Witness something majestic: Pragueʼs circus festival Letní Letná 2019
Have you ever heard of Letná Park? Situated on a plateau on the top of a hill, the park offers stunning views of the Old Town of Prague. The place is truly charming throughout the whole year – in the spring you might enjoy the blooming nature, summer will offer some warm romantic nights, in the fall the park turns into bright colours, and the winter covers the whole scene with soft snow. But the best time to enjoy the Letná Park is definitely at the end of summer, during the international festival of contemporary circus called Letní Letná (Summer Letná).
About the festival
Prague’s Letní Letná festival was founded in 2004 and ever since then has presented over one thousand shows. The big top situated in the Letná Park has hosted both Czech and international groups and the attractiveness of the festival is incessantly growing – each year more and more people come to enjoy the festive mood in one of the most beautiful parks in Prague. Letní Letná is the only cultural event of this type in the Czech Republic and it is an absolute must for all circus lovers. Many of the shows that take place during the festival are the world premiers, which means you will be able to witness performances nobody has ever seen before!
What is a contemporary circus?
Nouveau cirque, or contemporary circus, is a branch of performative art that has developed at the end of the last century in France, Australia, the United States, and the United Kingdom. After centuries of classical circus art, nouveau cirque brought a revitalization of this genre by blending traditional theatrical techniques with contemporary aesthetics. The general public’s interest in the circus has profoundly increased with the rise of this new branch.
As opposed to the traditional circus, animals are rarely used in the nouveau cirque, and the performance is much more character-driven. The basic idea behind this type of production is to convey a story or theme using artistic and physical skills including acrobatics, juggling, aerial work, acting, comedy, magic, and music. It is a combination of visual and sound experience and the attention is on the narrative content and the overall aesthetic impact. Such performances are often staged in theaters or outdoor tents with minimalistic stage decorations and props.
What can you expect this year?
The sixteenth annual Letní Letná will offer 3–6 circus performances a day, a rich side program with workshops and discussions, and plenty of entertainment for kids. This year’s edition kicks off on 14 August with a unique open-air performance by a world-renown tightrope walker Tatiana-Mosio Bongoga. The show is free of charge for anyone interested. Tickets for the other performances are available online or in the ticket office during the festival days. The price of a single ticket is between 250 CZK (10 EUR) and 690 CZK (26 EUR), but most of the open-air shows are for free. Every day, there is also a screening of fairy tales and an art workshop. Even though circus is sometimes considered as an amusement for kids, the cirque nouveau shows are designed chiefly for adults but enjoyed by everyone. The whole family will have fun during Letní Letná.
There is a sequel!
Have you fallen in love with the cirque nouveau? Then there is good news for you! The Letní Letná festival has also a winter edition called Lední Letná (Ice Letná), held in a big top located on the exhibition grounds of Výstaviště Holešovice. Taking place in the month of December, Lední Letná has its own special atmosphere, particularly around Christmas time. And the program is just as rich as in the summer festival.
Letná without a festival
If you don’t get the chance to visit Prague during either of the two festivals, you might at least have a look around the neighborhood. A former vineyard, Letná is today an extensive residential area that includes two beautiful public parks. You won’t find a lot of tourists there, but it is definitely worth visiting. Situated in Letná Park is the Prague Metronome, which is nowadays especially popular among the younger generation. There is also a popular open-air restaurant and beer garden in the park that will provide you with some refreshments while you enjoy the beautiful view. If you are interested, you can learn more about this part of Prague in a local’s guide to Letná, or in our Retro Bike Tour that will take you there directly.
July 22, 2019