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Smíchov Arena Theatre

Miroslav Stöhr

history of the theatresupplementtechnical dataHistoric equipment

Important events

(detail)1891 | opening

The construction of the new Smíchov arena theatre was commenced in 1891 in a park between Palacký and the railway bridge according to the designs by architect and builder Miroslav Stöhr. The theatre was opened on 3rd June of 1891 with operetta Don Cesar by Rudolf Dellinger.


(detail)1938 | closing

The municipality purchased the plot and building in 1938 and torn the theatre down.


People

Miroslav Stöhr |main architect
(detail)Robert Holzer |painter

Stage scenery painter in the Theatre an der Wien (to 1883) and Prague National Theatre. (1883-1924). His work is mostly made in the late Romanticism style.

In:  Tvrdíková, Lada: Divadelní život v Čáslavi v letech 1869-1923, Bakalářská práce, Masarykova universita,  Brno 2007

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History

Construction of an arena theatre in Smíchov is related to entrepreneurial activities of Pavel  Švanda of Semčice (1825–1891), a director and dramaturge of the Provisional Theatre in Prague. Švanda obtained a licence to operate a theatrical company in 1865 and he became a theatre director in Pilsen. He knew that for successful activity he would need a summer stage in Prague, where his company could play in the season, when attendance was declining in the cities outside Prague. He had great plans, which he failed to realize though.  He wanted to build on Střelecký ostrov, however, negotiations with a shooting club did not result in agreement. Then he turned his attention to Štvanice Island (the Gran Venice), where he did not reach an agreement with the owner Židlický. After all these failures, he chose the so called “Pštroska“, where an arena theatre used to stand before. Despite the fierce competition (in the very vicinity, there were the Arena Theatre in Kravín, the New Town Theatre and construction of the Na hradbách Arena Theatre was being prepared), he decided to construct a new arena theatre in the location of the former vineyard Křížovka in the end. The designs for this arena theatre were elaborated by professor of the Prague Polytechnic Institute Josef Niklas (1917–1877), the author of the New Town Theatre (1859). The construction was carried out  in 1868.

However, the competition became soon fierce for Švanda so he started to search for another location for the arena theatre. He found it in Smíchov next to the inn Eggenberk, where he built a new arena theatre in 1871 – he rented the old one to theatre director J. Wallburg-Vesecký for his German company. The traditional place of Smíchov theatre became very important for Švanda’s business- he calculated not only with its tradition, but also with utilization of the popular inn and its hall. The new arena theatre that was built by builder Josef Vevera was considerably more simple than the first one- enclosed by a high sage green fence, from which rods jut out, a tarpaulin was being hanged on them as a protection against the sun. It has an auditorium with grandstands and a circle altogether for 1 000 spectators. The hall of the inn was used  in the case of unfavourable weather. Despite its lack of neatness, the repertoire of the theatre was  a great success and the company prospered. Švanda came up with a grandiose plan in 1874 – to establish a Czech theatre in Vienna, which was impeded by emperor Franz Joseph I. himself.

The Ministry of War wanted to build new military barracks in the location of the Smíchov arena theatre and the military administration ordered to tear down the arena. Švanda then turned his attention to the Jewish island, but the Czech and German regional theatres did not allow the construction of an arena theatre to him. He decided then to build a new theatre on the riverbank, however, he deceased in the middle of preparation works on 5th January of 1891 in Brno. The work was resumed by his widow, actress Eliška Pešková (1833–1895).

The construction of the new Smíchov arena theatre was commenced in 1891 in a park between Palacký and the railway bridge according to the designs by architect and builder Miroslav Stöhr (1859–1929). The theatre should have been  completed in advance because of the Anniversary exhibition in Prague. They theatre was evaluated in the National Politics in this way : „ According to the judgment of experts, the interior of the theatre surpasses all the similar facilities in Prague by its elegance and richness, and the stage  that is of 100 square meters outstands not only by spaciousness, but by technical equipment as well. There are 900 standing rooms and more than 600 seats.“ The theatre was opened on 3rd June of 1891 with operetta Don Cesar by Rudolf Dellinger.

The theatre had a spacious auditorium with a rounded plan, covered originally only by an open truss with boxes on the sides of the stalls and in the front part of the balcony, where sections for numerous standing spectators ascended behind its rows of seats. A curtain for the theatre was created by Robert Holzer (1859–1938), a decorator of the National Theatre. An advertisement appeared in the National Journal informing that the owners had an elegant  movable roof be manufactured for the arena. In fact, it was only a tarpaulin that was being stretched over the ribbing. The theatre was permanently roofed and heated by steam heating not before 1902. The Smíchov municipality always renewed the contract of lease after expiration of a period of ten years so the theatre survived up to the 1930s.

In 1924, Švanda’s descendants sold the theatre to Antonín Fencl, who reconstructed it. The works were carried out by master carpenter Sirotek. A new extension for dressing rooms, offices and workshops was erected behind the arena. Fencl purchased the plot, on which the structure was standing, in 1927 from the municipality as well. After fire in the terraces in AC Sparta in Letná, Fencl decided to convert the theatre into a regular one. The Smíchov executive board of the brewery, next to which the theatre was standing, opposed to this plan and precluded the  construction of a regular structure. The municipality purchased the plot and building from Fencl in 1938 and torn it down.

Literature:

–  Národní politika IX, 1891, č. 148 (31. 5.), s. 10

–  Národní listy XXXVII, 1897, č. 190 (11. 7.), s. 3

–  Alfréd Javorin, Pražské arény: Lidová divadla pražská v minulém století, Praha 1958, s. 110–114, 134–142 a 227–233

–  Jiří Hilmera, Česká divadelní architektura, Praha 1999, s. 53         

 

Tags: extinct theatre

 

Author: Markéta Svobodová

Translator: Jan Purkert

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