Dublin vs Prague: A night at the Prague Opera with Don Giovanni

So after checking out Waiting for Godot in Dublin, I decided I needed to catch a performance as well in Prague.

Now there is no lack of stuff to catch in Prague – this cultural city is chock full with theatres and performing arts venues. My abode at Downtown Hostel was just down the road from the famous National Theatre – Narodni Divadlo, which is how I ended up on its website and after much consideration, deciding that I would check out Don Giovanni at the Estates Theatre one evening.

Don Giovanni Prague Estates Theatre
Catching Don Giovanni at the Prague Estates Theatre!

Don Giovanni, or sometimes known as Don Juan, is a classic opera piece by the famous Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, which I thought would be a great introduction for my very first operatic experience. Other than the fact that I knew it was a classic story about a man who was a great seducer, I didn’t know anything else about it – sometimes with the arts, it’s better to just let it surprise you!

Don Giovanni Prague Estates Theatre
OK I knew it had something to do with a ghost as well because this was brought up during the walking tour – The famous ghost is a character in Don Giovanni, and this statue is located near the entrance of the Estates Theatre

Don Giovanni was being staged at The Estates Theatre, which is a pretty beautiful building – I had actually seen it while on a walking tour earlier in the week, but it took me quite awhile to locate this place as I was a bit befuddled and confused by the sheer number of theatres in Prague itself.

Prague Estates Theatre Don Giovanni
The Estates Theatre is an example of neoclassical architecture, though I can only tell you that because I wikipedia-ed it. When I was there, it was just a very grand ol’ pretty building.

I could have bought my tickets earlier, but I was hoping for last minute cheap tickets at the door, which sadly they didn’t have for this run. The theatre was quite full and there wasn’t much choice left, but I wasn’t intending to spend much anyway so I ended up buying the cheapest tickets at 290CZK (about 10euros / S$18) – the best tickets were going at around 1100CZK, which is really not that pricey by Singapore standards, but I had never been to an opera before and didn’t want to spend too much on something I wasn’t sure I would enjoy!

Before the show started, I checked out the curated exhibitions which talked about the history of Don Giovanni. This particular show is quite significant to Prague because while Mozart is mostly famous for his work in Vienna, Don Giovanni was actually written for Prague, and it made its premiere here (previously called the Teatro di Praga) way back in 1787.

Prague Estates Theatre
History of Don Giovanni and the Estates Theatre to prep you for the show. Some people were all gussied up for the theatre!

I had a feeling the Estates Theatre would be quite grand judging from the exterior and what I saw in the outside galleries, but I was really glad I went in early so I could check out the interior of the theatre. Behold:

Don Giovanni Prague Estates Theatre
Panoramic view of the theatre from the gallery. Look at how ornate the decor is, from the pillars to the ceiling, and there is a freaking chandelier even! I spent a lot of time gawking. My seat is somewhere in the top right hand corner of this picture
Don Giovanni Prague Estates Theatre
The stage is on the left, the live orchestra in the pit, and the audience on the right. It would have been really quite a weird angle watching the opera from here…

Of course since I got the cheapest tickets, my seats were right on the top floor (5th level), in the top row and literally the absolute back of the theatre. Nosebleed seats doesn’t quite begin to cover it, but you get what you pay for! Watching the show from there was quite the experience – I spent the first half of it leaning on the railing in front of me and peering down, and the 2nd half kinda half-standing, resting my bum on the front edge of my chair when it’s folded up so I didn’t quite have to lean forward and strain my back as much. A number of people, especially those along the sides shifted around as well during the intermission, and there were some folk standing/sitting in the corridor behind me in the 2nd half.

Don Giovanni Prague Estates Theatre
This is exactly the view you get when sitting normally in my seat in Row 3, Seat 6. You can’t even see the stage, unless you lean forward, and even then because I’m to one side, I can’t see certain parts of the stage…

About the show itself I was quite pleasantly surprised. In my head, the opera was always some sort of grandiose thing, with people in fancy poofy ballgowns standing static on a stage and being all shrill. It’s kinduva stupid assumption, I know, but hey what do I know~ The opera actually turned out to be more like a modern day musical, with a proper script and set, but some ballet thrown in. Like a musical, all lines are sung except these are sung in opera style in original Italian, but thankfully they had surtitles in English and Czech so you can follow.

OK spoiler alert in case for some reason you don’t want to know how it goes!

This show is LONG – even longer than Waiting for Godot at 3hrs and 10 minutes, it was pretty late and I was rather hungry by the time I left the theatre at around 10pm+, so make sure you grab a bite first. It was a fairly interesting show though, as far as the story goes – the titular Don Giovanni is a wicked seducer, and the show revolves around him and his antics, how he pisses off 3 women and they try to get their revenge, and how he eventually gets his comeuppance at the end.

I’d recommend it to experience Prague’s history and architecture up close, and because it was quite an entertaining show as well; I do want to check out some other opera if I’m ever back in Europe or Prague again.

Don Giovanni Prague Estates Theatre
Obligatory tourist shot. Obviously I was a little… underdressed heh. I love the detailing in the ceiling though!


The Estates Theatre
Ovocný trh, Prague 1
(close to the bottom side of Wenceslas Square, at the Old Town)

Book your tickets for shows online on the Narodni Divadlo website here, or head on down to the Main Box Office (next to the Narodni Divadlo theatre, behind the New Stage theatre). Tickets are also available at the respective theatres 45 minutes before show time.

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