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A. Dvořák Theatre Příbram / The House of Culture

alias Municipal Theatre Příbram (1959–1964) (1965–1969), Příbram Theatre (1964–1965) (1969–1970) (1990–1991) (1993–2006), Regional Theatre Příbram (1970–1990), Small Theatrical Company of the Příbram City (1991–1993)
history of the theatresupplementtechnical dataHistoric equipment

Important events

(detail)1844 | amateur troupe

The first troupe of amateur actors came into existence here in March of 1844; they played in the inn U černého orla ( By black eagle) at first and later in other halls as well.


(detail)1926 | association

Other troupes had emerged until 1926, when the Association for Construction of the Theatre in Příbram was founded, and they played in various locations in the city. The actors performed mostly on a stage of Sokol’s hall  that became the most important theatre hall in the city in the interwar period.


(detail)50. 's 20. century | development of Příbram
A great change in the quiet life of the city was  discovery of uranium ore after the Second World War and subsequent  expansion of exploitation of this strategic resource. Among other, it brought a great increase in   numbers of inhabitants, for which a corresponding environment was necessary to procure. The hitherto independent community Březová Hora became a part of the city within the emergence of the so called great Příbram in 1953. Architects Luboš Koreček and Václav Hilský   designed  a residential area between the centres of the old Příbram and Březová Hora. A culture house, that was conceived in a grand manner,  should have become the centre of the new residential area.
(detail)50. 's 20. century | construction

Hilský was working on the  design of a culture house from 1955 together with O. Jurenka, J. Náhlík and M. Michal. The foundation stone was laid on the 1st May of 1957 in the presence of the Minister of Foreign Affairs.


(detail)7.11.1959 | opening

The completed structure was ceremonially handed over to workers on 7th November of 1959, in the presence of the Minister and other officials. The inauguration performance in the new house of culture took place a day later after  handover of the building, on 8th November of 1959; a premier of the Labyrinth of the Heart by František Pavlíček was on the programme.


(detail)2006 | historical monument

At least the theatre and social part of the Příbram house of culture has been preserved almost without any changes. Together with an indisputable quality of architecture and inner furnishing, it led to registration of the house of culture as a historical monument – due to the incentive of the Příbram city in 2006.


People

History

Similarly as in other cities, the history of theatre in Příbram is much more longer than the history of a local theatre building, a house of culture in this case. The first troupe of amateur actors came into existence here in March of 1844; they played in the inn U černého orla (By black eagle) at first and later in other halls as well. Other troupes had emerged until 1926, when the Association for Construction of the Theatre in Příbram was founded, and they played in various locations in the city. The actors performed mostly on a stage of Sokol’s hall, that became the most important theatre hall in the city between the world wars. A great change in the quiet life of the city was  discovery of uranium ore after the Second World War and subsequent  expansion of exploitation of this strategic resource. Among other, it brought a great increase in   numbers of inhabitants, for which a corresponding environment was necessary to procure.

The hitherto independent community Březová Hora became a part of the city within the emergence of the so called great Příbram in 1953. Architects Luboš Koreček and Václav Hilský (1909–2001) worked out a design of a residential area of the same name between the centres of the old Příbram and Březová Hora. A culture house, that was conceived in a grand manner,  should have become the centre of the new residential area.

Hilský was working on its design from 1955 together with O. Jurenka, J. Náhlík and M. Michal. The static part of the project was elaborated by engineers Kratochvíl and  Čermák, the stage facility was designed by engineer Švarc, J. Zeman cooperated on the interior furnishing (first names do not appear in the literature).

Sculpture decoration on the attics of the front facade of the theatre wing was created by Bedřich Stefan (1896–1982).  Reliefs on the side walls of the foyer came from the atelier of  Jan  Lauda (1898–1959), where they were completed after his death. Lights were designed by Marie Rychlíková. The foundation stone was laid on the 1st May of 1957 in the presence of the Minister of Foreign Affairs. The dark side of the history of the culture house is that prisoners from camps Vojna a Bytíz compulsorily worked on its construction; one of them died in consequence of an injury received during  dismantling a scaffold in December of 1958. The completed structure was ceremonially handed over to workers on 7th November of 1959, again in the presence of the Minister and other officials.

Příbram was given “a modern theatre with a professional theatre and several rooms suitable for public education and social entertainment”. The asymmetric building, composed of three blocks, contains a hall for 600 persons and a cinema for 500 spectators in its theatre wing and a small puppet theatre, club rooms and musical hall in its central part. The third part forms a hotel with 42 rooms (46 stated elsewhere).

Hilský’s building, the largest house of culture in the Czechoslovak Republic in the moment of its opening, “meets the strictest criteria of that period and belongs to the best that the Czechoslovakian architecture created in the given period” . The project of the Příbram house of culture, one of “  the most difficult architectural tasks” , peculiar “only for the Socialist Society”, was emerging in the period, when the official requirements for style and ideological content were changing rapidly. This was not neglected nor by Karel Honzík in his review of the house in the periodic Architektura ČSR. “ a work, that  is ambivalent, hesitant and uncertain, could easily came into existence in this period”. However, Hilský succeeded in avoiding this danger and he gave a  clear and well balanced expression apart of functional segmentation to the house of culture– so according to Honzík “the visitor, who is not acquainted with oscillations and turns in the development of architecture, will be able to appreciate with satisfaction component merits of this building.”  More critical commentary encompassed only urbanistic  integration of the house of culture within the surrounding built-up area. Despite the fact that the architect reached good visibility of the house by inserting it above the level of the terrain, Honzík reproached his insufficient application of “hierarchy of meanings” between  the house of culture and surrounding buildings.

It is possible to observe in this the period transformation of requirements and opinions. The house of culture in Ostrava, being concurrently built  (1956–1961) by Jaroslav Fragner, was criticised for a lack of monumentality that is for the similar matter as the Příbram’s building in many regards – being composed of simple cubic volumes with elements of “modernizing Classicism”. While Fragner’s house was criticized for the “fear of monumentality” in its phase of competing design (1954), expressed among other by its low height,  completely according to the doctrine of  Socialist Realism, the critique of the Hilský’s building  does  not share this  opinion after a year after its opening. According to Honzík, it was not necessary to achieve a hierarchical distinction by “forcibly raising it to height […], as it was perceived lately” but it was possible to induce that by an opposite contrast, “that is by rising the residential buildings  that surround the house of culture”. (Could this be a foreboding of various low “civil facilities” in the middle of high panel buildings?)

A permanent troupe came into existence in Příbram on 15th August of 1959. It happened at the expenses of abolished municipal theatres in Hořovice and Benešov (both the stages operated from 1950). The new Příbram troupe was introduced to spectators on 12th September of 1959 for the first time by "The Chioggia Scuffles" and by Fairytales (the Postal and Doctoral) ; both the performances premiered on the old stage in the Sokol hall. The inauguration performance in the new house of culture took place a day later after  handover of the building, on 8th November of 1959; a premier of the Labyrinth of the Heart by František Pavlíček was on the programme.

The name of the troupe changed for several times: in 1959–1964 and 1965–1969 it was the Municipal Theatre Příbram, in 1964–1965, 1969–1970 and again 1990–1991 only the Příbram Theatre. For twenty years, between 1970–1990, lasted the name Regional Theatre  Příbram. The troupe played in 1991–1993 under the name the Small Theatrical Company of the Příbram City, it returned to the name Theatre Příbram in 1993–2006 and finally it has been carrying the name Theatre of  Antonín  Dvořák  Příbram since 2006 (after the music composer, not after the first director with the same name).

At least the theatre and social part of the Příbram house of culture has been preserved almost without any changes. Together with an indisputable quality of architecture and inner furnishing, it led to registration of the house of culture as a historical monument – due to the incentive of the Příbram city.

We can find just very few changes and repairs in the more than fifty years history of the house of culture– despite the fact that  we can read in the preface of a publication from 1999 that “ it has been successfully managed  to carefully reconstruct its rooms, to modernise them properly, so it is  true embellishment of our city“.

An organ was installed to the rear wall of the stage in 1982; an effort to enable marriage ceremonies directly in the house of culture was a component of a long term campaign of local officials against the popularity, that was ideologically defective, of the pilgrims area on the Svatá Hora (the Sacred Mountain).

Reconstruction of the stage equipment was carried out probably in 1992. Another partial reconstruction of the theatre affected wiring, heating, air-conditioning and toilets in 2006. New seats were concurrently installed in the auditorium of the grand hall; the capacity of the hall was decreased with removing of several seats on the edge of rows and especially with insertion of a sound and light cabin into the location of the last rows under the balcony. The new seats replaced even the original double child seats in the puppet theatre, lately used as a minor stage of   “grown-up” theatre. Another phase should have followed with repairing the facade of the house of culture that was postponed so far – apparently for financial reasons.

Since 2004, when 100 years have passed since the death of A. Dvořák, his monument has been standing in the front of the theatre being a casting of the sculpture standing in front of the Prague Rudolfinum that was created according to the unfinished smaller model by Josef Wagner from 1957 by his son Jan in 2000.

The Ministry of Culture listed the Příbram Culture House in the registry of cultural monuments in 2006.

Present state

The Příbram House of Culture stands in the southeast periphery of the residential area Březová Hora, above the slope above the main road, from where a view onto the old Příbram and pilgrims area on the Svatá Hora is opened up. An elongated front facade is oriented towards this direction, to the east.

The asymmetrical building is composed of three interconnected blocks. First, it is a hall building with a cinema and theatre from the south (and by the view on the entrance facade from the left), then perpendicularly adjoined to it, an elongated two storey building with club rooms, musical hall and cafe and with a minor stage (originally a puppet theatre) in the basement and at last a four storey hotel wing with a restaurant.

The expression of the buildings corresponds to the surrounding standardized houses and especially the hotel building carries the same details as the residential houses do. The entire culture house has an articulated base in the level of the ground floor similarly as the surrounding houses. The most distinctive part of all the three parts are accentuated entrances; the most monumental one is understandably the entrance to the wing of the hall, which importance is emphasized by composition of the front facade with sculptural decoration on the parapet.

A low staircase ascends towards the central part of the front facade with the main entrance into the theatre.  A three bay projection juts out in front of the side parts of the facade in the ground floor, which is highlighted by stone facing; high windows of the foyer penetrating the height of both the storeys are recessed back between narrow stone columns. The projection is topped by a low moulded parapet. The side parts of the facade are articulated only with  high windows of staircases on the sides of the foyer.

The other facades of the house of culture are articulated by a pattern of windows, framed by a simple window architrave, and some parts by a rectangular system of cornices, highlighted in an embossed style, and vertical frames. An elegant portico protrudes from the side facade of the theatre above the side entrance into the cinema foyer that is embedded under the level of the terrain. A distinctive fly tower surmounts the volume of the hall wing.

Karel Honzík described the interiors of the theatre wing in following words: “ The theatre and cinema are accessible from a joint entrance hall with cash desks. The hall of the cinema and theatre are located one above the another. The cinema, (in a slope as well) with the  respectivecorridor, is located in the first basement. The auditorium stalls (in a slope as well) are  located in the first floor. The room in the ground floor is filled with a vestibule of the theatre with cloakrooms, further with the room of a cinema, the space of the theatre orchestra and a trap room.  

The floor of the theatre foyer is located in the first floor, in the level of the highest part of the stalls. This theatre foyer is conceived as a monumental two storey space with a gallery, from which two entrances lead into the auditorium balcony.“ Reliefs fill the side walls of the foyer, behind which staircases are concealed in the corners of the building. It is a dancing muse with a violin between a rock with a chamois and a tuft of reed by the view towards the hall on the left and a worker-smith with an anvil between crystals of rock on the right. Already the period reviews demurred at the different formal concepts of both the reliefs: while the figure of the muse was executed in a realistic manner, the figure of the worker is created in stylized cubistic shapes. The distinct features of the impressive interior are an arched curve of the balcony in the first floor (it reflects the shape of the rear auditorium part), cylinder columns panelled by fluted  nickel-plated sheets and chandeliers from a cluster of glass spheres, casted from circle recesses in the ceiling.

The theatre hall is arranged for 600 seats, from which 450 is located in the stalls and 150 on the balcony [ the capacity is a little bit lower today -  authors’ note]. The sides of the hall are flanked by corridors, along which facilities with a smoking room are lined up. The corridors lead into the foyer, from which an exit leads onto the  terrace.“ The rear walls of the hall, balcony and seat rows are rounded; the space under the balcony is filled by  light and sound cabins, inserted here during the reconstruction. The walls of the hall are plain. The ceiling of the auditorium is   split into horizontal sections by bands of lights, that look almost futuristically  (this relatively new arrangement for that time was more elaborated in the cinema in the basement  into a scheme, widely used later, in which sections of ceiling panelling cover service catwalks apart of bands of lights).

A rounded forestage, containing an almost unused orchestra pit, is projected in front of a reduced and plain, dark proscenium arch. The stage, well equipped for that time, was conceived for drama and opera productions. It has a turntable, which is almost unused due to touring character of the majority of productions. Dressing rooms and other back ground is located in the rear part of the theatre wing; it is accessible from outside by a rear entrance that is next to a lobby and staircase.   

The cinema in the basement under the theatre hall is very similar to that in many regards. “The cinema, that is equipped with a widescreen, contains 500 seats. The ceiling is made from  woven-wire segments, which are set as a lightning ramps for indirect illumination. A corridor passes around the theatre having side dressing rooms, facilities, buffet, spacious smoking room and exit to the outside space.

The original puppet theatre in the basement of the central wing, accessible through an individual entrance through a foyer with a cloakroom, is used as a small drama stage. Its hall is arranged similarly as the previous two as well; albeit the flat of the ceiling is not broken by lightning, it is more distinctively waved. The musical hall in the first floor of the central wing has a balcony on columns on three sides and indirect illumination in oval fields on the ceiling.

According to Honzík, the interiors of the building are “evolutionary more developed than the exterior. It represents a more radical emancipation and utilization of diversity of forms of new technologies. “ The very majority of interiors of the house of culture have been preserved until the present day without any major modification including for instance flooring and other details.

Literature:

– Václav Hilský, Kulturní dům v Příbrami, Výtvarné umění VIII, 1958, č. 3, s. 40–41

– Karel Honzík, Nový kulturní dům v Příbrami, Architektura ČSR XIX, 1960, č. 8, s. 537–548

– František Žid, 115 let příbramského divadelnictví, in Město stříbra a slávy, Příbram 1966, s. 114–122

– Miloš Zbavitel, Divadlo našeho města, tamtéž, s. 124

– Stanislav Polák, Příbramské divadelnictví: Ochotnické divadlo, in Vlastivědný sborník Podbrdska I: 750 let Příbramě, Příbram 1966, s. 128–130

– Miloš Zbavitel, Prvních šest let (Pokus o záznam činnosti Divadla Příbram v letech 1959–1965), tamtéž, s. 130–136

– Jan Karel, Příbram a výtvarné umění, tamtéž, s. 175–191 (soupis literatury na s. 191 odkazuje na články Luboše Hlaváčka ve Výtvarné práci 1960 a V. Hilského v Květech 1961, které se však v uvedených časopisech nepodařilo najít)

– Jiří Hilmera, Česká divadelní architektura, Praha 1999, s. 143, 290, 301, obr. 212–213

– Pavel Halík, Architektura padesátých let, in Dějiny českého výtvarného umění V (1939/1958), Praha 2005, s. 293–328

– Zdeněk Lukeš – Ester Havlová – Jiří Junek – Šárka Koukalová, 100 staveb: Moderní architektura středočeského kraje, Praha 2006, s. 196–197

– [ČTK,] Příbram zahájila rekonstrukci kulturního domu, www.archiweb.cz, 18. 7. 2006 (vyhledáno 20. 10. 2010)

– Václav Trantina, 50 let příbramského divadla, Příbram 2009

Documents stored in the archive of the building office were inaccessible in the time of the preparation of this tex

 

 

Tags: Communist Czechoslovakia, Culture house, detached building, First cold war, multipurpose facility, Socialist realism

 

Author: Jiří Bláha

Translator: Jan Purkert

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