Dating back to the 1880s, Prague's National Theatre has always been perceived as a symbol of the country's cultural importance. In fact, the golden Neo-Renaissance building was erected mostly thanks to public donations, so convinced were the Czech people of its significance. Even after its interior was almost entirely destroyed by a fire that broke out shortly before its scheduled grand opening, it only took six weeks to collect enough money to repair the damage that had been done. The theatre officially opened on November 18, 1883 and, since this day, opera, ballet and theatre productions have been regularly presented on what is considered to be one of the world's most prestigious stages. As far as I know, attending a performance is the only way to visit the theatre as no guided tours seem to be offered. However, it's certainly worth walking by the builiding located by the Vltava River to admire its magnificient architecture.
The National Theater has a great location right on the Moldau (Vltava) River near the center of Prague at the end of the Legií most (Legion Bridge), just one bridge upstream from the Charles Bridge.
This theater was called the National Theater even before there was a nation to go with it. It was built in the 19th century, when this part of the world belonged to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and was intended from the start to be "the embodiment of the will of the Czech nation for its national identity and independence," as the theater's website still proclaims.
Above all, this National (Czech) Theater was intended to be grander and more resplendent and more modern than the older German theater (now the Estates Theater), which had been built a century earlier.
Eleven days after its inauguration in 1881, the National Theater caught fire and was badly damaged (fourth photo), so it was completely re-built (and enlarged) over the next two years and was re-inaugurated in 1883.
Second photo: National Theater from the Slavic Island (slovanský ostrov). The reason it looks so much lighter in the photo is that the older not-yet-cleaned parts are hidden. (Also the evening sunlight brightens it up a bit.)
Third photo: National Theater from National Street (Národní).
Fourth photo: The National Theater burning on August 12, 1881 (picture on display at the Smetena Museum).
A clever solution has been found to solve the space limitations of the national theatre: absolute preservation of the beautiful old building, and the construction at its side of a new one, totally different.
And, as a matter of fact, the ensemble does work. The dominating glass in the modern building turn it discrete, with reflections enhancing the beauty of its neighbour. A perfect combination of classical and new structures. A pity, we didn't enter it.
The opera I saw at the National Theater in Prague was none other than Nápoj lásky by Gaetano Donizetti (1797-1848), sung in the original Italian with Czech and English surtitles.
This is a comic opera, better known in Italian as L'elisir d'amore and in English as The elixir of love, which I have seen numerous times over the past few years in Frankfurt am Main, Vienna, Darmstadt, Gießen, Halle, Heidelberg and Paris -- and now in Prague.
Nemorino in this opera is a guy who does everything wrong but gets the girl anyway, which is more or less the story of my life up to now, so I decided that his name would be an appropriate member-name for me here on VirtualTourist.
An original twist in the Prague production was that the stage director Simone Sandroni introduced a male dancer as the assistant and sidekick of the quack doctor Dulcamara. In the first act there is a fast and funny monologue in which Dulcamara gives a sales pitch to the gullible villagers, praising his wonderful elixir and listing all the ailments he says it will cure -- and his sidekick illustrates this by dancing all the ailments that Dulcamara mentions, such as apoplexy, asthma, asphyxia, hysteria, diabetes, earache, scrofula, rickets and liver disease.
Second photo: Thanking the orchestra. From left to right: dancer Zdenek Horváth, tenor Aleš Briscein as Nemorino, conductor David Švec, soprano Kateřina Kněžíková as Adina, bass Roman Astakhov as Dulcamara, baritone Svatopluk Sem as Belcore and soprano Alžběta Poláčková as Giannetta.
Third photo: Kateřina Kněžíková applauding the chorus.
Fourth photo: The poster advertising Nápoj lásky, with Kateřina Kněžíková on the motor scooter and Aleš Briscein behind her.
Update 2012: Aleš Briscein has recently sung several times at the Frankfurt Opera in a Czech-language production of The Makropulos Case by Leoš Janáček (1854-1928).
When the enlarged National Theater was re-opened in 1883, it had the most advanced technical equipment of the time, including electric illumination and a steel-frame stage. It was used without any extensive modifications for nearly a century. The next and so far only major overhaul finally took place from 1977 to 1983.
This is now one of the three main opera venues in Prague, the other two being the State Opera and the Estates Theater.
Second photo: The frieze above the proscenium arch, with the slogan "Narod sobe", meaning "Nation unto itself", which I assume expressed the desire of the Czechs to have an independent state, instead of being part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
Third photo: Seating in the National Theater.
Fourth photo: The elaborately painted foyer at the level of the first balcony.
If you love ballet, opera and/or drama, please be invited to the National Theater (Narodni Divaldo). I visited the Estates Theater which is a separate building between Old Town Square, Wenceslas Square and Palladium where Mozart's Don Giovanni premiered. The ballet was Faust which I quite enjoyed. The events of the book were relayed as if they occurred during WWII. Music choices were especially amazing, the ballet featured everything from Shostakovich to Russian national song Kalinka. Also, the interior of the theater is extremely beautiful, it was truly a pleasure.
National theatre belongs to people more than any other building in the Czech republic. The long of people at the head of writers and componists to have a theatre ended in a foundation of collection and in 1868 begun the work by the location of foundation-stone. It was a big event with premiere of Smetana's Dalibor (opera). The architect was Josef Zitek and then his student Josef Schulz.
The neo-renaissance style, paintings and statues corresponds to that time enthusiasm for czech and slavic culture. The theatre was opened in 1881, but unfortunately at the same year had burnt out. It was sad and people decided for a new collection to repair it. Within 2 years the theatre had been again opened.
New Scene and National theatre were again united 2010.
National theatre building had a sad history. It was constructed for a long time, from 1868 till 1881 in neo – Renaissance style. It was working not for so long, as in the same year fire badly damaged building, and it needed quick reconstruction. Money was gathered in the way of public donation and in 1883 it started working again. Famous Czech composer’s Smetana opera “Libuse” was the first to be performed in National theatre.
Architect of this building was Josef Schulz, he mixed three buildings to create one. I recommend gazing at National theatre from nearby Vltava bridge, especially at dark time.
pictured is the ornate interior of the national theatre. besure to take a look inside when passing the threatre. not always open to the public but the day i was there i got lucky. of course you can attend a performace at the theatre. see their website for info.
this beautiful neo-reniassance building is a famous landmark in prague. located on the vltava it is one of the largest buildings in the historic part of central prague. construction on the national theatre began in 1868 but it was gutted by fire in 1881 and was not finished until 1883. the roof of the building has a number of statues representing the arts sculpted by antonin wagner.
The roof of the National Theater is made of a fantastic blue stormed of stars and symbolizes the apex to which all the artists should inhale. The decorations on the facade are allegories of the arts carved by the Antonin Wagner in 1883. The Victoria on a bronze coach thrown by three steeds is of Bohuslav Schnirch.
The national theater is one of the most meaningful symbols of the Czech cultural rebirth. The construction began in 1868, financed from voluntary contributions. The Neo-Renaissance project was made by the Czech architect Josef Zitek. On August 12 th 1881 a fire destroyed the building and it was reconstructed by Josef Schulz and inaugurated with the work Libuse of Smetana. The sumptuous decorations are work of the greatest Czech artists of the epoch.
Going to the Opera at the National Theatre of Prague.
One of the BEST deals in the world. I can't still believe what I paid for an opera ticket.Thought it was mistake or a breakdown in translation. But it's ALL true.
For the seat at the second gallery...right at the top of the opera.(when you are looking ahead you are staring a the huge chandelier. You are so high up you need to look down to see the screen with the "subtitles").I paid 80 krona!!But for other performances like the bartered bride it could be even cheaper.Going as low as 50krona.
For just 80 krona...that's less then 3€!!The same price for a hotdog and drink or a pizzaslice and drink in prague.I was able to marvel at the beauty of the national theatre and enjoy a true opera performance.
But even this high up you get a pretty good view and you can hear the opera quite well.I am pretty sure that when you sit at the better seats it will be much better...but for an opera noobie...the prague opera was a blessing.(Binoculars is a good idea and can be rented here)
IMHO this is one of the best deals in the world and when you visit prague...a must see for everyone. Just make sure you watch the opera with a degree of respect, because while there was plenty of tourists here watching the show. There was plenty of local czechs enjoying the opera at our level.. It's impressive the way they all seem to dress up for the opera visit. Some ladies wearing gowns etc.Most of the men wearing a suit or jacket. I liked it...really adds a certain degree of gentilty to the opera.
What I liked most is that even though most of the tourists like me were severely underdressed...the czechs didnt seem to mind and didnt make us feel unwelcome.I guess here the opera is something for the people and not just for the uppercrust.
I saw Samson and Delila.This opera just premiered in prague in december.I was not overwhelmed like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman...but to me it was still great.
This building was opened in 1881 and became a symbol of the Czech national revival as it was built on popular contributions. It completely burned down shortly after it opened, but was promptly rebuilt again. Smetana and Dvorak worked here.
This impressive building in the New City, on thbe river bank, is considered to be one of the symbols of the czech national identity, having been built during the "National Czech Renaissance", in the middle of XIX centuty.
In Renaissance style and with a majestic golden roof (it's real gold!) id dominates the view of the right bank.