Since 2005, Seouloratorio has regularly performed in the Czech Republic, in cooperation with the Dvorak Academy and the Prague Conservatory. This year’s performance tour included four concerts in Prague and other Czech cities (July 24- August 1).
After contacting a variety of musical institutions in Europe, Seouloratorio entered into a cooperative agreement with the Dvorak Academy and the Prague Conservatory in 2005, at the suggestion of the Czech government and the Czech Embassy in Seoul. This has resulted in a series of summer concerts in the Czech Republic, including “In the Footsteps of Antonin Dvorak” in 2007, “To the Heart of Europe” in 2008, and “The Concert of Love” in 2009, which have been undertaken with support from the Korea Foundation. ‘The Concert of Love’
The initial performance, at Rudolfinum Suk Hall in Prague, was a gala concert event that presented a program of selected Korean songs and opera arias. Tenor Seong Yeong-gyu, who sang “Baennorae” (Boat Song) and “Nessun Dorma,” was highly praised for his exceptional technique and vocal clarity. Moreover, Mezzo-soprano Mun Hye-gyeong’s passionate performance of “Gagopa” (I Want to Go) and “Mon Coeur S’ouvre a Ta Voix” left everyone in the audience teary-eyed, including Dvorak III, the grandson of Antonin Dvorak.
The audience also gave a thunderous round of applause to Slovakian baritone Jakub Pustina, for his rendition of “In Taberna” and “Cavatina of Figaro,” and the Czech Trio, a renowned group with a history of more than 100 years, when they performed the complete works of Dvorak’s “Dumky.” Our group was honored that the concert audience included the Czech Ambassador to the Republic of Korea, along with Prague Conservatory faculty members, and members of the Dvorak family: Dvorak III, Dvorak IV, and Dvorak V. Milian Langer, the pianist of the Czech Trio and a professor of the Prague Conservatory, noted: “I did my best to play with all my heart to offer a gift to all those who love Antonin Dvorak.” Meanwhile, a French visitor in the audience exclaimed: “I am so fascinated by this music. I want to cancel all my appointments so that I can accompany your concert tour.” Professor B. Sulcova highly praised the performance in describing it as an event when “Dvorak met Dvorak.” Before departing, the group left flowers at a statue of Dvorak situated near the entrance of Rudolfinum Suk Hall. The theme for next year’s concert will be “Love and Peace,” as a kind of follow-up to this year’s successful performance. The Dvorak Academy’s students were especially pleased to learn that Dvorak III had been named an Honorary Dean of the academy.Community Outreach
Seouloratorio presented religious works at a special event held at Kadov Church, in South Bohemia. Promoted as fundraising effort for the repair and maintenance of the church pipe organ, which dates back to 1710, the performance was a great success that included a turnout of some 200 people, representing almost all of the village’s residents. The Seouloratorio members, students of the Dvorak Academy, and supporters of the group who reside in Switzerland all attended the performance and contributed to the fund-raising project.
The audience was visibly touched when soprano Kim Seonmi sang Dvorak’s “Biblical Songs No. 4” in Czech, and tenor Won Yong-gi was joined by a choir group for Berlioz’s requiem “Sanctus.” After the regular program, as people were leaving, soprano Kang Soo-jeong sang Mozart’s “Laudate Dominum,” as a closing hymn, to the accompaniment of violinist Lee Jeong-hyeon, which caused everyone to pause and enjoy this final piece. This was such a heart-felt scene that it will be long remembered by me. Later, we all attended a barbeque outing, during which the Vice Dean of the Prague Conservatory presented the Director of Seouloratorio with a painting that had been created by his father-in-law.Dvorak Composition Competition
Another concert was held at Palffy Palace in order to provide students of the Dvorak Academy with an opportunity to improve their performance experience and stage presence. For a final performance, we returned to Rudolfinum Suk Hall for the staging of an oratorio-related concert. Of note, the program included several top-level singers, such as Japanese baritone Toshimi Mori, the winner of last year’s Dvorak International Singing Competition. It also featured Seoulortorio Choir and Choir Vox Prague.
After the concert, everyone joined to congratulate Dvorak III on his birthday, and we were pleased to see Tomas Smetanka, former Czech Ambassador to the Republic of Korea. The performance tour was also fruitful in regard to moving forward with our long-cherished dream of organizing an international composition event. Next year, the first Antonin Dvorak International Composition Competition will be held in Prague, which hopefully will include the active participation of composers and students.
Educational and cultural exchange between Seouloratorio and the Czech Republic have reaped notable results in recent years. In recognition of this, the Czech government decided to award Seouloratorio Director Choi Yeong-cheol with Gratias Agit, which is bestowed upon foreign organizations and individuals for their valued contributions to the development of culture, art, and education of the Czech Republic. It is noteworthy that Director Choi will be the first Korean to receive this award. He will visit the Czech Republic for an award ceremony in October 2009, which will coincide with the publication of his book on 16th century-style counterpoint, the fruit of his three-decade research efforts.