Friends' Lecture: Baroque Castle Theatres in the Czech Lands


DSpicka SmallcVictoria Reilly SpickovaAs our first event in the newly refurbished Czech Embassy, Daniel Spička, an architect by training who has been much involved in restoration work in the Czech Republic, gave a very well illustrated talk on the six restored Baroque-style castle theatres that have survived out of the 41 built between 1700 and 1850.

After explaining the origins of theatre in the Czech lands, Mr Spička embarked upon a detailed description of the best known castle theatre, the one at Český Krumlov. It assumed its Baroque form in 1766 and is notable for its size and its very elaborate under-stage machinery. Next on the list was the castle theatre at Litomyšl, much smaller than the one at Český Krumlov and with simpler machinery but nevertheless still having  twenty different stage sets.

The restored theatre at Kačina is smaller still but is in Baroque style though built as a family theatre in 1825. The castle theatre at Mnichovo Hradiště was constructed in 1833 for a visit by the Emperors of Austria, Russia and Prussia. It is unusual in having the seating at an angle to the stage and has a good selection of surviving scenery and costumes. The castle theatre at Žleby dates from 1845 and was the first to have electric lighting. It is in Baroque style even though the rest of the castle was converted from Baroque to Gothic at that time.

HLEDIste foto Valtice SMALLThe final castle theatre described by Mr. Spička was the one at Valtice near the Austrian border. This was constructed in 1790 and is similar to the one at Česky Krumlov but on a smaller scale. A photograph taken in 1900 shows it already in a poor state but it was fully restored on the basis of a 1947 photo, with stage machinery copied from Český Krumlov. Mr. Spička therefore rescued a theatre that had little hope of ever being used again and turned it into a fully functioning space for drama, opera and dance.


Upper image: Daniel Spička, copyright Victoria Reilly Spičková. Lower image: the Castle Theatre at Valtice, copyright Matěj Boháč

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