To the New World! The exhibition in Vysoká will present Dvořák and Sládek’s relationship with America

Two paths, each different

The exhibition presents overseas travels in the second half of the 19th century, through the stories of two great names in Czech culture: the composer and the writer. The two were bonded not only by their relationship with Vysoká, where Dvořák and Sládek loved to stay and create, but also by experiences of stays “behind a big puddle” – even of the trip itself. Just sailing across the Atlantic Ocean was something extraordinary. All this is attested by authentic objects. “Visitors will see, for example, Dvořák’s newly discovered suitcases, with which he probably traveled to the United States 130 years ago, his passport, ship ticket, photographs and correspondence,” Bryndová pointed out to how visitors can expect unique exhibits.

If today we take trips abroad for granted, it was something unusual in the days of Dvořák and Sládek – and in a way also adventurous, recalled Vojtěch Poláček, the director of the Dvořák Memorial. “The exhibition compares their trips to the United States. They are only about 25 years apart. However, the reasons and circumstances of the two artists’ stay abroad were different,” he said. He recalled that the experiences of stays abroad are similar today: “Enthusiasm, astonishment, incomprehension, homesickness, the globetrotter of today must deal with similar states of mind.

Repair of the bridge in Stará Huta: drivers can only use one lane

Among other things, the memorial will exhibit Dvořák’s letter, which the composer sent from American Spillville to the administrator of his house in Vysoká. He traveled to America in 1892 as an internationally respected and acclaimed artist at the invitation of the New York Conservatory, which promised him a fabulous salary for Czech conditions: about thirty times the amount that the Prague Conservatory could offer him. He was expected there as a respected artist, seen not only by the music-loving public but also by the expatriate community – and the American media also paid him attention. He traveled with his wife, two children and Czech-American guide Josef Kovařík. He had already reached his fifties – which at the time was almost perceived as a peasant age. And two and a half years spent on American soil (until the spring of 1895) belong both to the heights of his work and certainly to Dvořák’s international fame.

The brewer, meanwhile, traveled to the United States in 1868 as a young adventurer, fleeing for political as well as personal reasons. He led a varied life there full of travels and discoveries, piercing in all directions; he even earned his living as a labourer. Among other things, he also wrote for various compatriot newspapers and collected plants for the Museum of the Kingdom of Bohemia – now the National Museum. “We would also like to take a closer look at the effects of Sládek’s trip on his later life. Later, he used his knowledge of English-speaking culture as an English teacher and also as the author of one of first Czech-English textbooks. They are also part of the exhibition”, underlined director Poláček.

Easter decorated village square in Čenkov.

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However, the exhibition also shows that the paths of the two artists had many common motives. Sládek and Dvořák, for example, met Indians whose culture fascinated them, according to Poláček. After all, Dvořák had already been instructed by Sládek through his translation of The Song of Hiawath, a long poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow inspired by Native American legends. Dvořák later seriously considered composing an opera on this subject. Although, unlike Sládek, he does not know the original Indian inhabitants in their environment, only in the form of a “wild” attraction for tourists.

Same knowledge and contacts

Meetings with Czech expatriate communities were also frequent for the careers of the two artists. Both visited the same people in the United States. Among them was parish priest, pedagogue and translator František Boleslav Zdrůbek, a former classmate of Sládek from the University Lyceum in Prague. Václav Robert, Count of Kounice, builder and former owner of the current memorial – and the composer’s brother-in-law – also studied at the same high school with Sládek and Zdrůbek. It was thanks to him that Dvořák and Sládek became friends.… Thanks to Sládek, who was also an avid photographer, several photos of Dvořák’s family have been preserved during his stays in Vysoká.

The exhibition at the Antonin Dvořák Memorial is part of a series of exhibitions on the relationship of important Central Bohemian artists and politicians with America. The Karel Čapek Memorial in Stará Huť near Dobříš is also preparing an exhibition about famous personalities operating in the Příbram region and their relations with the United States. The TG Masaryk Museum in Lány will also present its exhibition during the year. The three-part exhibition cycle of museums operating as contributory organizations in the Central Bohemian region is titled From the Heart of Europe to the “American Dream”.

Music and sound in the park

– In addition to the new exhibition, in which the National Literature Monument, the National Museum (Czech Music Museum, Náprstek Museum), the Josef Václav Sládek Museum in Zbiroh, the National Technical Museum, the Regional Museum in Děčín and descendants of Antonin Dvořák participate, with the loan of objects and professional assistance Memorial of Antonin Dvořák and other novelties. These include an augmented reality project called High – Realm Sounds. With the help of a mobile application, which is due to work from the summer, visitors will be able to discover various places near the monument associated with the work of Antonin Dvořák. He mainly focuses on sound: music and speech.

– The memorial also prepares a number of concerts and theatrical performances for visitors – not only inside the building, but also in the park during the Central Bohemian Cultural Summer.

– The new website offers, among other things, a virtual tour of the monument or a complete quiz on Dvořák.

– The memorial will also deal with the personality of Josef Václav Sládek. In July, he is planning a concert setting Sládek’s poetry to music (his poetic work has inspired composers Josef Bohuslav Foerster and Vítězslav Novák, among others).

Source: Director of the Antonin Dvořák Memorial, Vojtěch Poláček

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