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Klicpera's theatre Hradec Králové

alias Theatre of Klicpera (1968–1971), Theatre of the Victorious February (1963–1969) (1971–), Regional District Theatre Hradec Králové (1949–1962), Divadlo Vítězného února
history of the theatresupplementtechnical dataHistoric equipment

Important events

(detail)1885 | opening
The Neo-Renaissance theatre building - an incoherent building in terms of its volume – was officially opened with the performance of Klicpera’s Eliška Přemyslovna and The Kiss by Bedřich Smetana on 24 March 1885. It had been built according the design of Viktor Weinhengst.
(detail)1910 | reconstruction
Greater modernization of the theatre was initiated by the town council in 1910 according to the project of M. Gottlieb, the inspector of the National Theatre. The inner decoration was made by František Kyselý.
(detail)1927 | reconstruction
Enhancement of technical equipment and amelioration of the service for the visitor was implemented according the design of Oldřich Liška.
(detail)1949 | reconstruction
Further reconstruction was carried out according the design of Jan Reichl.


(detail)Josef Matěj Gottlieb |architect

He was staging master in the National Theatre in Prague from 1919 to 1942.


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(detail)Oldřich Liska |architect

Architect , the author of many interesting designs and their realizations mostly in Hradec Králové. In his pieces it is possible to observe the spirit of the modernism, decorativismus of the cubismus, but the inclination to purism as well, eventually funkcionalism in the moderate version.

Source: Archiweb

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(detail)Jan Rejchl |architect

Disciple of Josef Gočár. One of the authors of the projects in style of functionalism, which shaped the modern appearence to city of Hradec Králové.


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(detail)Viktor Weinhengst |architect
Architect , whose pieces are mainly built in Hradec Králové.

(detail)František Kysela |painter, interior designer
Was a versatile designer. Most of his work belongs to period of art deco style. He cooperated often with architects Pavel Janák and Josef Gočár mainly for the decoration of the interior. Source: More theatres


The theatre building is situated in the north part of the historical town centre in Dlouhá street 7 (no. 98), far behind the street front line. Its west side is facing a narrow street leading towards the stairs to Žižkovy sady. The back of the house with its multi-axial front face also faces Žižkovy sady and it’s situated on the edge of a rampart.

The history of the theatre in Hradec is associated with the anti-reform Baroque theatre of the Jesuits ran by the students of their college. According to historical documents, the first school performance took place in 1637 – the play the Birth of Christ was performed in the St. Antonius church on Mýtské předměstí (today Nový Hradec Králové). In 1668, the Jesuits made a special “beautifully painted” hall available for their annual performances and on 27 September of the same year the Czech play St. Wenceslas was performed there. Regular performances, both in Czech and Latin, took place in this hall until 1766. Then, the theatre performances were officially banned. After the enforcement of the Enlightened Acts of the emperor Joseph II, any theatre production had to gain permission from the regional offices. This meant that the theatre activities in Hradec generally declined. In the late 18th century, a German amateur theatre group of army officers and townsmen performed in the house no.139 and in the shooting range. There was also a modest attempt to establish a Czech theatre in 1791.

In 1796, the Czech amateur theatre group adapted the pub hall U zlatého orla (no. 126 on Malé náměstí) which become the first permanent theatre stage in Hradec. A court record dated 4 June 1798 states that the reconstruction of the hall to suit theatrical performances of „the society of the theatre lovers“, was managed by Ferdinand Ritschel, the checker of the salt warehouse and the treasurer of the amateur theatre group, and implemented by the building contractor Josef Veliš. The bricks were supplied by the municipality and the wood by the saw mill of the miller Střemcha. More than a quarter of the century later, in 1819, the revivalist publisher Jan František Pospíšil attempted to introduce a Czech play written by Štěpánek entitled How is it going to turn out. This play represented the beginings of Czech theatre in Hradec Králové. In the same year, the grammar school professor and dramatist Václav Kliment Klicpera came to the city. As a playwright and a theatre director he brought some fresh energy to the amateur theatre activities in Hradec. In 1825, the first opera had its opening night in Czech language in Hradec Králové – Der Freischutz by C. M. Weber, and from 1830s Czech plays were performed regularly by amateur theatre groups. According to Sommer’s Topography of Bohemia (1836) the theatre hall in Hradec, used by the owner of the pub also as a dance hall, had three boxes on the left, stalls for 200 people and a circle with 28 seats opposite the stage. A great public interest in theatre provided the justification for the efforts to reconstruct the hall U zlatého orla. The reconstruction took place in winter 1838–1839 and was coordinated by a regional engineer called Pavlovský from Rosenfeld. The stage was expanded, the benches were replaced by seats, and the number of the boxes was increased from three to four. The original curtain with simple “blue veilings” was replaced by a new one painted by the painter of Prague State Theatre Tobiáš Mössner with a veduta of Hradec Králové. Apart from Mössner, the new decoration of the theatre was designed by a painter called František Bernard Václav Achbauer. After further reconstruction of the hall which took place in the period from 1875 to 1876, the stage had a new curtain with veduta of Hradec Králové plus an additional figural staffage. The author of the painting on the curtain was František Řezníček who sourced his inspiration from lithography published in 1864 in Prague by Gottlieb Haas.

After V. K. Klicpera left Hradec Králové for Prague in 1846, the local theatre activities slowed down again. In 1852, the city hosted the first group of strolling actors. The amateur theatre was revived in the 1860s. In 1868, a society called The Union of Theatre Amateurs was established and its members initiated the construction of a self-contained theatre building. On 11 March 1877, the union decided to „accumulate capital for the construction of a decent theatre“. In 1880, the stage in the hall U zlatého orla was expanded by the building contractor Josef Falta, however, the hall was officially closed down due to the fact that the owner refused to respect strict fire safety regulations (for example the need for emergency exits).

In 1881, a summer stage designed by Stanislav Červený was built in the garden of the Oskar Lhota house (no. 124). His arena-shaped auditorium with the dimensions of 24×16 metres has the capacity of 200 seats. In 1881, the above mentioned union, which saved money for the construction of the theatre from public collections and proceeds from performances and balls, issued a memorandum for the town representatives with the request to build a suitable building to house the theatre. After some political squabble, the city council passed a decision in February 1882 to build a theatre at a cost of the municipality which would be named after Klicpera. The theatre was to be situated between the secondary school and Vodička's barracks. The city council announced an open competition of tenders for the delivery of the construction plans. Out of the ten delivered proposals, the winning project was that of the architect Vratislav Pasovský with the slogan „Cum musis ad sepulcrum“ and a total budget of 53 109 golden coins. Due to political disagreements, the whole competition yield no real official results and Pasovský's project was not realized. The city council held another meeting with the agenda of the theatre construction on 20 July 1883 and adopted a resolution which solved the matter temporarily by a reconstruction of municipal offices. The construction of the new theatre building was not passed until 1884 when the entire building fund of the union (1 030 golden coins and 64 doits) was transferred to the city council. The final positive decision was much to the credit of the deputy mayor Ladislav Jan Pospíšil. A local architect Viktor Weinhengst († 1903) was commissioned to implement the construction project the budget of which was increased by 80 000 Crowns. In June 1884, the local newspapers Polabské noviny published a commentary to the construction: „... the walls of the first-floor level were completed, the towers and front parts of the building were also elevated up to the first-floor level and roofed. There is a lobby and a cloakroom on the ground floor... on 20 July the work on the façade may commence.“ The Neo-Renaissance theatre building - an incoherent building in terms of its volume – was officially opened with the performance of Klicpera’s Eliška Přemyslovna and The Kiss by Bedřich Smetana on 24 March 1885.

The front face of the theatre had one floor. The ground floor, which opened with three semi-circular entrances in the middle, was decorated by quoins. „Piano nobile“ were divided by pilasters topped with attic accents above the principal moulding. The original auditorium had a rectangular floor plan with a vaulted circle which came out on the sides into wings composed of open boxes. The row of boxes reached up to the stage portal which was clenched by pilasters with fluting on the parterre level and smoothly framed on the level of boxes. There was an upper circle above the dress circle. The interior decoration financed by the Union of Theatre Amateurs was designed by Nejedly brothers from Novy Bydžov. The ceiling of the auditorium was divided into a symmetrical network of square fields with rounded plastic frames which had a circular chandelier screen in the middle. Around the screen was stucco garland girdled with ribbons. The Neo-Renaissance painting on the ceiling depicted a majestic allegorical composition of muses of Music, Lyrical Poetry, Tragedy and History, and  personifications of the Painting, Sculpture, Rhetorics and other free art forms with satyrs and nymphs on a rich ornamental frame with yellow and celestial background. The circle walls had paintings depicting a perystyle with drapery; thirteen fields were divided by caryatids and lion heads; front fields were filled with discs with symbolic emblems and ornaments. The portal of the proscenium was also decorated with thumbnail sketches and ornaments.

In 1886, it came out that the theatre building had a bad foundation. Cracks appeared in walls; a part of the back of the building built on a slope even collapsed and the theatre was closed down by the authorities. Extensive repairs had to be done immediately. They involved not only the replacement of a large section of walls, but also a new iron structure for the ceiling in the auditorium and a complete reconstruction of the stage. All reconstruction work was carried out at the expense of the failed building contractor Weinhengst. After its completion, the architect Čeněk Gregor was assigned the task of providing the expert’s opinion and drafting an expertise on the safety of the building structures which had to be made available for the final building approval. The theatre was officially reopened on 17 December 1886. The central heating was installed in the auditorium in 1891 according to the project of the Vienna engineer Lešeticky. It was not until 1895 that Klicpera's theatre received the main stage curtain with the painting depicting the Arrival of the Forfather Cech to Říp, which was bought for 65 golden coins from the concert hall at the Exhibition for Architects and Engineers in Prague (in 1910 the painted curtain was sold to the newly adapted Municipal Theatre in Náchod).

Greater modernization of the theatre was initiated by the town council in 1910 according to the project of M. Gottlieb, the inspector of the National Theatre. The roof was repaired, the boxes in the auditorium were newly designed, and the original painting of the ceiling was replaced by Art Nouveau decoration of the famous designer František Kysela. The photographs from this period which can be found in the book written by J. V. Tolman (1918) show a longitudinal layout of the auditorium with eleven rows in the stalls, an aisle in the middle, and a low wooden partition wall behind the last row which separated the room for standing audience. The circle supported by columns opened up in a large arch on the first floor level at the back of the auditorium. The circle continued with boxes on the sides which reached up to the stage portal and were separated by concave wooden walls. There was an upper circle rising above the circle. The parapet of the circle and the wings of the boxes were decorated by geometrical ornaments of diagonal grids and elliptical shapes. The back wall above the circle was filled with colourful rectangular frames with vases for flowers. A coherent painted frieze with identical designs also covered the walls above the boxes and on the sides of the stage portal. The ceiling of the theatre auditorium was decorated with square fields with geometrical designs. Small cube lights hung from the corners of the central field of the ceiling; similarly designed prismatic lamps were symmetrically installed on the front parapet of the circle and the boxes. The stage frame had most probably a slightly slant scuntions and rounded upper corners. In 1911, the foyer was also renovated; a new stage floor was installed, and some of the stage technical equipment replaced. The dressing room was divided and electrical lighting was installed in the entire theatre (the first performance lit by electric lights took place in 1906 with help of an external power source).

The decorations painted by Kyselova was destroyed during another theatre reconstruction implemented by the city in 1927 at the cost of 350 000 Crowns according to the project designed by Oldřich Liska. A part of Liska’s project was technical improvement of renovated stage by installing a light control, a new cyclorama and two movable traps. The lobby was enlarged – a new cloakroom was built, and new seats installed in the auditorium. The capacity of the hall was then expanded to one thousand people. Another theatre reconstruction was implemented in 1949 according to the project of the architect Jan Rejchl from Hradec.

A narrower ground-floor prismatic volume, which was connected to the historical part of the building by quoins, was built in front of the hexaxial face front of the building. It is assumed that it was built during the late 20th century reconstruction. The volume carries an open terrace surrounded by iron railings which can be accessed from the foyer of the theatre. Photographs from the 1970s show a triaxial entrance portal in a right-angled frame which was located in the middle of this annex building. There was a row of low windows on the sides of this portal. After some maintenance work and minor repair work carried out by 1989, which probably included the installation of the lights with the shape of grapes in the side halls on the first floor, the theatre interiors had not undergone any major modernization until 1990s. The last reconstruction of the theatre auditorium took place in the second half of 2004 and a major renovation of the stage was done during the summer break.

The symentrical layout of the square in front of the theatre gives an imperession of a ceremonial courtyard. The inconsistent asymmetric volume of the theatre building in terms of its height and layout has a cold façade mask which shows tendency to classicist style as well as some features of Neo-Renaissance style. The building has a hexaxial front with a prismatic ground-floor buttress which stands out in the front and a modern portico gallery. The shafts of its columns are covered with stone boards; the corpuses of the columns’ capitals with slightly cubist design are made of sheet-steel. Behind the columns at the back of the portico gallery, there is a wooden glassed-in wall with two entrances in the centre. The buttress is horizontally segmented by a bossage, and its flat roof serves as a terrace accessible through the double-wing doors from the foyer. The hexaxial part on the first-floor level is dominated by the left five-axial front with high rectangular windows. There is a uni-axial right part with rectangular lowered window attached to this front. There are longitudinal plastic mouldings running across the front of this „piana nobile“ approximately in two thirds of the window’s height and also just above the windows. Two combined pilasters with stucco floral decoration of the capitals flank the middle axis of the left part, which is topped with low segmented attic gable above the principal moulding (the attic originally had no opening; now there is a circular hole opening). There is a modern dormer behind the attic gable with an arched roof window. The side axis of the soffit front is divided by similar, but more freely positioned, pilasters. Rectangular attic gables which come out above the level of the principal moulding are divided - at about a half of their height - by another moulding supported by plastic dentil.

The central part of the theatre is covered with keel roof with soft lines and modern red roof cover. It has some parts covered with metal plates on the north side. There is a low prism with sheet metal jacketing rising from the roof ridge which leads towards the foundation of the flyloft on the east side. The exterior of the flyloft has smooth façades broken only by austere bands of lisena. There is an oblong wing attached to the eastern side of the theatre building which connects it with the street front of Dlouha; the front part of the wing forms a house which used to be a self-contained house (no. 99) with quadraxial street front.

From the north-west corner of the portico gallery, the volume of the theatre building is broken twice in its layout in the right angle. The western face front of the building has five axis and rich relief designs of the hood mouldings, window sills, and sets of pilasters. The plastic segmentation of the façade frames the windows with triangular frontons and parapet fillings on the first floor level, as well as the oblong windows in tower extensions of the corner buttresses. The buttresses form the side axes of the front face and slightly protrude to the front of its middle part. There is a robust rustic work in the corner volumes in the parterre; the central semi-circular entrance is also bossed. On the first-floor level, the hewn stone rustic work decorates only the corners of the façade, its frontside is hatched with only shallow  bossage. The middle part of the western front opens on the first-floor level with a tree-part window with semi-circular furnicular arches. A moulding runs around the first floor above small stucco consoles. Low roofs on top of the tower cover the attic gable extensions. The back façade of the theatre facing the park is currently largely shaded by tall trees. Its simple segmentation consists of bossage on the ground floor and a smooth plaster on the first floor level cut by symmetrically positioned rectangular windows with horizontal hood mouldings.

All public interiors of Klicpera’s theatre now have purely contemporary design - including the floors, lighting and other detailed features. The visitors of the theatre enter from the lobby through a modern multi-arm staircase into a foyer, and from there into the stalls. The rectangular auditorium, bevelled in the corners near the stage, has a rising floor filled with eleven rows of seats. There is a sound booth with large pull-down windows in five axis behind the last row under the circle which takes up the whole width of the auditorium. The right-angular circle has seven levels of rows. There are two wings with three side boxes coming out symmetrically on each side of the circle which subside and descend towards the stage. The wall coating is up to the level of the boxes made of wood which enhances the acoustics of the auditorium. There is a relief circular disc on the flat ceiling from which hangs a chandelier. Its beam-shaped decoration evokes a light wheel. There is a continuous line of dot-lit lamps along the bottom edge of the boxes and the circle. Similar line of small lights runs above the boxes and the circle.


Sources and literature:

-Městské divadlo v Hradci Králové, Ratibor 4, 1887, č. 36 (28. 5.), s. 407, č. 37 (4. 6.), s. 420.

- Městské divadlo Klicperovo, Osvěta lidu 4, 1899, č. 51, s. 7. 

- značka B.S., Z dějin královéhradeckého divadla, Ratibor 19, 1902, č. 47 (22. 11.), s. 689-691. 

- Jiří Vladimír Tolman, Padesát let ochotnické Musy v Hradci Králové (1868-1918). Příspěvky k dějinám padesátiletí činnosti Jednoty divadelních ochotníků, později „Klicpera“ v Hradci Králové. Hradec Králové 1918. 

-Jiří Vladimír Tolman, K čtyřicetiletí vystavění královéhradeckého „Klicperova divadla“, Osvěta lidu 23, 1920, č. 56, s. 4. 

Osvěta lidu 31, 1927-1928, č. 1 (31. 12. 1927), s. 8; č. 2 (7. 1. 1928), s. 4.

- Karel Sikáček, Městské Klicperovo divadlo a kultur. život v Hradci Králové, in: Almanach divadla sdružených měst východočeských a českého severu. Pardubice 1928, s. 26-28.

- Jan Port, Divadlo v Hradci Králové, Kraj Královéhradecký 20, 1929, č. 36 (11. 5.), s. 5-6; č. 37 (15. 5.), s. 2; č. 38 (18. 5.), s. 5-6; č. 40 (25. 5.), s. 6.

- Karel Herain, Ulrichův Hradec Králové, Umění (Štencovo) III, 1930, sešit 7-8, s. 303.

- Jaroslav Mikan,Divadlo a hudba v Hradci Králové v 1. pol. 19. století. Hradec Králové 1930.

- Karel Mlynář, Hradecké divadlo, in: Hradec Králové a okolí. Hradec Králové 1932, s. 32-33.

- J. K. Mlynář - Josef Kaňka (red.), Hradec Králové. Přehled desetileté práce 1924-1934. Hradec Králové 1934, s. 69-70.

- Ludvík Domečka, Slavnostní otevření Městského Klicperova divadla v Hradci Králové před 50 lety, Kraj Královéhradecký 26, 1935, č. 23.

- Jaroslav Mikan, Výstava Třista let divadla v Hradci Králové. Hradec Králové: Novina 1938.

- Jaroslav Mikan, Jesuitské divadlo v Hradci Králové. Nákladem Městského historického musea v Hradci Králové 1939.

- Alois Kubíček - Zdeněk Wirth, Hradec Králové. Město českých královen / město Ulrichovo. Hradec Králové 1939, s. 85-95.

- Alfred Javorin, Divadla a divadelní sály v českých krajích. Díl I. Divadla. Praha 1949, s. 62-63.  

- K. Knechtl, Divadlo Vítězného února Hradec Králové. Hradec Králové: DVÚ 1989.

- Divadlo v Hradci Králové. Hradec Králové: Klicperovo divadlo 1993 (u příležitosti stejnojmenné výstavy v Muzeu východních Čech ve dnech 19. 6.-26. 9. 1993 vydalo Klicperovo divadlo v Hradci Králové a Muzeum východních Čech v Hradci Králové).

- Jiří Hilmera, Česká divadelní architektura. Praha 1999, s. 48.

- Jiří Malina, Hradec Králové. Umělecké památky ve městě na soutoku Labe a Orlice. Ústí nad Orlicí 2003, s. 33-35 (s neúplným soupisem publikací a statí o divadle).



Tags: Austria-Hungary, Neo-Renaissance, Belle Époque, terraced house


Author: Pavel Panoch

Translator: Zdislava Kratěnová

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