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May 10, 2008
From journal Prague – The Paris of the East?
November 2, 2005
Construction started on the magnificent Neo-Classical building in 1781 under the watchful eye of architect Antonín Haffenecker, and the resulting facade of great Corinthian columns framing the inscription Patriae et Musis (To the Fatherland and the Muses) is inspiring. The theatre opened in 1783 as Nostitz Theatre, named after its founder, Count Anton von Nostitz-Rieneck, and after the Czechs were quickly ousted, it offered German-language productions to the rich German patrons who then still dominated the quarter. In 1786, it put on a production of the opera Marriage of Figaro by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The opera had flopped at its premiere in Vienna earlier that year, closing after just nine performances, but here it was a hit. Wolfie was overjoyed writing in his diary,
The following centuries saw the control of the theatre ping-pong between the Czechs and the Germans. From 1797, as Stavovské divaldo, it came under the control of the Czech Estates who promoted patriotic productions, the most famous of which is the 1834 comic-opera Fidlovačka by Josef Kajet Tyl, featuring the song Kde domov můy (Where is my Home?) that is now the Czech national anthem. In 1862, as the Provincial Theatre, it once again featured purely German-language productions while the interior of the theatre had been completely refurbished, giving it its current blue walls, gold trimmings, and five tiers of balconies enveloping the orchestra pit in a U-shape that provide the first-rate acoustics. From 1920, Czech nationalists shouting “Stavovské for the nation” seized control. From 1945, Tyl divaldo communists played up its patriotic connections. Finally, from 1990, things came full circle as the refurbished Stavovské divaldo played host to Czech film director Miloš Forman, who filmed the concert scenes for the Wolfie biopic Amadeus here.
The theatre is truly impressive, and some of the productions include English translations, so it is well worth stopping by at the box office to check the programme if you happen to be in the area.
From journal Prague’s Havelské Mĕsto: The New Old Town