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The State Castle and Chateau Český Krumlov

The Castle Baroque Theatre

 

Importance of the Castle Theatre

The Castle Theatre in Český Krumlov is an extraordinary monument of world importance. It is one of the oldest castle theatres that are preserved in Central Europe an at the same time it represents the most completely preserved baroque theatre in the world.

A number of similar theatres have been preserved in Europe till now. For example court theatres in Italy - in Sabionetta, Vicenza or Ferrara, where mainly theatre buildings are preserved, but the original theatre equipment such as decorations, costumes, props etc. are not preserved.

Not only buildings but additionally the torso of the stage machinery and partly also the theatre inventory are preserved in German - speaking areas, for example in Ludwigsburg, Gotha, Bayreuth, Schwetzingen, Lambach and Grein.

A similar situation exists in France in Versailles and Compiegne.

In Europe there is only one theatre that is comparable with Český Krumlov - the Baroque Theatre in the Swedish Royal Palace in Drottningholm. Like in Český Krumlov, the original theatre building, technical equipment, decorations, props and costumes are preserved. These all date back to the second half of the 18th century.

The Castle Theatre in Český Krumlov is exceptional, because it has been preserved in its almost complete entirety. The original theatre buildind is from the year 1682, the stage equipment and the auditorium, the original paintings, as well as the theatre inventory are from the 18th century.

 

The history of the Castle Theatre

In the second half of the 17th century, the physical dimensions of the castle´s hall did not suit and in 1682 Prince Johan Kristián of Eggenberg founded the first independent theatre building in the fifth courtyard. It was built according to the plans of Italian builders Jakub de Maggi and Pietro Spinetta. At that time a professional music ensemble - Eggenberg´s Prince Music Band was active at the castle and, what is also unique, since 1675 a professional drama company. It consisted of about 15 pernament actors who acted in the theatre performances until the year 1691 when they were dismissed from their services. The work of important authors such as Lope de Vega, William Shakespeare, Moliere, Jean Racine, Calderon de la Barca, Pierre Corneille and others belonged to the repertoire of Eggenberg´s theatre.

Another blosoming period for theatre life in Český Krumlov was the second half of the 18th century. In the years 1765 - 1766 Prince Josef I. Adam of Schwarzenberg had the theatre rebuilt according to Andrea Altomonte´s plans. The auditorium and the stage were newly painted with artists Hans Wetschel and Leo Markl from Vienna. They also created a set of theatre decorations. The work of the famous architect Giuseppe Galli Bibiena served as a model for this arrangement. The Schwarzenberg´s repertoire included balet and opera by, for example, Giuseppe Scarlatti, Nicolo Piccini, Christoph Willibald Gluck, Antonio Salieri, Leopold Gasman Vojtěch Jírovec and others.

In the 19th century theatre culture here experienced stagnation. Theatre became the centre of interest for travelling companies. In the year 1898 the theatre was closed down because of unsafe conditions.

In the 20th century the theatre was used only for a short time from 1956 untill 1964 as a part of  the South Bohemian Theatre Festival. In 1966 the theatre building as well as the theatre inventory was unfit for use and restoration work began. The restoration works are lingering until now - over a span of more than 40 years and are not finished yet. At present, we estimate that about 80% of all theatre inventory has been completed a restored. The introduction of trial visiting periods by the general publiccommenced in the autumn of 1997. 

 

The Philosophy of Restoration and Function of the Castle Theatre

The basic renovation problem of the Castle Theatre consists of, on the one hand, the philosophy of renovation, and on the other hand, the philosophy of restoration. The aim of restoration work is to keep maximum authenticity and originality. That is why original materials, technology and even traces of original handwork have been studied very thoroughly and used towards restoration. Our main effort is to restore and preserve the theatre, not to reconstruct it! This approach is strictly applied in restoration, both in its entirety and in its individual parts. Therefore, the theatre has been nearly 80% preserved in its untouched genuine state from the 60´s of the 18th century.

The date of completion of the theatre restoration  depends largely on scholastic and restoration study work, and on the amount financial support gained. Restoration is financed by the National Monument Departement in České Budějovice, another important contributor has been The Foundation of the Baroque Theatre of the Castle Český Krumlov since 1992 and sponsors and supporters have been the third important source of financial support for several year. There are many financial institutions, firms and also private individuals for whom the participation  in the restoration of this world-unique monument presented an opportunity to pass their name on to the next generation.

 

The theatre inventory

Theatre inventory includes hundreds of theatre decorations and their supplements, hundreds of costumes, hundreds of theatre props, hundreds of lighting units, hundreds of volumes of librettos, scripts, dramas, balets and sheet music materials, tens of speciall effect machines and nowadays-working stage machinery. The theatre inventory also consists of the theatre building, orchestra pit, benches in the auditorium etc.

The visiting regime

The Castle Baroque Theatre is used as the functional theatre museum. The theatre visitors will see a completely preserved auditorium equipped with the original wooden benches and adorned with the illusive baroque painting (in the auditorium is also used the Swedish patented lighting that closely resemble a candle light with its intensity, colour and flickering effect), orchestra pit, where the world unique, two-sided music stand for musicians has been preserved and the lower machinery equipped with the original wooden side wings, winches and pulleys.