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Castle Theatre in Český Krumlov

Giacomo Antonio de Maggi, Giovanni Maria Spinetti

history of the theatresupplementtechnical dataHistoric equipment

Important events

(detail)1675 | Existence of the theater stage documented
First theatre scene in Krumlov castle is mentioned in the sources , however in different space than the contemporary one.
(detail)1680 | Commencement of the construction
Jan Kristián z Eggenberku initiated the construction of separate building for the theatre.
(detail)1686 | Completion of the construction
Probable completion of the construction. Although the author of the design is not indisputably known, it is likely that it was Giacommo Antonio de Maggi or Giovanni Maria Spinetti or both.Johann Martin Schaumberger painted the decoration for 16 set pieces .
(detail)1762 | Reconstruction
Josef Adam zu Schwarzenberk initiated the reconstruction of the theater, the design was probably prepared by Andreas Altomonte. The son of the prince Johann participated on the arrangement of the interior(concretely the balcony). The builder was Josef Franz Fortini.
(detail)1768 | Completion of the reconstruction
Fresco paint of the stage , curtain and set of decoration was created by Viennese theater painters Johann Wetschel a Leo Merkel. Josef Muck participated on the sculpture decoration.
(detail)1897 | Closure for public
The theatre was closed down to public due to security and fire condition.
(detail)1958 | Reopening
The theater became used again for the performances.
(detail)1966 | Closure for public
Due to serious disrepair, the theatre was closed down to public. After restoration was finished , the theater was opened up to public as a theatre museum.

People

History

The society in the Krumlov Castle was raising their interest in theatre since the half of the 17th century and a theatre stage in the Jelení Hall is documented for the year of 1675. Count Jan Kristián of Eggenberk, a great enthusiast and mercenary of art, had a new self standing building on the fifth castle courtyard – so called Plášt between the former  castle moat and garden- be built in 1680 because halls in the Krumlov castle were not sufficient for theatre purposes by their capacity. According to the accounts for bricklayer, jointer, stone-cutting and painting works, the major volume of the works was carried out before 1683, an array of other works on the theatre is, however, charged up to 1686. The author of the theatre design is not positively determined, but the construction works in the castle were directed by Italian builders Giacommo Antonio de Maggi and Giovanni Maria Spinetti. Set pieces for 16 scenes were painted by Salzburg painter Johann Martin Schaumberger, a carpenter's work on the building truss and machinery was executed by Laurentius Khuenmihlner. A permanent troupe of actors and musicians procured the theatre operation up the end of the 17th century.

The mainly wooden building was adjacent to the east wall of the so called Clerical house and was faced the castle by its polygonal front. Its hall was almost 20 meters wide, the depth of the stage was 24 meters. A count’s box (or rather a tribune) occupying almost the entire width of the hall was in the rear of the auditorium, which was over 15 meters long. An  entrance to it was from outside through a three level staircase into a sunken stalls. An orchestra pit was inserted in front of the stage, a four level staircase to the stage was on the right side of it.

The Krumlov castle theatre had been preserved  over the half of the 18th century in this appearance. By this time, the demesne had belonged to the count family of Schwarzenberg already in the second generation and the count Josef Adam decided to reconstruct the theatre in 1762. Probably Andreas Altomonte prepared the design for a Baroque reconstruction, but the count’s son Johan participated in the arrangement of the auditorium interior (specifically the balcony). The builder was  Josef Franz Fortini, a carpenters work on the timber constructions and machinery was executed by carpenter Laurentius Makh. Building, carpenter, painting, weaver's, smith's, locksmith's, stove fitter’s, glazier's, one-cutting and other works were executed for the major part before 1766, other works were taking place up to 1768 according to the accounts for the interior furnishing. Fresco painting in the auditorium, curtain and set pieces for at least 11 scenery changes were created by Viennese painters Johann Wetschel a Leo Merkel. Sceneries carry distinct inspiration by a protagonist of the Baroque theatrical art Guiseppe Galli-Bibiena. Figural candelabra in the forestage are the work of   sculptor Josef Muck. Designs and accounts has been preserved from the year 1879 concerning repairs of the truss of the Baroque theatre. These works brought certain reduction of Baroque machinery in the space of the fly facilities, but did not change the theatre in a considerable manner, so the theatre building and its equipment has been preserved in an authentic state and to a very complete extent.

The theatre is a self-standing walled building for a major part (except for the west part, adjacent to the neighbouring building) of irregular oblong plan and an architecturally indistinct exterior. The auditorium stalls are entered from the south and east side, where rows of gradually elevated benches stand on a flat floor. Prismatic columns carry a balcony, which plan moderately gapes towards the direction of the stage and in which head the count’s box is located being trimmed by a canopy with the family crest in its top. A covered bridge corridor leads into the box from the castle, its top storey continues through the theatre attics into the castle garden. Paintings on the auditorium walls depict pilaster articulation, vases with flowers, a bundle of musical instruments in decorative frames and there is a large grouping of Olympic gods painted on the ceiling. Fragments of the painting from 1682 are on the north wall of the auditorium. The proscenium arch carries an illusive painting of columns and pilasters, its beveled reveals form a shallow, funnelled forestage.

The acting area of a trapezoid plan is delimited by five quartets of scenery frames from all the sides, there are four trap rooms in the floor and the majority of floor parts could be lifted of or taken away as well. Constructions of the scenery frames penetrate  through holes in the floor into room under the stage, where they are in motion on wheel  undercarriage in wooden rails. Synchronic motion of all the sceneries of a same exchange is enabled by ropes coiled to a long shaft in the axis of the space, where are further four trapdoor hoists. Above the stage, in a truss grind with lateral and transverse footbridges, there are four winches for lowering or uplifting sceneries and one of originally two shafts for synchronic control of top masking.

The dimension of the theatre is following: the building – 40,5 meters in length, 18 m in width, 18,5 in height; the auditorium 15,30 m in width, 15,40 in length, 9,2 in height; the forestage – 9,70 in width, 1,4 m in depth, 7,2 m 6,25 in height; the stage – 16,20 in width, 22,5 m in depth, 7,2 m in height (the pure height of the stage, 12 m including the under stage part and fly loft).

There has been preserved 13 basic sceneries with a total amount of 250 pieces by the theatre or in castle collections; over 30 fragments or individual pieces of effect machines; over  170 actors costumes or costume components and props; over 400 pieces of lighting bodies; over 100 pieces of technical equipment, for instance stairs, levels, ladders, laths, cases, wardrobes, a big amount of ironworks, hooks, sleeves, several thousands of earthly dishes for oily lightning – everything mainly from 1766-68.

Documents of rich theatre culture in the Český Krumlov Castle has been preserved in scriptural collections as well (librettos,  scores, staves), in archive sources (correspondence, accounts, inventories, reports, orders, designs etc.), in literature (books about theatre art, repertoire, dance, ceremonials, festivities, building and craft principles), in pictorial – iconographic collections (pattern books of costumes, scenes, designs, studies, pictures of portraits, musical, dance and theatrical motifs).

The entire development of the 19th century seems to be a period of stagnation in theatrical life of the Krumlov Castle. There were no permanent actors and musicians in this period anymore and the theatre was let to wandering theatrical troupes or local amateur actors. According to the archive records (letters, requests, permits) and according to the inscriptions in the theatre (for instance in the prompt box), it is possible to reckon that perhaps 100 or 150 productions were performed in the entire course of the 19th century. New technical and security standards then led to closure of the theatre to public in 1897 due to fire and security reasons. Only two records from 1903 and 1906 insinuate utilization of the theatre for social gatherings.

The theatre was used more distinctly from 1858 to 1966. The South Bohemia Theatre in České Budějovice transferred the South Bohemia theatre festival into Český Krumlov and apart of the productions in the municipal theatre and castle garden, the castle theatre was used for theatrical projects. 61 performances of classical, mainly opera character were produced here during eight years. Theatre performances in the castle theatre were an agreeable animation for the festival, actors and audience. However, the results were highly negative or even devastating for the theatre and original equipment. The castle management and bodies of monuments preservation as a whole were not consistent and professionally qualified and were not able to act with the socially more significant institution as an equal partner and could not prevent some damages. A critical condition of the theatre building and theatre furnishing was stated in 1966 and the theatre was closed up for public.

We can characterize the renovation of the castle theatre, which beginnings fell upon the year of 1966, as a generation task for historic preservation. This task still persists and it is important by the fact that it solves several basic assignments of historic preservation as a model as is authenticity, renovation, cognition, documentation, preservation and utilization of a monument. Renovation (in an extent of conservation, restoration and almost partial reconstruction) of an exceptionally valuable theatre monument, a monument being very  fragile and with sensitive material essence is more complicated for the fact that it is necessary to understand it in a complex manner and it is indispensable to lay the same stress both  on the whole and detail, technical and art essence and the original function of a Baroque theatre stage.

Academic and exploratory approach of   renovation process led the realization team to the formulation of a new concept- to renovate the theatre as a functional theatre museum. The priority became to be the presentation of the maximum from the original castle theatre, restoration of the original functions of stage technique, respecting the layout of decorative pieces. One has increasingly understood better and better the original context and relations of a Baroque theatre space as for instance light, perspective, proportions, the dynamics of motion of the stage technique and stage effects, principles of scenery exchanges, musical principles in the orchestra pit etc. The entire process can be labelled as a theatre archaeology.

The process of castle theatre renovation as a functional theatre museum called for another demanding tasks as for instance building the convenient and good quality depository room, the new, better quality records and documentation of the theatre archive, the experimental examination of functionality of the period stage technique and original stage principles. Restoration and assemblage of set pieces led to more demanding examination of the scenery exchange principles including period music interpretation, Baroque motion culture, costumes,  making-up etc. This research and academic praxis in the authentic setting of the castle theatre has naturally a strictly controlled regime that observes and evaluates information before, in the course and after the performance.

The castle theatre in Český Krumlov is an unique monument even in the European context. It represents a rare example of a self standing theatre building from the second half of the 17th century, with a Baroque stage from the second half of the 18th century that has been preserved in exceptional completeness and originality. The theatre has never burnt down and has not been reconstructed more distinctly during the last two centuries (19th and 20th ). There are not many places in Europe, where it is possible to study complex relations or individual links of the theatre culture of the 17th and 18th century and even to verify them in an authentic surrounding.

 

Basic literature about the Baroque theatre in the castle of Český Krumlov:

 

- Port, Jan : Schwarzenberské zámecké divadlo na Krumlově. Ročenka Vlastivědné společnosti jihočeské při městském muzeu v Českých Budějovicích za rok 1929, České Budějovice 1930, s. 26 – 43. -

- Hilmera, Jiří : Zámecké divadlo v Českém Krumlově, Zprávy památkové péče, 18, 1958, s. 71 – 95.

- Hilmera, Jiří : Divadla na českých zámcích, Praha 1961.

- Bartušek, Antonín : Zámecká a školní divadla v českých zemích. Závěrečná zpráva z 30.11.1963. Vědecký úkol Scénografického ústavu č. 13 – 63. nepublikovaný rukopis.

- Černý, František & kol.: Dějiny Českého divadla 1, Praha 1968, s. 20 a následující.

- Navrátil, František : Herecká společnost na českokrumlovském zámku v 17. století, Jihočeský sborník historický, 37, 1968, s. 48 – 49.

- Aasper, Helmut G. : Kilian Brustfleck alias Johann Valentin Petzold und die Eggenbergerische Komödianten, Maske und Kothurn 16, 1970, 1, s. 20 – 59.

- Bartušek, Antonín & Pechová, Oliva & Stöckl, Jaroslav : Uměleckohistorická analýza a zhodnocení památkového významu barokního divadla v Českém Krumlově, SÚPPOP, Praha 1970.

- Baravalle, Robert : Kilian Brustfleck, der erste deutsche Bauernkomiker, Blätter für die Heimatkunde, Gratz 1971, s. 9 – 30.

- Soukup, František & kol.: Postup prací na rekonstrukci barokního divadla v Českém Krumlově, SÚRPMO Praha 1972.

- Navrátil, František : Divadelní kultura na hradu a zámku v Českém Krumlově, Prolegomena scénografické encyklopedie, část 17, ScÚ, Praha 1973, s. 113 – 125.

- Hejnic, Josef & Záloha, Jiří : Český Krumlov a divadelní tradice, předmluva ke II. svazku : Šimáková, Jitka & Macháčková, Eduarda : Teatralia zámecké knihovny v Českém Krumlově,Národní muzeum, Praha 1976.

- Záloha, Jiří : Divadelní život na českokrumlovskm zámku v druhé polovině sedmnáctého století, Sborník Národního muzea v Praze, řada A, svazek 1, XL, 1986, s. 53 – 79.

- Záloha, Jiří : Das Eggenbergische Schlosstheater in Böhmisch Krumau, Blickpunkt Oberösterreich, Linz 1991.

- Záloha, Jiří: Die Schwarzenberger und ihr Interesse führ das Theater und die Musik, Opera historica, 2, 1992, s. 73 – 75.

- Barokní divadlo. Divadelní a hudební kultura na zámku v Českém Krumlově, sborník příspěvků pro odborný seminář 27. – 30.9.1993, uspořádala V.Ptáčková. Praha – České Budějovice 1993.

- Adamczyk, Vladimír : The Magic of the Baroque Stage, in: Czech Theatre 7/1994, Castle Theatres in Bohemia and Moravia, s. 32 – 42.

- Cichrová, Kateřina : The Wardrobe of the Baroque Theater, in: Czech Theatre 7/1994, Castle Theatres in Bohemia and Moravia, s. 27 – 31.

- Schindler, Otto, G.: Smrt na lovu v Brandýse a zmařená divadelní slavnost v Krumlově, Divadelní revue, 1996, č.1. s. 14 – 35.

- Záloha, Jiří : Divadlo za Schwarzenberků. Zámecké divadlo v Českém Krumlově v 19. století, Divadelní revue, 4, 1997, s. 19–29.

- Svět barokního divadla, sborník přednášek z konferencí v Českém Krumlově 2002, 2003. Český Krumlov 2003. Slavko, Pavel : Dvacet let obnovy zámeckého divadla na Státním hradu a zámku Český Krumlov, s. 213 – 228.

- Zahradník, Pavel : Český Krumlov, zámecké divadlo, dějiny objektu, stavebně historický průzkum zámeckého divadla v Českém Krumlově, Praha 2003, nepublikované materiály.

- Starší divadlo v českých zemích do konce 18. století. Česká divadelní encyklopedie. Jakubcová, Alena a kolektiv. Divadelní ústav – Academia, Praha 2007.

 

Tags: Baroque, Castle theatre, Habsburg monarchy

 

Author: Pavel Slavko

Translator: Jan Purkert

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