Exhibition “In the New World!” About Anton Dvorak’s Travels to America

Visoka Castle |  Photo: Markéta Kachlíková, Radio Prague International

The monument to Antonin Dvorak has been erected since 1963 in a neo-Renaissance mansion in an English garden on the outskirts of the village of Visoka u Bibrami. The current permanent exhibition was established there in the 1990s. It commemorates the palace’s previous owner, Count Vaclav Kaunitz, and his wife Josefina, a well-known actress from the National Theater in Prague. Above all, she deals with the most famous visitor to the house, the composer Antonin Dvorak. Tomáš Poláček runs the museum:

Tomáš Poláček |  Photo: Martina Shnibergova, Radio Prague International

“Dvořák first came to Vysoká in 1877. At that time, the wedding of Count Vaclav Robert Counts and Josefina Sermakova, sister-in-law of Anna Dvorak, took place in the church in Toibsko. The Count of Countess built this palace here a year later, and Dvořák visited his relatives regularly Here. The composer at first lived in a house near the castle. In the 1880s he bought a wheat store with a sheepfold on the outskirts of the village and turned it into a country house. Since then, he has stayed here from spring to autumn for about twenty years. “

The house was later named Villa Rusalca. Dvořák composed there, but he also enthusiastically engaged in gardening and raising pigeons. He feels happy there, he wrote in letters to his friends.


“To the New World!”


Since the end of April, the museum in Visoka Castle has invited visitors to visit a new exhibition entitled “In the New World!”. The show is about the trips to America of two figures of Czech culture in the 19th century – the composer Dvořák and the writer Josef Václav Sládek.


Our interest was to describe and compare the travels of these two artists. There are obvious differences: Sladik traveled there as a young man, unknown at that time and destitute. His journey was full of adventures. In the United States, he took several jobs, mostly as a labourer, and wrote articles for periodicals for the Czechs who lived there. On the other hand, Dvořák traveled to the United States as an established artist to teach at the New York Conservatory of Music. His stay was reported in the press, and he organized many concerts and lectures there. This was in marked contrast to Sládek. On the other hand, both of them shared an interest in the lives of Indians. For example, Sladick translated Henry Longfellow’s epic poem “The Song of Hiawatha”. Dvořák planned to compose an opera based on Indian myths, but unfortunately this did not happen. ”

Joseph Vaclav Sladik |  Source: Wikimedia Commons, public domain

Writer Josef Vaclav Sladik (1845-1912), a close friend of Count Könitz, was a frequent visitor to Vsoka, which is why he is also now remembered in the exhibition. Dvořák and Sládek repeatedly met in Vysoká. One of the most famous photographs of the composer and his family was taken by Sladek on the castle staircase, and he was a skilled photographer. The writer visited the United States in 1868 and stayed there for two years. The residency had a great influence on his literary work.


Charging box with initials AD

Bust of Goddess Antonin Dvorak at Visoka Palace |  Photo: Markéta Kachlíková, Radio Prague International

Dvořák sailed across the ocean in 1892. In the exhibition, his passport and boat ticket, among other things, remind us of the voyage, both borrowed from the Czech Music Museum. But Tomáš Poláček names other exhibits documenting trips to America:

“I would like to mention one thing in particular, that comes from our own stock. It is a letter that Dvořák sent to the caretaker of his home in Vysoká, Jan Hodík. He describes life in America, but is also interested in what is happening at home. How is the orchard and how is it? pigeons, as well as how his neighbors in Visoka currently live. ”


The director of the museum also points out two large funds:

We are also showing Dvořák chests, which have never been shown before. They have stood in the attic of Villa Rusalca for several decades, or even more than a hundred years. Dvořák may have traveled to the USA with these bags, and you can see his initials AD on them.”


The steamboat model from the National Museum of Technology is another dominant feature of the exhibit. Dvořák’s summer residence in the Czech city of Spillville in the US state of Iowa is also a theme. This is commemorated with a stone from the local river, which was sent from there specifically for the exhibition. Map documenting Sládek’s travels across the USA. Pieces and other photographs of the author’s property were borrowed from the Literary Archives.


The exhibition “Into the New World!” Until October this year. In the future, the new team at the museum also wants to redesign the permanent exhibition. Thomas Polasek:

“Interactive and playful elements should be added to make it attractive to families with children. The current exhibition is quite fragmented and depends more on atmosphere and impressions. I think we should make the information clearer and better organized. In addition, music should be given more weight. This means that it will be There is more running, but visitors can also try to compose the music themselves.”

Through the region with the hiking application

Photo: Martina Shnibergova, Radio Prague International

The castle itself is not the only part of the museum. An extensive English park with about 1,500 trees and an old street of oaks also invites you to go for a walk. There are also two picturesque pools, one with an island and a birch tree, and the other with a statue of the mermaid Rusalka. Next to the palace is a monument to Antonín Dvořák, created by the sculptor Karel Otáhal. And at the main gate of the park is the building “Sládkovna” – the former forest lodge where the poet Sládek lived. Today there is a cafe and a small exhibition hall. Thomas Polasek:

Photo: Martina Shnibergova, Radio Prague International

Exhibition “Into the New World!” It’s not the only new thing for this season. We are also planning a mobile app. Visitors can use it to wander around the palace and discover places associated with Antonín Dvořák and his residence. Dvořák loved to stroll here and found inspiration for his music. He worked in his house, went to church and played the organ there, met the neighbors in the village and visited them for lunch. With this application we would like to present the village and its surroundings in relation to Dvořák. It will be ready for use by the end of the summer.”

Photo: Markéta Kachlíková, Radio Prague International

Until now, some elements of the festival program “Dvořáks Příbram” have always been held in Vysoká, as well as some other events in summer and autumn. However, the new director now wants to offer visitors year-round entertainment in the castle:

So we started the winter cycle in which we opened the museum to genres other than classical music. Swing, gospel, and chanson were performed here and welcomed by the local audience. We plan to present a rich program in the framework of the Central Bohemian Summer. Among other things, the opera “Rusalka” is performed here, at least in two places in the park. This is technically very complicated and I hope it all works out. Clubs and music schools in the area will participate in the show, because we want to engage people from the local area effectively and creatively. There are also concerts and other theater performances on the program here.”

Vysoká u Píbrami It is located about 60 kilometers southwest of Prague. From the town of Příbram you can reach the village on Route 18 in the direction of Rožmitál pod Třemšínem, in Bohutín you have to turn left. who – which Museum Over the year Open every day except Monday. visiting hours It starts at 10 am And end up according to season Between 3 pm and 5 pm. More information can be found at www.antonindvorak.cz.

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