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Rokoko Theatre

Emil Králíček

alias Rokoko Cabaret, The Red Seven, Komedia Theatre, Tied Theatre, Wooden Theatre
history of the theatresupplementtechnical dataHistoric equipment

Important events

(detail)1915 | construction

The theatre hall in the basement of  Rokoko palace at Wenceslas Square was built together with the palace in 1915. The complex was built in 1912–1916 by a famous building firm of Matěj Blecha according to the design with elements of the Geometric Modern passing into Cubism by Emil Králíček. The interior of the multipurpose structure is composed of an arcade.


(detail)15.9.1923 | Opening

There was a cabaret at first. The hall was converted into a theatre in 1923. It was opened on 15th  September by Komedia Theatre that was founded and led by publicist, translator and theatre entrepreneur Felix Emil Josef Karel Cammra.


(detail)1926 | fire

Fire terminated the theatre activity in 1926. After theatre renovation, an operetta theatre performed here since 1927 to 1931, subsequently drama and operetta companies perforrmed here until the end of the Second World War.


(detail)60. 's 20. century | reconstruction

A distinctive reconstruction of the theatre was carried out in 1968–1970 being supervised by architect Luděk Hanf from the Regional Design Institute in Prague. The so reconstructed theatre has been operating until the present day.


People

(detail)Emil Králíček |main architect

The peak of his eclecticist work is represented by realization of two houses on the Venceslaw Square - Adamova lékárna (1911-1913) and Šupichovy domy (1911-1919).

In:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emil_Králíček

More theatres

Luděk Hanf |architect
Jan Černý |architect
Marek Řehoř |architect
Ondřej Císler |architect
Kurt Gebauer |sculptor

History

The theatre in the basement of  Rokoko palace at Wenceslas Square was built together with the palace in 1915. The Rokoko Palace is a part of a complex of three multipurpose houses at the corner of the Wenceslas Square and Štěpánská Street. Before them, this location was occupied by the Aehrenthal Palace, which was purchased in 1913 together with houses N. 626, 627 and 794 by builder Matěj Blecha, Jan Černý and Josef Šupich, the latest was an important Prague lawyer, politician and patron. The complex, considered as one of the major dominants on  the  Wenceslas Square, was built in 1912–1916 by a famous building firm of one of the owners, Matěj Blecha, according to the design by Emil Králíček (1877–1930), an important architect of the period of Art Nouveau and Cubism.

Králíček’s typical expression with elements of the Geometric Modern passing into Cubism is visible on the distinctive facades of the building that contrasts with a modest layout of the yard facades. Flats with diaper work alternate here with  surfaces with roughcast of refined geometric decoration. The interior of the multipurpose structure is composed of an arcade that connects Wenceslas Square with Štěpánská and Vodičkova streets; it is adjoined by the arcade in Lucerna Palace (and behind Lucerna, other arcades in the U Nováků house). The walls of the arcade are filled with showcases and glass walls, which visually enlarge the space.

Blecha had an oblong restaurant hall with five balcony boxes along one of the side wall of the hall and with a small stage for variety shows be built in the basement area. The second part of the wing behind the hall originally contained a restaurant kitchen and a cafe in the rear part. The Kabaret Rokoko started to operate here in 1915–1916, its first director was Karel Hašler. His repertoire was composed of chansons, sketches and parody scenes. The directorship was taken over in 1916 by writer, journalist and theatrical Eduard Bass (1888–1946), with whom the members of the famous Prague cabaret Red Seven came into Rokoko. The enterprise did not thrive after their departure in 1920–1922.

The hall was converted into a theatre in 1923. It was opened on 15th  September by Komedia Theatre that was founded and led by publicist, translator and theatre entrepreneur Felix Emil Josef Karel Cammra (sometimes  Camra or Cámara, 1897–1945). The activity of this theatre was terminated by fire under unclear circumstances.

This space was occupied by an operetta theatre after the subsequent renovation in 1927–1931 and drama and operetta ensembles with mainly cabaret programme alternated in the Rokoko until the end of the occupation. The Rokoko did not have its own ensemble from the middle of the 1930s. A shelter was provided here for The Tamed Theatre (formerly the Liberated Theatre) of Voskovec and Werich in the season of 1935–1936. Also Jiří Trnka with his Wooden Theatre played here after them.  

The theatre remained closed after the war and served as a storage facility. It was renewed by members of the artist ensemble of air forces Victorious Wings of that time, a part of Prague Show Ensemble after 1955. It had not a permanent stage and so renovated the hall in the Rokoko for its purposes. The Rokoko Theatre was opened on 1st  March of 1958. Director Darek Vostřel, who led the theatre until 1972, continued in the cabaret tradition of the theatre.

The ensemble was distinctly oriented towards musical drama genre and competed with the popular Semafor at that time. Almost all the rising stars of the Czech music performed in the Rokoko as Marta Kubišová, Helena Vondráčková, Václav Neckář or  Olympic. The repertoire contained cabaret programmes with experiments with a full-length drama play (the so called Rokokokoktejl) and singing recitals.

A distinctive reconstruction of the theatre was carried out in 1968–1970 being supervised by architect Luděk Hanf from the Regional Design Institute in Prague. A low sloping floor gradient (the highest point of 90 cm) replaced the existing flat floor of the hall, rising only in the rear section of the hall. Some secondary modifications disappeared from the interior of the hall. Only the stage was affected by an essential alteration of the structure due to technical reasons  - the old one with the forestage and supporting structure was removed and a new one was installed in its location being designed by the Theatre Service from Újezd  u Brna. The designers enlarged the dressing rooms on the left side of the stage and restricted the access to the boxes in the first floor by inserting an office into the corridor behind them. A sound booth was inserted into the area of the former kitchen and the location of the former cafe was acquired by a new foyer and small theatre cafe. The reconstructed theatre has been operating until the present day.

Spectators descend from the ground floor passage through a staircase to the boxes at first. Not before the next descent, they reach the foyer with cloakrooms, emergency exit and cafe. The access into the hall leads from here through a side corridor along one side of the auditorium, from where the spectators reach the auditorium through three entrances. The most distinctive feature of the hall is the preserved Pseudo – Rococo decor. The backstage (reception and offices) is located in the level of boxes, only four today, and it is accessible through the   staff entrance.  

In the 1970s, the theatre repertoire was focused  on  solo actors and musical recitals. The theatre ensemble was disbanded on 30th  June of 1974 and the Rokoko was assigned under the Municipal Theatres of Prague (MDP). At that time, the venue was provided to the Painted Theatre of F. Kratochvíl and also the ballet ensemble of Pavla Šmok, the latter Prague Chamber Ballet (1975–1979). The Theatre Association Kašpar under direction of Jakub  Špalek played in the Rokoko in 1991–1993. The ensemble of the Drama Studio from Ústí nad Labem performed here in the season of 1993–1994. At that time, the local theatre bar became a part of the acting area, where an alternative stage was set up under the name of Striped Zebra. One season was reserved for the group of Tomáš  Svoboda and Thomas Zielinský, who were concentrated  on updating  classical plays. The Rokoko is again a part of the MDP since 2005.

Sources and literature:

–  Úřad Městské části Praha 1, archiv Odboru výstavby, spis domu čp. 794

–  Alfred Javorin, Divadla a divadelní sály v českých krajích I, Praha 1949, s. 227–229

–  http://www.mestskadivadlaprazska.cz/divadlo-rokoko/historie/

 

Tags: Austria-Hungary, basement theatre, Cubism, Geometric Modernism, terraced house, theatre hall

 

Author: Markéta Svobodová

Translator: Jan Purkert

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