Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Concerts, Operas, Dinners

I feel as though I should say at least something about the Hradišt’an concert, as while Hradišt’an is a well-known Moravian folk ensemble, Wednesday’s concert was in no way typical. For this event, the group teamed up with a small orchestra, Central Asian throat singers, a gospel singer who appeared to be trained in opera, and perhaps there were others I have forgotten. Mostly Hradišt’an performed with the orchestra, doing pieces based on a variety of sources, including early music and Sušil. We thought that on the whole these were well done and effective. Less of the program involved the throat singers, but we also thought their collaboration with Hradišt’an was quite successful. Jesse’s friend Janyl, a Kirghiz radio journalist based in Prague who joined us for the concert, is actually hosting the singers during their visit and was able to tell us various things about how the type of singing varies geographically (not that, I am afraid, I can remember the details). The gospel singer was very good in her way but we weren’t as impressed with that musical combination.
After the concert, the four of us went to Lucerna and Janyl told us about some upcoming Central Asian events. Eventually Jesse, Štěpanka, and I made our way back to my apartment, where we kept talking until I checked what time I had to do Fulbright orientation the next morning and decided that I had better get some sleep.
Ugh, yes, Fulbright had put Hubert and me in the very first slot after breakfast! It was our task, with the help of two Czech Fulbright alums, to orient the new Fulbright students regarding student sorts of things that might not occur to the Fulbright staff. Well, it is pretty hard to know what to tell people without knowing what they’re up to and what their preparation is. As it turned out, the new Fulbright students had all studied a reasonable amount of Czech and had spent time in the Czech Republic before, so we didn’t have to tell them about basic food and transit matters. I’m not sure exactly what all we spent our time discussing, but libraries and archives were part of my spiel, Hubert mentioned some tricks he uses to improve his Czech, and I know we mentioned some railway discounts we had discovered. (Never buy train tickets separately from your friend. Two people count as a group, thus get a discount. Buy a return ticket if possible. Get a Karta Z.) In any case, it all seemed to go fine and the incoming students seemed pleasant.
After my morning at Fulbright, I met up with Jesse and Štěpanka for lunch, as they had my house keys. Besides, Štěpanka had invited Jesse and me to a Charles University graduation. As Jesse put it, we’ve attended these graduations before (with our language classes) but never when Štěpanka was onstage in her academic cap and gown! This definitely added something to the experience. These graduate graduations are in small groups and last about 40 minutes, unlike the American kind that are often held in football stadiums. The hall is quite beautiful, there’s organ music, and the speeches are relatively short (some are in Latin). Our photos of it all did not turn out very well but I did get one of Štěpanka just before she stuck her tongue out at us. In my opinion she looks rather elegant in cap and gown.
The Fulbright staff had invited Hubert and me to join the new grantees at the opera that night, and Jesse was also able to get a ticket, so we had the opportunity to see Jenufa. I thought that I had read the libretto, but I realized that I had read the original play, by Gabriela Preissová, and seen some scenes on video. It’s a powerful story, and we were satisfied with the performance, but we had some complaints about the set design. At one point, for no reason that anyone among us could divine, everything fell down off the set. This did not add to the atmosphere or advance the plot. We had lesser complaints as well, but I believe the entire Fulbright contingent commented on the falling objects.
Anna, an art historian among the new students, invited us over to her apartment following the opera. She has a very impressive place over the Café Louvre, and I am rather sorry I didn’t go ahead and photograph the shoe collection we created by her front door. At the party, I got to meet students who hadn’t been around during the morning. Alicia is a teaching assistant doing research on post-EU migration (I think I have that right), Juliana is going to do a film on the New Wave and feminism in the Czech Republic (we had a long conversation on this), and Seth, who has Fulbright-Hays, is working on medieval art. Shawn, who also has Fulbright-Hays, told Jesse and me more about his adventures rummaging through Nejedly’s papers. Jesse knew of Nejedly’s musicological projects while I merely recognized the name as one that pops up in my research now and then. It turns out I may have to look at Nejedly’s papers myself. There is no end to what might prove significant to my research…
Since Jesse’s visits to Prague are a good excuse for us to cook, we held a small dinner party Friday night. Since we weren’t sure how many people could attend, we did not go all out, but made our famous leek-and-potato soup and a plum pie. Both turned out excellently. The guests were, in sequence, our new friend Ilja (a radio journalist from New York) and Hubert. Ilja and Jesse had become acquainted through Jesse’s blog, and I immediately liked him. The three of us talked for most of the afternoon and a good part of the evening. Since Hubert was getting ready to premiere a piece (it premiered this evening but conflicted with my Czech class), we didn’t entirely expect him, but late in the evening he was ready for a break, so he and Jesse and I stayed up till some late hour or other. At one point I began to fall asleep and told them I was going to bed, but they persuaded me that I would be fine if we simply went into the living room so that I could lie on the couch. This actually worked. Hubert wanted us to lay bets on which of last year’s Fulbrighters would get married first, which led to amusing discussion which will not be repeated here. (Hubert’s mother is currently very interested in his marital status, which is why the topic was on his mind at all. But it was also influenced by an East Bay Express cover Megan sent us.)
And so went the latter part of the week. It was utterly devoid of research, but it was good.


Blogger Kristen said...

But, damnit, we're an elite group of pervs!

September 27, 2006 4:32 AM  
Anonymous Jesse said...

A fun trip! Maybe I'll be able to get some audio from the graduation ceremony processed soon.

September 27, 2006 10:02 PM  
Blogger Karla said...

Yes, we can label the audio as Fulbright pervs infiltrating graduation to ogle Czech academic garb.

September 28, 2006 1:42 PM  
Blogger Hubert said...

Music Grad student, yikes! Gives us a bad rep (is it bad rap as in rapsheet or bad rep as in reputation?)!!!

October 03, 2006 12:55 AM  

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