So, my last night in Prague, the fam went to Don Giovanni at the Estates Theatre, as mentioned before, the theatre in which Mozart himself conducted the premiere. In fact, the city has been leveraging its brief connection with Mozart for 250th years.
Little plaques blanket the city's buildings: Mozart slept here, Mozart played an organ here, Mozart went to a party here. Tourist shops routinely sell out their "Mozart ♥ Prague" shirts. They even have a Mozart museum which, while advertised ad nauseum, doesn't contain much in the way of anything actually historically relevant. If Bayreuth is classical music neverland, then Prague (at least where Mozart is concerned) is like the county carnival with the really sketchy rides.
I found it delightful.
They put on Don Giovanni here literally every night during high tourist season, from mid-July through August, which must present some serious La Boheme on Broadway style casting logistics. I heard that these shows are not so good, so I ended up pleasantly surprised by the quality of the cast we saw. Romanian Anda Louise Bogza turned in a commanding Donna Anna only slightly marred by some drag in more acrobatic passages. Russian Alina Gurina offered a hell-on-wheels Donna Elvira which I found exciting, though my sister thought her voice did not play well with the others. Particularly fun was the Don Ottavio, which was sung by an anonymous cover for the singer listed. The mystery tenor, who could not have been older than 25, was a knockout. Hence the huge bummer that Dalla Sua Pace got cut!
With reservations here and there, the rest of the cast was quite strong as well.
Prague is also of course, the location behind Milos Forman's film of Amadeus. Forman chose Mala Strana, said to be the most perfectly preserved 18th century neighborhood in the world, as body-double for Mozart's Vienna. Lying across the Vltava from the main Old Town neighborhood, the neighborhood (where we were staying, incidentally) climbs steeply up from the riverbank in a maze of baroque mansions (now used as embassies) nestled along winding streets. Making my way back across the river and up to our apartment late that night, a newly fallen snow covering the cobblestones, it was awfully hard not to get caught up in the romance of it all just a bit.
It also called to mind the great inaccuracies that wonderful movie has perpetrated on the popular imagination: i.e., Chicago, 1996, 11th grade EuroCiv class, overheard during oral reports on Western music: "But then, like, there was this other composer who was really jealous of Mozart because his music was very boring. (with great indignation) And then he killed him!"