Stepping Back In Time At The Estates Theatre In Prague | KNKX

Stepping Back In Time At The Estates Theatre In Prague

Dec 21, 2017

The Estates Theatre in Prague is one of Europe's oldest. Sitting in the heart of Prague’s old town, it’s a long building, with a towering façade held up by Corinthian columns.

Today it hosts theater, opera and ballet. But it’s been operating since 1783.  

“There are only two theaters in Europe that have been operating like this,” said Marketa Halirova, a singer and music teacher. “One is in Austria and the other is here in Prague.”

Halirova spent some time at the Estates with KNKX travel expert Matthew Brumley, to share the theater's rich history.

Mozart’s Special Connection

Inside the theater, you’ll find a bust of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

“His opera ‘The Marriage of Figaro’ was very popular in this building,” Halirova said. “And Mozart heard about it. In Vienna, this opera was not very well appreciated. But here in Prague, people just loved it.”

So Mozart came to Prague in 1787 to conduct “The Marriage of Figaro,” and he was asked to write a new opera specifically for The Estates.

“So four months later he came back with ‘Don Giovanni’ in his pocket,” Halirova said. “The premiere was here.”

Mozart was famously a last-minute composer. Halirova said the night before the premiere, the overture was not finished.

“There’s this story that says Mozart was locked in his room where he had to finish the overture,” she said. “The musicians … saw the music material only 10 minutes before the start, and they did it, of course.”

Prague's Musical Life

For KNKX travel expert Matthew Brumley, the Estates Theatre was a gateway to opera.

“The first time I came to Prague was 20 years ago, and I was not an opera fan, because I didn’t understand opera and I didn’t know it,” Brumley said. “To come to a theater like the Estates, and with the history of this place, I fell in love instantly, with opera, with ‘Don Giovanni,’ with ‘The Marriage of Figaro.’”

But Prague isn’t just opera. The city hosts a jazz festival each July.

KNKX travel expert Matthew Brumley with Marketa Halirova (and Mr. Mozart) inside the Estates Theatre in Prague.
Credit Matthew Brumley / KNKX

“Music is the essence of Prague,” Brumley said.

Halirova agrees.

“Prague is a magical place,” she said.

Getting There

This trip can be done in about 18 hours door-to-door from Seattle. Any of Europe’s hubs – Amsterdam, Frankfurt, London or Paris – will connect you to Prague. We found itineraries for late April starting at $750 and going up to $4,000, depending on airline, connections and schedule.

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"Going Places" is 88.5's weekly exploration of travel. Our travel expert, Matthew Brumley, is co-founder of Earthbound Expeditions on Bainbridge Island, which provides small group travel to clients including KNKX. Never miss an episode again. Subscribe to Going Places with iTunes Google Play or Stitcher.