Music, Nations, Empires: Culture and Politics in Vienna & Prague


Image of a theater
Explore the emergence of modernity in Vienna and Prague through music. Applications open now for January 2024!
Location: Vienna, Austria; Prague, Czech Republic
Language of Instruction: English
Term: Winter Break
Program Type: Faculty-led
Open to non-KU Students: No
Fulfills KU Core 4.2: No
Fulfills KU Core 5: No

  • Fulfill KU Core Goal 3 Arts and Humanities and KU Core Goal 4.2 Culture and Diversity by studying music in two of Europe's most beautiful capital cities.
  • Walk in the footsteps of influential 18th and 19th century classical composers including Beethoven, Dvořák, Mozart, Haydn, Mahler, and Smetana.
  • Experience guided tours of Schönbrunn Palace, Prague Castle, and many other historical sites.
  • Marvel at world-class performances in famous venues including the Vienna State Opera and the National Theater in Prague.
  • See "Life Abroad" section below for details on the program's itinerary and activities.

This course offers students a unique opportunity to explore the famously musical cities of Vienna and Prague with music historian and KU professor Dr. Martin Nedbal. The course is designed to explore the importance of music for the emergence of modern nations and empires between 1750 and 1900 in Vienna and Prague. Vienna and Prague are the capitals of two Central European nations formerly belonging to the Habsburg Austrian Empire.

Our lens for examining this process will focus on select musical works and their social, cultural, and political contexts. Students will not only acquire familiarity with the musical genres of opera and symphony in their original environment, but also inquire into the ways in which music, and culture in general, mediated modern national, ethnic, and political identities. The program includes attending opera and symphony performances in some of the world's most famous venues and visiting the main historical landmarks of Austria and the Czech Republic.

Vienna, capital city of Austria, is famous for its beauty, cultural richness, and musical history. Many of Europe’s most well-known composers lived and worked in this city, including Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, Schubert, and Brahms. 

Likewise, Prague, capital city of the Czech Republic, has played an important role in the cultural and political history of Central Europe. The famous spires, winding streets, and picturesque architecture give this beautiful city a fairytale feel. Two of the city’s most significant cultural landmarks include the National Theater (Národní divadlo) and the Estates Theater (Stavovské divadlo), where Mozart’s Don Giovanni and La Clemenza di Tito premiered. 

This class will consist of lectures and discussion about the subjects connected to daily excursions and performances. Coursework will include assigned readings, participation in all scheduled activities, daily journal entries, and a final project due after the conclusion of the course. Students will enroll in one of the following courses:

MUSC 136 / MUSC 336 Masterworks of Music (3 credit hours)

**Fulfills KU Core Goal 3 Arts and Humanities**
This course introduces students to major works of classical music in the social and political contexts of early modern Central Europe in the environment where that music was originally created.

OR

MUSC 135 / MUSC 335 Masterworks of Music - Honors (3 credit hours) 

**Fulfills KU Core Goal 3 Arts and Humanities**
Honors version of MUSC 136 / MUSC 336. Open only to students in the University Honors Program or by permission of instructor. 

OR

MUSC 750 Selected Topics in Music:  Masterworks of Music (3 credit hours)

Graduate-level course for qualified students

This program also fulfills KU Core Goal 4.2 as an experience for all undergraduate students.

In Vienna and Prague, students will be housed in double occupancy rooms at centrally located hotels. The stay includes free WiFi and breakfast each day, plus a welcome dinner buffet on the day of arrival.

Multiple group meals are included in the cost of the program. In addition, students will receive public transportation tickets for both Vienna and Prague to easily get around the cities.

2024 Itinerary

January 1: Depart U.S.
January 2: Arrive Vienna
January 2-7: Vienna
January 7: Transfer via train to Prague
January 7-13: Prague
January 14: Departure back to U.S.

Site Visits and Performances

Visits to sites of cultural, historical, and musical importance and professional musical performances are essential components of this study abroad program.  Planned site visits for 2024 include:

Vienna, Austria
  • Schönbrunn Palace
  • Vienna State Opera / Die Fledermaus by Richard Strauss
  • Austrian National Library
  • Vienna Secession
  • Mozarthaus
  • Haydnhaus
  • Musikverein / New Year's Concert
  • Beethoven Museum
Prague, Czech Republic
  • Lobkowicz Palace
  • Vyšehrad and Prague Castles
  • Tour of Prague Old Town and Jewish Town
  • Day trip to Vysoká u Příbramě and Dvořák Museum
  • Estates Theater / The Magic Flute Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
  • National Theater / Rusalka by Antonín Dvořák and Dalibor by Bedřich Smetana
  • Rudolfinum
  • National Museum
  • Municipal House
  • State Opera / Tosca by Giacomo Puccini

Students will also have a free day in each city to explore Vienna and Prague further.

Activities and performances are subject to change.

SAGE is dedicated to creating international engagement opportunities that meet the needs of all our students and providing resources to support you through the process of studying abroad. Study abroad is achievable for students of all identities including our BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ students, students with disabilities, and students with religious/non-religious viewpoints. Before selecting a program, consider how your identities may impact your experience abroad in unique ways and talk with your Program Coordinator about any program-specific concerns. Students with documented disabilities should discuss any accommodation needs with their Program Coordinator early in the planning process.

Considerations for Austria

Austria has laws in place to protect ethnic and religious minorities, LGBTQIA+ individuals, the differently abled, and other groups. Same-sex marriage is available in Austria and the LGBTQIA+ community is well-developed in all larger cities.

Austria mandates accessibility to public buildings and cities and public transportation are generally accessible to individuals with disabilities.  Older sections of the cities and smaller towns may be less accessible due to centuries-old architecture, cobblestone streets, and small indoor spaces.

Source: U.S. Department of State country information pages and Diversity Abroad.

Additional Resources

Check our Identity Abroad page and resources listed below for information specific to you and other students who may be on your program.

Open to undergraduate or graduate students from accredited U.S. colleges or universities who have a minimum 2.5 GPA. No prior coursework in Music is necessary.

Dr. Martin Nedbal is an Associate Professor of Musicology at the University of Kansas. He received his Ph.D. in Historical Musicology from the Eastman School of Music and his main research interest is in opera history, particularly in Central and Eastern Europe. He also studies the music of Mozart, Haydn, and Beethoven, and Czech music. Dr. Nedbal has led multiple study abroad programs to Eastern Europe, including this program since its first offering in 2018.

Martin Nedbal, PhD
School of Music
338 Murphy Hall
785-864-9718
mnedbal@ku.edu