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Janáček Theatre

Jan Víšek, Vilém Zavřel, Libuše Žáčková-Pokorová, Otakar Oplatek

alias Janáček Theatre of Opera and Ballet, State theatre
history of the theatresupplementtechnical dataHistoric equipment

Important events

(detail)10. 's 20. century | Architectural competition

First round of the architectural competition for construction of the National Theater in Brno took place in 1910.  In the second round of the  competition, which took place in 1913,  none of the designs was chosen to be realized.

Source: http://www.theatre-architecture.eu/en/db/?theatreId=313

(detail)30. 's 20. century | Architectural competition

Another architectural competition took place over the years 1936-37. The design by Josef Víšek was chosen for the realization, but the construction did not commence.

Source: http://www.theatre-architecture.eu/en/db/?theatreId=201

(detail)1956 | First and second round of the architectural competition
In the first round of the architectural competition, the winning project was joint work by Jan Víšek, Vilém Zavřel and Libuše Žáčková-Pokorová, influenced by Víšek´s pre-war designs and plans. The same design was also proclaimed as the best in the second round.
(detail)1958 | The inner contest in the firm Stavoprojek Brno

Another competition followed in the firm Stavoprojekt Brno. The winning design was again by the team of Jan Víšek. The definitive version of the project was reworked by Otakar Oplatek and Vilém Zavřel.

(detail)2.10.1965 | Opening

The construction commenced in 1960, final version of the project of implementation was completed in 1963 and two years later the work was accomplished. Ceremonial opening of the new stage took place with the performance The Cunning Little Vixen by Leoš Janáček.


(detail)Jan Víšek |main architect

An interesting representative of Czech Purism and Constructivism , one of the first architects, who applied the intentions of modern aestethics.  


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(detail)Vilém Zavřel |main architect

Architect, who worked in the firm Stavoproject Brno.


(detail)Otakar Oplatek |main architect

Architect who has designed several buildings first in the style of Functionalism, later in Socialist realism.

Source: Wikipedia

Vladimír Beneš |architect - participant of the competition
A. Véla |architect - participant of the competition
(detail)Jiří Lasovský |architect - participant of the competition

He worked in the Prague Design Institute from 1953 until 1986. Together with Jan Krásný and Miroslav Řihoška, he designed urbanistic solution of the South City in Prague.

Lubor Lacina |architect - participant of the competition
Jan Novák |architect - participant of the competition
Jaroslav Otruba |architect - participant of the competition
Vladimír Palla |architect - participant of the competition
Viktor Rudiš |architect - participant of the competition

(detail)Miloslav Tengler |architect - participant of the competition

Life-long member of Stavoprojekt company, where he was assigned to resolve tasks from domain of industry bulding, gradually focusing to domain of solving housing buildings.

Source: www.piestanskydennik.sk

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Štefan Lukačovič |architect - participant of the competition
J. Ulman |architect - participant of the competition
(detail)Karel Prager |architect - participant of the competition

The initial phase of his work was still influenced by the Socialist Realism. The interest in new world wide tendencies in building led him towards patterns of late Functionalism ( the so called International Style), especially to American realizations by the SOM and Miese van der Rohe. Prager was the first one, who used hanging glass walls on the facades in an aluminium grid as in the Institute of macromolecular chemistry ČSAV. He was also discovering and designing new building constructions and materials, often even untested before (the building of the Federal Assembly) for his other buildings. The architecture of his pieces is usually  innovative, but sometimes controversial as for instance the New Stage of the National Theatre).

Text: ing arch Kamil Dvořák, DrSc, in: Architekti v českých zemích (Prostor – AD)

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Jiří Albrecht |architect - participant of the competition
Jan Palacký |architect - participant of the competition
(detail)Antonín Flašar |architect - participant of the competition

Life-long member of Stavoprojekt company.

Source: Prostor - AD


(detail)Jiří Čančík |architect - participant of the competition

His works are mostly in Luhačovice, member of Stavoproject atelier.


(detail)Miroslav Melena |architect - participant of the competition

A stage designer, an architect and a teacher died on August 8, 2008. He studied at the College of Pedagogy in Cyril Bouda’s and Karel Lidický’s studios and later at Theatre Faculty, Academy of Performing Arts in Prague under František Tröster. In 1967 he started working as a stage designer in Ostrava Theatre of Petr Bezruč, from 1969 he worked in Liberec Naive Theatre and later on he cooperated mainly with Prague Theatre Y. In the years 1980 to 1981 he was a head of stage design in Maribor. In 1972, at Serbian Novy Sad Triennale he was awarded a winning price for a setting designed for a play The Earl Monte Christo. Among the outstanding features of Melena’s stage designs belongs blending of scene and costumes in their almost provocative variability calling up reminiscence to surrealistic performances of the 20’s. However, next to scenography Melena gradually expressed himself more and more as a theatre designer – mostly as a head of multi-member team. Thus he gave a new resemblance to auditoriums and scenes of Brno Municipal Theatre, Prague Theatre Fidlovačka, Horácké Theatre in Jihlava, Municipal Theatre in Sokolov, Brno Reduta and lastly to Semafor Theatre. All of his stages distinguish themselves by ingenious stage design, and by dispositionally functional and smart to sight, sometimes also lively colourful appearance of the auditorium. The most salient among his projects was a solution of Prague Theatre Archa where a system of movable tables which fill the whole space enables a free open arrangement of the stage and the auditorium according to individual stage designer’s needs. As an exhibition designer Melena gave a very rich inventional shape to an exhibition of his teacher František Tröster’s life-work in 1991. Melena worked as a Head of Architecture Department at Faculty of Architecture and Arts, Technical University in Liberec. His creed of a theatre architect was expressed in an article he published in a cultural weekly magazine A2 (2007, issue 24). Here he confessed his love to Classical Theatre for its perfect solution of an audience and actor relationship, but also mutual relationship among spectators and their art experience. Melena did not agree with Baroque theatre’s introduction of stage portal which he called “absorber of theatricality”. However he did not hesitate to take over from the Baroque heritage a system of boxes or side slips. He believed their implication lead to a desired contact among the audience during the performance and to reach such goal a consistent arched tract of rows were to be used. Death caught Melena by surprise in the middle of his work on plans of a new Ostrava Theatre of Petr Bezruč, New Scene of Prague National Theatre and Brno Janacek Opera. (Jiří Hilmera)

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(detail)Stanislav Hanzík |sculptor

Sculptor, author of the bronze sculptural group “Youth” and “Girl´s secret”, inserted in the fountains that were designed by J. Fragner in vicinity of the House of Culture in Ostrava.

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(detail)Vincenc Makovský |sculptor

One of the leading representatives of the interwar period, his early works followed  Cubism  and Surrealism  , as a member of Surrealistická skupina , later Abstract art .  He returned to traditional expressions after WW2.

Source: Wikipedia

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Boleslav Písařík |interior designer
(detail)Alois Fišárek |other

The author of the tapestry and the curtain in the musical hall (destroyed) and the stylized figural composition with the name A fairy tale once and today; fairytale once, reality today (destroyed).

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The construction of Janáček Theatre which took place in the first half of the 1960s was the culmination of a half century of efforts at deciding upon the most suitable project for the Czech theatre scene in Brno. This project was expected to combine qualities of aesthetics, technical suitability, sufficient capacity and a ceremonial appearance. The first public architectural competition was organized in1910 by the Association of the Czech National Theatre in Brno (with a construction plot on the corner of Žerotín Square and Veveří Street). The second, so-called general round of this competition, followed in 1913 with, however, none of the designs being awarded first place in the end. The subsequent war years along with the altered political situation significantly slowed down thoughts regarding a new theatre structure. The renewal of these plans came about in the middle of the 1930s. Another two-round public architectural competition took place in 1936 and 1937 with the project of Jan Víšek emerging victorious. The actual construction, however, once again failed to come about. 

The theme of a new theatre building became prominent for the third time at the beginning of the 1950s. The first round of a public, non-anonymous design competition was announced in 1956 with the overall participation of 56 architects. A change in the construction site was introduced, however, with a plot of land in the orchards in close proximity to the historical city centre being chosen as most appropriate. The shared project of Jan Víšek, Vilém Zavřel and Libuše Žáčková-Polednová was awarded the highest evaluation after the first round, drawing inspiration from the pre-war studies and plans by Víšek. The original study was, however, altered and adapted in the awarded project from the year 1956, in particular in the exterior parts (suppressing the Historicizing Neo-Classical tendencies). A second, selective round of the competition followed the introductory public round. The ten best designs progressed to the next round with apart from the victorious project, designs by Jiří Čančík – Antonín Flašar – Jan Palacký, Jiří Albrecht – Karel Prager – J. Ulman, Štefan Lukačovič – Miloslav Tengler, Viktor Rudiš – Vladimír Palla as well as projects by Jaroslav Otruba, Jan Novák, Lubor Lacina, V. Beneš, Jiří Lasovský and A. Véla. The specialised jury once again awarded the first prize to the project of Víšek, Zavřel and Žáčková-Polednová after the second competition round. An internal business competition of Stavoprojekt Brno followed in 1958 with the design of the collective of Jan Víšek once again emerging victorious. A new studio dedicated to all the design work was established that same year. Otakar Oplatek was named the head while the main engineer became Vilém Zavřel with Libuše Žáčková-Pokorná contributing to the designs. Jan Víšek worked in the role of external expert with, however, only minimal possibilities to influence the emerging project which eventually led him to leaving the studio and withdrawing from the project. The definitive version of the project was prepared by Otakar Oplatek and Vilém Zavřel. Žáčková-Pokorná cooperated with Zavřel on the designs of the theatre auditorium and the stage while the look of the public parts of the interior were designed by Ivan Ruller, and the operational parts by Boleslav Písařík. The actual construction work was begun in 1960 with the final look of the project completed in 1963. Two years later, in July 1965, the building of Janáček Theatre was finished. The ceremonial opening of the new stage took place on the 2nd of October 1965 with an opening performance of the opera, The Cunning Little Vixen by Leoš Janáček. The original name of the theatre was Janáčkovo divadlo opery a baletu (Janáček Theatre of Opera and Ballet) with the shorter name of Janáčkovo divadlo (Janáček Theatre) employed at present.

The theatre building is a free-standing structure built on the edge of Koliště park. The immediate surroundings of the theatre were thoroughly landscaped and formally unified with the actual structure, thereby achieving a stylistic unity as well as emphasising the grandeur of the structure. The space in front of the main façade was conceived in the most impressive fashion. The extensive surface is covered by a network of concrete squares whose regular rhythm is only disturbed by the central right-angled pool with a fountain (at present, non-functional) and the half-circular grassed parterre. Low granite socles demarcate the sides while artificial lighting is provided by both single-armed and double-armed lamps. A walk-through concrete terrace adjoins the structure from the north, east and also partially the south sides. This is accessible via a staircase leading from Koliště park along with a pair of stairways from Rooseveltova street.

The main façade of the theatre faces out on the west onto Moravská square. The concrete surface entrance area is connected to the actual building by two flights of stairs with a stone wall along the sides. The front side contains the décor of a statue of a Moravian eagle by Olbram Zoubek. The façades of the theatre consist of large glazed surfaces with two narrower, non-articulated axes enclosing them from the sides. A monumental portico juts out of the central part made up of eight smooth pillars bearing up simple entablatures. The glazed surface is articulated by vertically conceived metal bars, dividing the walls into long vertical fields. These are further articulated by short, horizontal bars whose placement in terms of height correspond to the location of the parterre in the interior. The façade on the ground floor parts opens up with three right-angled entrances. Five right-angled balconies are located on the first floor whose copper parapets are designed as wrought, ornamental belts according to a design by Eva Zoubková-Kmentová and Olbram Zoubek.

The side wall of the theatre facing out on Rooseveltova street (in the direction from the rear façade) is articulated on the ground floor by a fourteen window scheme, a pair of right-angled entrances to the interior of the theatre, six display windows and a group of three entrance doors to Bohéma restaurant. The remaining surface of the façade faces out on the corner and is supplied with a continuous non-articulated stone belt. The ground floor of the opposite side façade, opening out on Koliště park, is designed in the same fashion with the non-articulated corner axis followed by six right-angled entrances, a three window scheme, another three entrances and culminating in a fourteen window scheme.

The articulated upper floor parts, separated from the ground floor by a fascia, are designed in a similar fashion at both side façades. High vertical glazed fields are employed here, separated from one another by thin stone pillars. This field is further articulated by both vertical and horizontally conceived metal bars. A right-angled hanging bay whose front side is covered by blind vertical belts juts out from the façade along the width of four windows. The side is composed of rectangular, glass planches. The solid surface is punctured at the front corner by rectangular openings made up of smaller squares and rectangles as well as coloured, covered glass.

A longitudinal terrace, accessible via a staircase originating at the lower parallel platform, projects from the rear side of the theatre. A spacious, right-angled entrance tunnel, running the entire length of the northern terrace, originates under the north-east corner of the terrace. The rear façade of the structure is composed of a wide medieval bay and two non-articulated side axes. The ground floor of the bay is articulated by twelve rectangular window openings and a right-angled entrance. The ground floor contains a fascia with the seven window scheme upper floor section above it. A vertical, glazed field, whose appearance and articulation exactly correspond to the side façades, runs between the thin, metal pillars. This is only distinguished by the corner axes of the bay made up of four balconies on top of one another. The building culminates with a cubic fly loft tower towering above the eastern half of the structure, while the remaining surface is covered by a flat roof.

The monumental style employed in the exterior is also repeated in the interior parts. A major emphasis was placed, in particular, on the large-scale conceptions of the public areas. A group of three main entrances lead into a modest-sized entrance area which consequently runs into the open, grandly conceived vestibule. The grand double-flight staircase is the most impressive element here, providing access to the first floor and the foyer. High, decorative marble walls meet the staircase from the sides. The open space of the vestibule is further articulated by high cylindrical columns fastening the ground floor with the first and second floors. Movement on the part of visitors between the particular floors is ensured by the central, ceremonial staircase as well as side stairways situated in the corners of the façade. The sources of light, often altered in terms of colour, are tubes in the stairwells of square and rectangular shapes, supplemented by coloured solid glass. The authors of the artistic design are Stanislav Libenský and Jaroslava Brychtová.

The theatre auditorium was constructed as a sectored floor plan with a tiered amphitheatre arrangement. Cascade rhythmic rows of loges run along the side of the first tier. The second tier contains a spacious central balcony accompanied by side balcony flights arranged, once again, in a tiered rhythm. The auditorium is covered by an articulated ceiling consisting of hanging plaster panels. The light sources, of various sizes and intensities, are located on the surfaces of the panels as well as in the panel slots.  The stage is distinguished from the auditorium by a huge, funnel-shaped, tapering portal with the orchestra pit situated below its lintel. The main stage space is supplemented by two side stages and one rear auxiliary stage. The structure has not as yet undergone any major reconstruction work with only minor repairs of the most necessary kind having taken place since the 1990s.

Works of art serve to create the appearance of the interior, such as, for example, a large tapestry by Alois Fišárek on the motif of The Cunning Little Vixenin the vestibule or a bust of Leoš Janáček by Miloš Axmann on the landing of the ceremonial staircase. Monumental sculptural work was also installed in close proximity to the theatre. The corner of the north-east terrace contains a sculptural group of the Mrštík brothers on a high socle, the original model of which, of a third of a size, had been created by Vincenc Makovský. The final look of the sculptural group was the work of Stanislav Hanzík in 1964 who contributed part of his own concept. A second monument, dedicated to Leoš Janáček, stands above the stairway between the park and the main façade. This bronze statue, situated on a massive granite pedestal, was created by Stanislav Hanz in 1975.


Sources and literature:

- Plánová dokumentace, Archiv Oddělení dějin architektury a urbanismu Muzea města Brna.

- Fotografická dokumentace, Fotoarchiv Muzea města Brna

- Tihelka, Vladislav ing: Janáčkovo divadlo v Brně, Praha 1969.

- Hilmera,Jiří: Česká divadelní architektura, Praha 1999,  s.144-147.

- http://www.ndbrno.cz/o-divadle/budovy-divadla/janackovo-divadlo/historie/historie-budovy/ (vyhledáno 16.7.2008).



Tags: Socialist realism, Communist Czechoslovakia, First cold war, detached building, prestige building


Author: Kateřina Kohoutkova - Gabrhelíková

Translator: David Livingstone

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