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Pištěk's Arena Theatre

alias Vinohrady Singspiel, Vinohrady Opera
history of the theatresupplementtechnical dataHistoric equipment

Important events

(detail)1893 | construction



The Arena Theatre in Kravín was purchased from the owner of the plot dr. Weinert in 1877 by Jan Pištěk (1874–1907), a tenor in a theatre company of former owner J. E. Samuel, who acquired a licence to establish his own theatrical company in the same year. Because of the fact that he gained a considerable fortune due to the marriage with Marie Votýpková, he had enough financial means at his disposal for theatrical enterprise. Apart of the arena theatre, he hired the Town Theatre in Pilsen for the season of 1877–1878 as well. He restored the dilapidated theatre and started to play there at the beginning of 1878. Despite numerous repairs, the building was decaying up to the point, when a balcony collapsed in 1881 due to a rotten beam and three people were injured; theatre   attendance declined considerably after this accident. Pištěk decided to torn down the theatre and to construct a new unroofed theatre in the very same location already in 1882 that was named the Summer Theatre in Royal Vinohrady. The construction was carried out by master carpenter Antonín Kutina from Prague. After ten years, this theatre had to make way to a building boom that occurred in Vinohrady by the end of the 19th century. The plot owner wanted to build as well, for that Pištěk could not make any compromise with him.  Pištěk torn down the theatre in February of 1893 and used a part of the material (carcass) for construction of a new theatre – Pištěk’s.

He built the new arena theatre in Slezská Street in Vinohrady in 1893: “The new Pištěk’s summer theatre in Vinohrady is about to be completed . […] The new theatre is built in the size of the old one, but is decorated by verandas around and a massive tower portal.“ The theatre, which was built by master carpenter Kubeš, was partially built from the material of the old theatre, but it differed in the general layout and appearance. It did not have a roof, the auditorium was 21,5 m wide and 21 m deep, with a capacity of 1800 spectators. Two towers stood on the sides of the entrance. Electricity was used for lightning.

The theatre was opened on 30th April of 1893 by a play Prague is Prague by O. Blumenthal. Pištěk had the arena be provisionally roofed in 1899 for the possibility of playing in the winter, a year later carpenter Matěj Bílek carried out the final  roof  and Pištěk installed steam heating. The entrance part of the theatre was composed of a rectangular area, framed by high towers. From here, one entered into a semi-circular closed auditorium, on which a rectangular stage was adjoined being roofed by a saddle roof. The sides of the auditorium were adjoined from outside to ground floor rooms with a lean roof – a background for the ensemble and a store room of materials and scenery. The planning authority permitted an extension of a covered veranda with a room for an orchestra in the garden to Pištěk in 1901. After Jan Pištěk had died in 1907, the ownership of the theatre passed to his wife Marie Pištěková. In 1912, the local planning authority issued an enforcement notice requiring M. Pištěková to demolish

a part of the veranda in the width of 1,6 m standing actually on the neighbouring plot. After the First World War had broken out, M. Pištěková let the theatre to Stanislav Langr, who had to enlist to the army soon, and the owner closed the theatre in 1915. The unemployed actors formed a company, hired the theatre and played under direction of Adolfa Karlovský here until 1920. Afterwards the theatre was let to the Cooperative of the City Theatre in Royal Vinohrady that wanted to employ here its opera ensemble after the reconstruction would have been done. This was averted by a strike in the theatre, after which the opera ensemble became independent and established a company named   Popular Singspiel and hired the Pištěk’s Theatre in 1920 renaming it Vinohrady Singspiel.

The theatre was being reconstructed in 1921 and 1924 and a temporary office building and tailors workshops were built up to it. Soubrette Marie Skřivanová-Křečková with her husband became a new owner of the theatre and they reconstructed the building again according to the design by builder Bohumil Libánský.

The theatre had 672 seats in 1926 and could accommodate 1250 spectators ( this quota was often exceeded). The building committee stated in 1932 that the theatre was very shabby and the structural stability was reduced. The compulsory consistent reconstruction of the theatre could not be financed nor by the owner nor by the company. Mrs. Pištěková then decided to remove the building in May 1932 and it was demolished in October 1932. Its location was filled with three blocks of flats that completed a missing part of block of houses.


–  Alfred Javorin, Pražské arény: Lidová divadla pražská v minulém století, Praha 1958, s. 90–101, 245–250 a 213–217


Tags: Austria-Hungary, extinct theatre


Author: Markéta Svobodová

Translator: Jan Purkert

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