any right to boss, and caused such a disruption of Opera with his self-willed casting and re-casting and conflicts with the current Opera management that the two Directors Ms. Hroncová and Mr. Kofroň resigned. Only 2 months prior to season’s start, the final number of premieres hasn’t been approved, the staging teams and the cast (for those premieres that had been announced) keep unknown, the opera soloists haven’t been told their cast in repertoire performances (except for August!). Neither such a “parochial” Opera as Prague has ever lived such a humble and deep crisis. It has been Hansen to wait for.

      Moreover most of the soloists re-cast by Hansen by now come from one of the second (or third?) category German Operas, Stadttheater Mannheim – one of from 31st to 120th opera ensemble in Germany. Would any one be able to explain me how a student of singing from Mannheim, cast by Hansen for Angelotti, could help Prague Opera getting a world one? Moreover Hansen, in his widely published words, intends Prague to do opera co-productions with… the said Mannheim Opera, and to “develop” the unique Prague Mozart tradition joint with Estates Theatre (Prague’s Estates Theatre is the only one in the world where the great Wolfgang Amadeus himself conducted, e.g. world premiere of his Don Giovanni) with the meaningless Schlosstheater in Schwetzingen (17 KM far from Mannheim…). How international do you find this, Bob?

      Only 9 months after being paid as “National Theatre Director’s Adviser”, after the May “Open Letter”, Hansen began meeting Czech soloists. He was very nice, he praised the singer’s yesterday’s performance, he was talking about his plans how to make the Prague Opera “the First League”, he was as kind to write by his own hand the singer’s dates for 2019/2020 the singer was waiting since months (of course, any printed list is not available by now!), but he hasn’t provided any information on singer’s work in “his” season 2020/2021. Let me resume Hansen’s position: “You sing beautiful but I fuck your beautiful singing, I have no job for you.”

      10 months after being paid by National Theatre, Hansen hasn’t shown any plans for the future of Prague Opera; no exact info on 2020/21 soloists ensemble, on orchestras, choirs, and last but not least on from what Hansen’s “First League of Mannheim” should be paid. More zingy Prague news still available.

      What do you find nationalist in Prague Opera artists’ behavior now, Bob?

      Add the info from Oslo where Hansen, himself Norwegian, was fired from, after trying to abolish the Norwegian National Opera soloists ensemble. See comments to

      Moreover note please that the actual Prague Opera challenge is not focused on Hansen only:
      Prague Opera people request
      – new and transparent selection procedure for Opera Director (Hansen designed by National Theatre Diretor Burian) and State Opera musical chief (Steffens designated by Hansen)
      – restructuring the National Theatre Guarantee Board (Payne, Opera-Europa last nominated member)
      – new and transparent selection procedure for Prague National Theatre Director (Burian since 2013, at no conception for 7 years, recently suspect from participating at a legislative tunnel, Burian’s draft law being stopped).

      The actual Prague Opera challenge turns against the international opera mafia Payne-Burian-Hansen trying to seize Prague National Theatre. That’s it.

    • operni umelci says:

      what about Katharina Wagner? Constantin Trinks? Marc Minkowski?Michael Guettler? Mariusz Trelinski? Keith Warner? Bob Wilson? Robert Carsen?Vera Nemirova?
      Yusif Eyvazov? Anna Netrebko? Placido Domingo? Piotr Beczala? Dmytro Popov?

      we little “nacionalists”??

      we are again Hansens cosa nostra. with mediocre soloists! agencies; Mannheim kind of collaborations.

      He is a fake manager. with zero interest about art or opera. He is bringing his mediocre so called conductor Steffens. This is first class conductor??

      take Hansen to Berlin Frankfurt or Zurich.

      actually/ why he wasnt without relevant job for more the two years after he was kicked out from Oslo?????

      why he wasnt enough good fot Opera in Denmark? and Kasper Holten was choosen as artistic director?

      buy a flight ticket to Oslo and ask people about Hansen.

  • Bogda says:

    I do understand sentiments of some of the artists. But judging by the quality of productions of the last two season (incl. Dalibor, I’ve seen dress rehearsal) National theater does need a shake up. True, musical levels have increased, but staging have become more and more provincial, irrelevant and pointless. There is clearly a lack of any strategic concept, opera seems to be somehow in a limbo. Both ballet and drama ensembles have managed over the last few years to establish clear new identities and roles and position themselves as leading cultural institutions in Prague. It’s remarkable that opera of National theater is playing hardly any role in incredibly vibrant Prague classical music scene.

  • operniumelci says:

    Interview with Eva Urbanova

    Jan Burian is hoping to work together on a common humble service to the opera of the National Theatre. Is it working?
    The situation that arose by the strange and non-transparent selection of the new manager Per Boy Hansen is still extremely tense. General manager Burian replied to our open letter, but we still know nothing. I have still failed to understand the intention of general manager. Why did he decide to select someone who had problems managing the opera in Oslo as the staff immediately found out. People are nervous and frustrated.
    In his letter general manager Burian quotes several international personalities who recommend Per Boy Hansen as an experienced opera manager.
    I don´t want to call in question Mr. Hansen´s experience or his managerial skills. But there must be something true about what happened, when he was manager in Oslo. I am particularly saddened by how Mr. Burian is overlooking the fact that Per Boy Hansen destroyed the opera ensemble in Oslo. Mr. Burian is pretending it did not happen, that there were only a few hysterical people complaining. I sang in Norway at the time the new theatre in Oslo was being completed. The opening was an event everyone was extremely proud of. Mr. Hansen destroyed the opera ensemble in his own country. Not with lack of managerial skills, but with his character and the way he treated the staff – the soloists, the orchestra, the chorus. In my opinion this is such a professional failure that mustn´t be overlooked. Under these circumstances, Mr. Burian can´t be angry that we have a problem with this person, that we are unsure and even scared.

    Have you met Mr. Hansen yet?
    Yes. He has a power of speech and he can manipulate people with this gift. But I have quite a lot of experience and I don´t believe that someone who has had such problems in the past would change from one day to another. I had a very uneasy feeling of our first recent meeting.
    His replies felt vague, ambiguous. He avoided giving any concrete statement so it is not clear to me what he wants to do. He said everything was ok. He mentioned upsizing the ensemble. But why he wants young foreign artists to sing such roles as Esmeralda in The Bartered Bride or Papagena in the Magic Flute is a mystery to me. All our operas have soloists for such smaller roles. It seems to be a waste of money. And I am convinced that in the Czech Republic there are capable opera managers, we have skilled and knowledgeable people here.

    Did you glean from the meeting how the Burian Hansen tandem wants to develop both opera ensembles of the National Theatre?

    We had a nice talk with Mr. Hansen, he told me he know of all the places I sang. But how he wants to manage the ensemble, what are his particular steps, what changes he plans to do in the ensembles – I am at a loss.

    Mr. Hansen has announced that he wants to improve the quality of the National Theatre. Do you know how he wants to achieve this?
    Mr. Hansen has stressed that he wants to open the National Theatre to the world. Why is he saying that? Isn´t he aware of the fact that many great conductors and soloists from around the world have appeared in Prague? We have never been a “closed theatre”.

  • This is nothing new for Prague where there are strong nationalistic sensibilities surrounding the arts. The Czech Phil’s role in opposing the Soviet invasion in ’68 is a famous example. But the orchestra’s unfair treatment of Gerd Albrecht in the early 90s is an example of how this nationalism and ethnocentricity can go wrong. See:

    From a wider perspective, there are interesting correlations. The Czech Phil is very closely related the Vienna Phil historically. In cultural terms, Prague was known as the “Second Capitol” of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In fact, the Czech Phil maintained the Vienna sound longer than even the Vienna Phil, in part because it was locked behind the Iron Curtain and thus removed from many of the international influences that had slowly changed the VPO.

    After the rise of 19th century cultural nationalism and the dissolution of the Empire, both orchestras actively positioned themselves as institutions representing their country’s national identity. (In the case of the VPO this was also applied to the Third Reich, then back again toward Austria after the war.) It was thus only natural that the Czech Phil would become a symbol of resistance against the Soviets, but also that arts worlds in both Vienna and Prague would hold to attitudes some have found xenophobic and parochial.

    These nationalistic sensibilities can maintain national styles, and foment opposition to things like Soviet oppression, but they can also lead to chauvinistic parochialism. I think its time for Prague’s music world to rise above this. Their national identity and style is more than strong enough to incorporate some international artists, and it will serve to keep standards high and minds open.

    • operni umelci says:

      this is about Hansens behavoir and his zero management skills.

      not a question about czech nationalism.

      we accepted with love and passion: Constantin Trinks, Michael Guettler, Marc Minkowski…Katharina Wagner, Mariusz Trelinski or Bob Wilson, Willy Decker, Jose Cura – all are more then welcome. real artists who inspires us…

      Hansen? he destroyed the Oslo opera and how he is doing the same now in Prague. he is really a fake “opera manager” with zero empathie or social skills – some old “cosa nostra” oper friends are supporting him.

      he is not able to speak about art, opera. zero interest for soloist, administration. he is buying his PR in czech media via Burian. he was travelinv 9 months – zero evidence what he did.

      From Oslo we heard he did the same. he collected just for himself contacts. ego. ego. money.

      why he is not working for Barenboim? in berlin. or for Frankfurt? Loebe? or Homoki in Zurich???why this 3 dinosauruses are supporting him and sending to Prague?

      why Hansen Wants to stay in Prague???339 people are against him. he will cure “problems” in Prague?? He is the reason why there is a chaos. Why was hired by Burian and supported by Payne? Why Burian is working as a financial secretary for Opera europe? we all know its a deal!!!

      has double face and we all in Prague are very scared about his uncompetent modus vivendi and working style!

      • william osborne says:

        I think some of the examples you mention were guest artists, and not administrators in permanent positions which is something different.

        It’s also noteworthy that only 4 of the 16 GMDs the Czech Phil has had have been foreigners, a German, an Israeli, and two Russians. They held their positions for only 14 years of the orchestra’s 118 year history of GMDs. 104 years of Czechs, 14 years of foreigners. Very interesting for such a small country. And a big contrast to the USA which has an amazing absence of home grown conductors.

        • Richard Kolář says:

          Not clear to me whom and what you are replying to and what you want to say, speaking of guest artists and permanent positions.

          As to Czech Phil, let me remind you that you can take in consideration neither the periods
          before and during the War II (which were fully “national”) nor the period “behind the iron curtain” 1948 – 1989. Comparable to the USA is just the period starting from 1990: correct would be “14 years of the orchestra’s 29 freedom years since 1990”! 15 years of Czechs, 14 years of foreigners.

          • Allen says:

            Hello Richard,
            I believe what William is referring to when he says “all guest artists” is that Operni Umelci commented:
            “we accepted with love and passion: Constantin Trinks, Michael Guettler, Marc Minkowski…Katharina Wagner, Mariusz Trelinski or Bob Wilson, Willy Decker, Jose Cura”
            and those were only guest artists. Since they were not administrators nor in permanent positions, they were perhaps not so much of a threat to the local Czech artists.