May 16, 2024

Prague National Theatre Marks 156th Anniversary of Foundation

The National Theatre in Prague celebrates an important anniversary today.

On May 16, 1868, the foundation stone of the building, which became a symbol of the Czech national revival, was laid.

Much more than just one foundation stone

The National Theatre is one of the most memorable events of Czech history with dozens of thousands of people celebrating the newly born confidence of Czech culture. Every region of the nation donated a foundation stone of its own, and thus contributed to the fundament of the theatre on 16 May 1868.

The event lasted for three days and was attended by around 150,000 people.

Important figures from the Czech cultural and political sphere tapped the stone with a gilded hammer. One of them was composer Bedřich Smetana, whose opera Dalibor, composed especially for the occasion, was premiered on the day.

However, the exact number of the original foundation stones is not known today. The development of its own culture, of the Czech language and a Czech education, resulted in the formation of the independent state 100 years ago.

The decoration

A number of important contemporary artists participated in the decoration of this historic building. In the foyer on the first balcony, there are paintings by Mikoláš Aleš and František Ženíšek.

The second curtain was painted by Vojtěch Hynais and celebrates the dedication of the Czech nation that the people showed in rebuilding the National Theatre. The first curtain is iron and the third one is red, velvet and it is dilated manually.

Above the arch, there is the famous slogan that says “A nation unto itself”, which expresses the importance of the National Theater to the Czech nationhood. There is also an organ in the theater.

READ ALSO:   May 9th, 1974: Prague Metro Celebrates 50 Years Today!

Fire of the National Theatre – a national disaster

On 12 August 1881, just two months after the grand opening, a fire broke out and destroyed the copper dome, auditorium, and stage curtain of the theatre. The day became the worst Friday in the history of the Czech nation and immediately induced an immense resolve for new fundraising. 45 percent of Prague’s citizens donated to help reopen the National Theatre to the public in 1883.

Four companies, four stages

The National Theatre is the prime stage of the Czech Republic. It consists of four artistic companies – the Opera, Drama, Ballet and the Laterna magika. The theatre artistically manages four stages: The National Theatre, the State Opera, the Estates Theatre and the New Stage.

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