Even before we will hear Smetana’s My Country played by the Welsh National Opera Orchestra during the Opening Concert of the 78th edition of the Prague Spring Festival in the Municipal House on 12 May 2023, the ensemble and its chief conductor Tomáš Hanus performed this work to the local audience in Cardiff.

„Hanus clearly has a passionate love of this music. On occasion he seemed to almost abandon conducting in the conventional way, instead swaying, almost dancing, smiling and beaming at the orchestra to express his delight in what was being played. It was a superb performance by the WNO orchestra,” wrote the critic Peter Collins on the British news website nation.cymru after the performance which took place at the end of January this year in the capital of Wales. The audience there had the opportunity to hear the entire “My Country” after twenty years. Of course, the timing was not a coincidence. For foreign orchestras, it is not uncommon to rehearse and play the Smetana’s work in their homeland before the performance at the Prague Spring Festival.

It was an opportunity not to be missed by the Friends of the Prague Spring and their guests who travelled to Cardiff and, in addition to the concert, they had the opportunity to experience the orchestra’s rehearsals, to speak to the conductor Tomáš Hanus and the orchestra director Peter Harrap in person, to visit the premises of the Wales Millennium Center where the opera company is based and to meet the Mrs. and Mr. Wiener, a Czech couple living in the UK.

It is amazing to see how the opening concert for the Prague Spring Festival takes shape! To experience, i.e. to see, hear, be a direct participant and be able to actively ask questions and receive enriching answers from those who are the best qualified. Including our Welsh hosts, colleagues who are professional musicians and amateurs, in whom we have found a matching DNA,” says lawyer Tomáš Kubík with enthusiasm about his experiences on the islands.

“The combination of Tomáš Hanus who is an empathetic, nice, modest and talented professional with a well-prepared orchestra brought about an extraordinary experience. The approach of Tomáš Hanus to My Country is open, with an unbiased view, as well as with great love and respect,” wrote music columnist Alena Sojková.

 “The opportunity to see and hear the orchestra from another country, how they diligently prepare themselves for the performance of My Country under the baton of the Czech conductor Tomáš Hanus, was an unforgettable experience which was underscored by the atmosphere of the St. David´s Hall,” adds her colleague Šárka Mrázová.

In addition to the planned trip to London to participate in the second round of the presidential election, the presence of a group of the Friends of the Prague Spring and their guests in Cardiff included a small surprise.

Journalist Tomáš Poláček prompted physician Pavel Wiener to talk about his father who served in the Czechoslovak exile army. You can listen to the podcast here.

Information about the opening concert of the 2023 Prague Spring Festival can be found here. Czech Television’s coverage on the Cardiff event is available here.