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National Theatre Prague

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Ostrovní 1289/1, 110 00 Praha-Praha 1, Česká republika
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The National Theatre in Prague is a symbol of Czech national revival. In 1852 a building site on the corner of the Vltava embankment and Národní Street (formerly Ferdinandova) was acquired from the proceeds of a collection. In 1862 the back area of this plot was used for the construction of the so-called Prozatimní divadlo (Provisional Theatre) designed by Ignác Ullmann. This theatre seated an audience of 900 and performances were performed there every day. Under the banner of the motto “The nation unto itself” further collections for the construction of the National Theatre took place. In 1868 the founding stone of the building that was to become the symbol of the revival of the Czech nation was laid. Architect Josef Zítek’s design of a prism with a dome shaped roof was perfectly suited.
On August 12th 1881 the theatre was completed, but soon after a fire caused by the negligence of workers finishing the roof broke out. Unfortunately the stage and the auditorium were destroyed, but within a few weeks sufficient funds were collected to repair the damage. In the end the theatre was re-opened to the public two years later in 1883 with a performance of Libuše by the Czech composer Bedřich Smetana.

Due to disputes concerning the time schedule of the restoration project of the theatre, architect Zítek’s former pupil, assistant and colleague Josef Schulz took over the project.
The Prozatimní divadlo and the neighbouring building were knocked down and in their place the so-called Schulz house was built. This contained the actors’ changing rooms and technical utilities of the theatre.
The decorations of the National Theatre were created by prominent artists of that period such as František Ženíšek and Alfons Mucha. The beautiful red-gold curtain shows the creation of the National Theatre and was designed by Vojtěch Hynais. In 1883 Antonín Wagner and Josef Václav Myslbek created the statues, representing the Arts, that adorn the attic gable on the western façade. The presidential box (formerly the royal box) is covered in red velvet and was decorated with famous figures from Czech history by Václav Brožík.

The bronz battle chariot with three horses carrying the goddess of victory (the so-called triga) was designed by Bohuslav Schnirch. It is said that the roof which is the colour of the night sky dotted with starts, symbolises the pinnacle that should be the goal of all artists.
At the end of the 1970’s and the beginning of the 1980’s the theatre was renovated and according to the project of Karel Prager the New Scene of the National Theatre was built.
The restoration and completion of the National Theatre took over six years and the theatre was re-opened to the public in 1983.

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