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Spa Theatre Luhačovice

František Skopalík

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Important events

(detail)1906 | Competition
The executive board of Association for the  construction and maintenance of the theatre in Luhačovice agreed  to announce an architectural competition in 1906 with the goal of finding the ideal design of planned new building. The competition was attended  for  instance by Dušan Jurkovič, František Roith and František Skopalík. The jury selected the last design as the winning one.  
(detail)1907 | Opening

The construction works were commenced in 1907, being finished in the June of the following year.  Ceremonial opening of the new theatre scene occurred on 27th , 28th , 29th July 1908. In the introductory evening the spa orchestra played the songs and compositions by Antonín Dvořák, Bedřich  Smetana and Josef Suk, complemented by singing and recitations by the wives of spa doctors. The next evening the drama section of the reading club in  Luhačovice presented The night at Karlštějn by JaroslavVrchlický.


(detail)1929 | reconstruction

A walled extension replaced the original wooden one at the end of the 1920s. The design of the reconstruction was worked out by architectural atelier Skřivánek & Svoboda from Čáslav in 1927 and building approval was issued on 15th January 1929.


(detail)1979 | reconstruction

The theatre was not used in the beginnings of the 1970s. It commenced to serve its purpose again after overhaul in 1979. The ceremonial reopening of the stage occurred on 3rd May 1979; the programme of introductory evening combined recitation, music and final costume performance by Brno artists Z operety do operety ( From Operetta to Operetta).


People

František Skopalík |main architect
Karel Výška |architect
(detail)Josef Skřivánek |architect

Architect and builder in Čáslav. He designed and executed an array of private or public building and projects. Especially reconstruction of Dusík Theatre (1923), design of Diviš Theatre in Žamberk (1925), design of front facade of district authority in Čáslav.

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

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(detail)Václav Svoboda |architect

Engineer, architect and builder mainly in Čáslav.

Source : Vlček, Pavel a kol. : Encyklopedie architektů, stavitelů, zedníků a kameníků v Čechách, str. 636 , Praha 2004.

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Dušan Jurkovič |architect - participant of the competition
(detail)František Roith |architect - participant of the competition

A disciple of Otto Wagner. He became a representative of the so called Official Prague Architecture that created in a monumentally academic spirit.  He designed the building of the Ministry of Finance (1926–1934) or Ministry of Agriculture. Other works contain Municipal library, which was one of the most modern building in the period of its emergence, and today´s headquarter of the  Czech National Bank.

In: Wikipedia

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History

An oblong storey theatre building with a ground floor entrance vestibule stands on southwest from the spa centre in a moderate slope between Dr. Palka Blaho and Masarykova streets.

The origin of Luhačovice theatre stage is associated with the development and increasing prosperity of a spa town and its curative springs. The history of modern Luhačovice began to be written in 1902, when doctor František Veselý succeeded in establishing Luhačovice Spa joint-stock company, which subsequently purchased mineral  spring and several spa buildings from the count Otto Serény. Smallish complex in charming hilly landscape represented a forgotten edge of the world at the  beginning ot the 20th century. The majority of the clientele was comprised mainly of Czech (not very rich) population, the quality of provided services was not very high, accommodation and healing buildings were obsolete. However, the location had a great potential according to Veselý. He was determined to revive and advance this locality and to create the first Czech, respectively Slavonic spa, all in the spirit of  period national self-determining and defining against the German society. The original idea was starting to acquire a completely actual and relatively positive development in a short time – the number of the visitors was increasing, housing development was spreading, Luhačovice penetrated into the public awareness, not only the Czech one, but – as  Veselý and his colleagues intended to – the Slovakian, Polish etc.

Apart the actual salutary facilities, also the culture institutions implicitly belonged to the spa – for instance feast houses or theatres. Luhačovice naturally did not form an exception, it as well wanted to provide to its clients a wide array of services, which would lead to a recovery and  elevation of the soul and body. Archive sources unveiled that cultural and social actions including theatre productions were taking place in the spa  reading room, converted from former manorial  barn; a simple one  storey building, with two front entrances, used to stand roughly in the location of the present  Roith’s Feast House.  “There were organized lectures, parties, luminous pictures were projected, chamber concerts with upright piano were taking place there […]. There were available newspapers, magazines, journals, over 2 000 Czech, Slovakian, German and Hungarian books for borrowing and billiards for killing the time.“1  The hall, in which the productions were  organised, had perhaps 50 seats, this number, however, was not sufficient to meet the visitors’ demand.

Therefore the  management of the joint stock company decided to construct a completely new stage, bigger and more representative. This task was undertaken in an  enterprising manner by Prague doctor Zikmund Janke, who was practising in Luhačovice since 1906 and apart his own medical practice he was noticeably involved in the city's cultural life. Due to  his initiative, an Association for the  construction and maintenance of the theatre in Luhačovice came into existence. The association succeeded in collecting finance, which should have covered the construction of the intended building, with the system of entrance deposits of individual members. The enthusiasm for upcoming building was not, however, general; voices were rising, questioning the need and especially the profitability of such an enterprise: “ As much as the individual theatre  in Luhačovice concerns, I think that it would be rather after all […] daring to launch such a project with a season relatively so short. Even if you act as  modestly as it would be possible, it will  require at least 25 000  Kč […] and to obtain a such significant amount of money would be hard after all. I would rather tend to that, if it would be possible to accomplish the theatre hall in that new hotel or in that new  ‘Kurhause‘ and that would be serving simultaneously for concerts and Luhačovice cannot be without it. This is indeed just my humble opinion.“2  The  reminder of possible financial losses turned out to be justified in the end, in that time it had not been given  sufficient attention.  

The executive board agreed  to announce an architectural competition in 1906 with the goal of finding the ideal design of planned new building. The competition was attended  for  instance by Dušan Jurkovič, František Roith and František Skopalík. Submitted tenders offered a wide range of different styles of architecture – Jurkovič designed a seasonal wooden arena in folk style,3 Roith presented a monumental Art Nouveau multifunctional building and Skopalík relatively simple classicising building with Art Nouveau elements. The jury selected the last design as the winning one. The construction works were commenced in 1907, being finished in the June of the following year. However, financial problems arose already in the course of the realization – “ in the end only a very poor variant have remained from it.4

Ceremonial opening of the new theatre scene occurred on 27th , 28th , 29th July 1908. In the introductory evening the spa orchestra played the songs and compositions by Antonín Dvořák, Bedřich  Smetana and Josef Suk, complemented by singing and recitations by the wives of spa doctors. The next evening the drama section of the reading club in  Luhačovice presented The night at Karlštějn by JaroslavVrchlický. The following theatre productions were provided again by Choděra’s theatre company in the season of 1908. In the first season “we played only in July and August (not in June, because the theatre was not ready at that time at all) and when we had to fight with various unpleasant circumstances (especially with humidity and  cold in the building, because it was yet “raw” ). ”In spite of it, dr. Janek was evaluating the impact of initial season to be “certainly satisfactory” and the financial outcome “ perhaps even splendid“.5

In the following years, Luhačovice was visited “ with pleasure of spa season by renown theatre companies – Švanda‘s from Prague, Janovský’s  from Prostějov, Lacina’s  from Brno, Frýda‘s and Jeřábek’s from Ostrava, Dračar’s from Olomouc –and each one of them brought a classical summer repertoire, embellished by the beauty of the ladies and the elegance of the gentlemen, which provide  the splendor to a spa from the beginnings of the world. In an especially memorable year of 1913, the drama troupe from the National Theatre was hosted here.“6   Luhačovice community theatre association, surpassing the “usual amateur theatre  average 7 with their repertoire and  rendering of the plays, used the space in the period out of season, therefore especially in spring and winter months.

There was a place for a vaulted prompt box, located typically in the central axis in front of the stage. The arrangement of the circumferential walls was different – instead of present vertically articulated elements, horizontal articulation was executed at least in 1910. Unfortunately it is not clear, when the mentioned elements disappeared from the hall; the archive sources are silent in this regard. We are better informed about the subsequent development of the building. The theatre underwent an array of modifications and renovations. It is possible to ascribe the continuous reconstruction activity to little financial capital in the beginnings of the construction. A certain proportion of it could be caused by the fact that the stage emerged as a seasonal, without requirements on operation during cold months. The selection of building materials and the actual realization corresponded to it and it was just a matter of time, when the material, building or technical defects would manifest themselves.

Luhačovice photographer Jan Lukavský acquired the permit to organize   motion-picture productions in the Spa Theatre in Luhačovice after minor adaptations in 1912. There were projected “ short and silent movies of various genre – films from nature, from sport, acrobatic scenes from circus or short comedies, slapsticks or “drama” and always in Wensday and Thursday every week.“10  Dr. Janke was informing in an annual report for the year 1915 that the Cooperative expenditures were mounted up by necessary repair of the roof  in the previous season. The original roll roofing letting water into the theatre interior was replaced by eternit over the stage and front part of the auditorium. Floors, seat material and decoration were still in a relatively good condition. New painting was desirable, but “ it must be postponed for this year.“11  We learn from the letter of Františe Aschenbrenner, written a year later, that the construction was in adilapidated state: “ ... The building, into which rains from all the sides and from which plaster and parts of the ceilingfall off “.12  Cinematographic productions were temporarily suspended in 1921 – an operator’s room was not  convenient. The  cinema operator received new permit for the activity not until 24th May 1924.

A walled extension replaced the original wooden one at the end of the 1920s. The design of the reconstruction was worked out by architectural atelier Skřivánek & Svoboda from Čáslav in 1927 and building approval was issued on 15th January 1929.

An extensive building activity affected the theatre in 1937. The  budget of repairs from 28th April 1937 planned replacing the defective wooden flooring (in the corridors, cloakroom, orchestra pit, foyer, change room for the staff, stage and partially in the auditorium) and defective wooden parts and  components (for instance doors, boxes walls, orchestra pit etc.). It also mentioned  a minor bricklayer's repairs, placing  new flooring in the stage and new wooden floors in the change rooms, orchestra pit and a part of auditorium, repair of social facilities, establishing of ventilating grid and air channels ( ventilating under the stage), whitening, painting etc.

The theatre management applied for the permit in the same year “to build a stone wall (supporting wall) by the spa theatre building towards the street, because it has been loosened and collapsed in one place in the consequence of permanent rains.“13  Shortly thereafter, Léčebná komise in  Luhačovice (Medical Committee) sent a letter to Municipal Office in Uherský  Brod concerning  permission granting for organizing film productions. The administrative assessment by authorized committee from 1938 states that “cinematographic establishment in the spa theatre in Luhačovice has not been in regular operation for perhaps two years and cinematographic productions were organized only occasionally in this establishment. Some various building adaptations were carried out in the course of time so the current state  considerably deviates from the originally approved state, which was determined by the  local inspection authority on 8th March 1923.“14 The conclusion of the committee was unequivocal – projection was possible, however, the theatre management had to comply with the  stipulated conditions as for instance to reduce the number of the seats “ it is necessary to provide all the exit doors around the handles with noticeable i.e. black painting  […] gallery balustrade should be provided with a baluster high at least 20 cm in front of the seats and at least 40 cm in front of the central corridor, etc. 15

The director of spa theatre advised the Municipal authority in Luhačovice about the intent to repair the roof above the scenery storage room in 1941. Hitherto flat roofing was not satisfying, a new hip roof, covered with eternit, should have been installed.

The frequency of theatre productions was diminishing after 1945. Occasional production was secured by the ensemble of Slovácké Theatre from Uherské Hradiště, eventually by local amateur actors.

Necessary building intervention did not avoid the building even in the following years – for instance State Spa installed air heating after 1956. An overhaul is asserted in 1963 – 1964 without any further information about its course.

The theatre was not used in the beginnings of the 1970s. It commenced to serve its purpose again after another overhaul in 1979. Adolf Branald described  the appearance of the construction after the overhaul in his memoirs – “ the hall sparkles with white marble, the stage was given a new technique, crystal chandeliers illuminate the auditorium and paintings are hanged on the walls. Brožík, Slavíček, Lolek, here Schikaneder, Úprka, Mařák there.“16

The ceremonial reopening of the stage occurred on 3rd May 1979; the programme of introductory evening combined recitation, music and final costume performance by Brno artists Z operety do operety ( From Operetta to Operetta). The theatre productions were provided by actors troupes from z Uherské  Hradiště, Olomouc, Brno or Prague  in the following period.  Joint-stock company of Luhačovice Spa have been organizing “the Summer Theatre Season”, a variety  of drama and music productions of professional companies. Spectators can watch a regular presentation of chamber production so called “Theatrical  Luhačovice” since the end of the 1990s.

 

Present state

The plot in the southeast side of spa complex has been chosen for theatre construction, a slightly aside from curative and lodging houses. Architect sited the construction into a moderate slope. The original appearance and stage arrangement have been preserved up to the present day; the front facade has undergone the most noticeable transformation, before which a ground floor square extension of the vestibule was inserted.

Access road to the theatre leads through a long alley to the paved square accessing area. Projecting volume of the vestibule is articulated by five entrance bays, mutually separated by columns and pillars. A distinctive inscription Spa Theatre in mounted upon them. The theatre front elevation is broken by a semicircular thermal window, partially blank and with a window architrave with an array of differently large circle targets. They are complemented by smaller, equally semicircular  window openings on the sides, trimmed by a circular bordering with a blinded lower part. A triangular gable was erected above the crowning cornice being complemented by two smaller triangle elements in the edges of the base and with small window with keystone in the middle. Skopalík flanked the lateral bays of the front facade by arched gables, which turn to edge turrets, sheltered by pyramidal roof.

Massive bays protrude from side facades in the front section; the west one is broken with one bay window, the opposite one with an entrance and two window bays (one of them being walled up). East bay was enlarged by a shallow extension with social facilities, with four window bays. The author designed the actual theatre bay, topped by  fly tower, in a staggered rhythm of basilica style. Outer walls were flanked by bay windows (three in the ground floor of the west side, two in the east) and entrance door. The foursome of blanked windows articulated the storeys of both the facades.  

Not high fly tower is almost not visible. Prismatic volume is covered in the lower part by projecting extensions, topped by a saddle roof. A pair of triple windows in the front wall lit the cloak rooms inside, the east extension has even a narrow side window opening; the gables were flanked by a circular window.

The original building ending in the flat bay was modified with later adaptation – a new two storey new construction of a storage room.

Various application of roofing corresponds to the articulation and unequal height composition.  An aisle roof covers the front facade bays equally as the side parts of the main wing. Central volume and fly tower is covered by a saddle roof, storeroom by a hip roof. Quaintness of the building is accentuated by a  semicircular dormer windows with bevelled edges and wooden ventilation turrets. Building folk art is quoted in highly refined decoration and  elaboration of embossed  entrance porticos in the side facades of the building. 8 The decoration was originally complemented by a massive arched frieze above the main entrance. A window sill of the central semicircle window was laid upon it. Each arch was even filled by elongated geometrizing figure. The frieze, a distinctive reviving element on otherwise relatively stark facade, is concealed today by the volume of the ground floor extension. That incorporated also the original centrally situated triple of doors and side entrance alcoves with attic roofs.

Simple even austere character of the exterior corresponds with the arrangement and appearance of the interior. The modern entrance part on the oblong plan opens with triple of entrance doors. A vestibule lays behind them offering a possibility of seating and refreshment. Spectators subsequently pass over to the hall- foyer, where a cloakroom came into existence on its right side, one flight staircase rises on its left leading into the upper storey part of the building.

One central and couple of lateral entrances lead into the ground floor of the theatre hall. A small dimension of the room, initially satisfying the amount of spa guests, induces an intimate, unostentatiously ceremonial, even a homely atmosphere. Architect sited   aisles on the sides of the auditorium, inclining to low stair steps. It is possible to enter the proscenium area, with frontally arranged front rim, through them. The proscenium area is visually separated from the stage by the proscenium arch not diverging from the utilitarian execution of the hall by its arrangement – square opening with rounded corners, profiled recess, highlighted by painted circumferential trim. A two storey balcony with central entrance and adjoined short staircase serve to spectators apart the parterre.

 Unlike the rest of the spaces, moderate, subtle decoration was used in the auditorium part. Side walls ( apart the surface under balcony) are covered by vertical strips, relieved by motifs of rhombuses in alternating rhythm with circles. The fields between verticals are filled with circular targets (in the upper part) and ovals with rhombuses inside ( in the lower part).  The balcony parapet is embellished as well; three projecting frames flank the inner rectangle again with rhombus  inside.

Notes:

1   Moravský zemský archiv v Brně, fond K 652, karton 269, inv. č. 2601, Vladimír Vokurka, Luhačovice na počátku XX. století III., Luhačovický zpravodaj, červen 1988, s. 19.

2   Moravský zemský archiv v Brně, fond H 519, karton 81, inv. č. 61, dopis ze 7. 10. [1907], adresovaný MUDr. Zikmundu Jankemu, odesílatel JUDr. Josefa Štolba.

3   Jurkovič designed a chamber theatre hall with side boxes, central and two side balconies; the space was made up by incised wooden supports, columns and lanterns.

4   Moravský zemský archiv v Brně, fond K 652, karton 267, inv. č. 2576, Vlastimil Vokurka, Lázeňské divadlo v Luhačovicích (80 let od jeho založení), 1988, s. 2. Because of lack of funds, it was saved on building materials – for instance the roof was covered by roofing paper, social facilities were absent. The negative consequences manifested themselves relatively soon.

5   Moravský zemský archiv v Brně, fond H 519, karton 81, inv. č. 61, MUDr. Zikmund Janke, Závěrečná zpráva za rok 1908.

6   Moravský zemský archiv v Brně, fond K 652, karton 200, inv. č. 1646, Adolf Branald, Divadlo v lázních, Svobodné slovo, 16. 10. 1983.

7   Moravský zemský archiv v Brně, fond K 652, karton 269, inv. č. 2601,Vlastimil Vokurka, Luhačovické spolky na počátku XX. století, Luhačovický zpravodaj, únor 1989, s. 25.

8   Architect applied the motif of inversed triangular with circular target on the entire circumference of the building (except for surface of the entrance vestibule and walls of the storage room), further by upper edge of masonry trim of the storey, by windows openings, on  arched lintels of entrances in the same location and on east side of fly loft. He inserted the band  of alternating targets of a double size in the semicircular arch of the masonry trim of the central window in the main frontage and equally by masonry trims of window openings in side elevation in the ground floor. Mentioned geometric figures were executed, respectively colorized by red colour. The enumeration of decorative elements is complemented by side crowning cornice, articulated by a subtle cannelure.

9   Moravský zemský archiv v Brně, fond H 519, karton 81, inv. č. 61, dopis z 3. 3. 1910.

10 Vokurka, Lázeňské divadlo (pozn. 4), s. 2. The Sokol hall, constructed according to design by Kubů brothers from Brno, served to movie productions as well since 1930.

11 Moravský zemský archiv v Brně, fond H 519, karton 81, inv. č. 61, MUDr. Zikmund Janke, Zpráva za rok 1915.

12 Moravský zemský archiv v Brně, fond H 519, karton 232, inv. č. 1157, dopis z 29. 5. 1916, adresovaný zřejmě MUDr. Zikmundu Jankemu, odesílatel František Aschenbrenner.

13 Moravský zemský archiv v Brně, fond H 519, karton 43, inv. č. 25, dopis ze 7. 5. 1937, adresovaný Městskému úřadu v Luhačovicích.

14 Moravský zemský archiv v Brně, fond H 519, karton 43, inv. č. 25, Výměr číslo 13213/1, Okresní úřad v Uherském Brodě, 18. 6. 1938, s. 1.

15 Ibidem, s. 4–5.

16 Branald, Divadlo (pozn. 6).

Sources and literature:

– Moravský zemský archiv v Brně, fond K 652, Československé státní lázně Luhačovice (1948–1990), oddíl I; H 518, Rod Serényiů (1669–1901); H 519, Akciová společnost lázní luhačovických (1902–1948), oddíl I, II

– Bohumila Jankovská, Český lázeňský lékař MUDr. Zikmund Janke, Acta musealia V, 2005, č. 1–2, s. 99–105

– Vítězslav Kollmann – Pavel Zatloukal, Moravské lázně v proměnách dvou staletí, Olomouc 1987, s. 69–101

Lázeňské divadlo v Luhačovicích 1908–1998 (kat.), s. l., s. d. [1998]

– Radim Silný, Stavební dějiny lázní Luhačovice 1902–1948, diplomová práce, Filozofická fakulta masarykovy Univerzity, Brno 2007, zejm. s. 32

 

 

Tags: Art Nouveau, Austria-Hungary, Belle Époque, detached building, Fin de siècle, Neoclassicism

 

Author: Kateřina Kohoutkova - Gabrhelíková

Translator: Jan Purkert

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