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Castle Theatre in Měšice

history of the theatresupplementtechnical dataHistoric equipment

Important events

(detail)1830 | opening

(detail)1948 | demolition

People

History

The old castle in Měšice, converted from the former stronghold at the turn of 17th and 18th century, was reconstructed between 1765 and 1775 to the design by Anton Haffenecker (1720–1789) on the incentive of Franz Anton von Nostitz-Rieneck (1725–1794) . A generous structure of the castle was inserted into an older urbanistic composition that also included the entire nearby village apart of economic buildings and it doesn't have any parallel in the Czech Republic by its extent and concept.  The main castle building was enlarged between 1780 and 1790 by two one storey side wings enclosing a yard.

 

In the first floor of the right (west) side wing, a small private there was inserted.  Although the literature speculates about its opening already after the building had been constructed in 1790, no evidence has been brought forward for this possibility.  The first hard evidence about theatre operation at the castle is dated back to 1831 and also the appearance of the theatre is indicative of being constructed not until around 1830.  Performances staged from 1838 up to the beginning of the 20th century are documented in a preserved autograph book.

 

The appearance of the theatre that was eventually destroyed in 1948 is documented only in historic photographs, which are preserved in the theatre department of the National Museum.  A detailed description of the theatre from an unpreserved seminar work from Prague history of art is mediated by Antonín Bartušek in his study of castle theatres.

 

The simple theatre hall was located in the first floor of the side wing.  The hall occupied the entire width of the wing, so the stage could be entered only from the auditorium through little doors in the proscenium arch. Another room was located behind the stage - it was probably a prop and dressing room.

 

The cloth proscenium arch was embellished by a decorative painting in light shades.  Roughly 1 metre high stage parapet had little doors into a prompt box in its middle. A simple stage was equipped for moving scenery flats in simple grooves (English or groove system as it's known for instance from Mnichovo Hradiště or Žleby ).  Behind a couple of proscenium flats, there were other four couples of flats, it was possible to change two sets of soffits as well.  The curtain with red painted drapery was coiled into a cylinder; it was possible to lower a lighting ramp along the sides of the prompt box beneath the stage.

 

The aristocrats lost their interest in the theatre at latest after the First World War .  When the local amateur theatre association Kollár, founded in 1917, requested in 1919 that part of decoration and props would be lent to them for one of their performances, it was given to them as a gift.

 

After nationalization of the castle in 1945, the association Kollár performed several times directly in the theatre.  An educational institute for girls was located in the castle at first.  In 1948, conversion into a training centre was launched, during which the theatre hall was abolished and divided by partitions into several smaller rooms.  Since the 1960s, the castle has been serving to health services.

 

Helena Pinkerová discovered that at least part of original decorations survived the liquidation of the theatre; the association Kollár used them further in the local Sokol hall.  From the end of the 1960s, when the Sokol hall was handed over to sportsmen, they were stored in the loft and eventually destroyed probably during the last reconstruction of the  Sokol hall after 2000.

 

The appearance of the stock scenery is known thanks to preserved photographs.  An opinion was expressed in the literature that part of the stock scenery was older than the theatre itself (the authorship of Josef Hager was here suggested, supported by the fact that Hager painted the frescoes in 1771 in the main hall), whereas the main part of the stock scenery from the period around 1830 should be the work from someone of the circle of Tobias Mössner.  Inspection of photographs doesn't seem to be supporting these unfounded hypotheses; furthermore Mössner worked in Prague from 1834 when the theatre was already in the operation.

 

A more probable hypothesis could be based on comparison of sceneries in Měšice with the preserved scenery sets in the castle theatre in Mnichovo Hradiště from 1833. Some parts of the scenery sets of both the theatres including the curtain and proscenium are so much similar that it is beyond the usual similarity of the work of the same period; this similarity and known information about the emergence of both the theatres allow to consider the same circle of authors.  Pavla Pešková (Benettová) suggested that authorship in Mnichovo Hradiště should be attributed to Vinzenz Fischer Birnbaum, a scene-painter of the Prague Estates Theatre from 1830, and it seems to be almost certain that the same author painted also the main part of the stock scenery for the theatre in Měšice.

 

 

 

Sources and literature:

 

– historic photographs of theatre and sceneries: National Museum, theatre department, inv. č. H6p-11/2014, sign. vf1475–81, vf1510 a vf1590–91

– Antonín Bartušek, Zámecká a školní divadla v českých zemích (ed. Jiří Bláha), České Budějovice 2010, p. 258–260

– Richard Biegel, Mezi barokem a klasicismem: Proměny architektury v Čechách a Evropě druhé poloviny 18. století, Praha 2012, esp. p. 223–228

– Helena Pinkerová, Zámecké divadlo rodiny Nostitzů v Měšicích u Prahy. Divadelní revue 24, 2013, č. 2, p. 175–180

 

Tags: Castle theatre, Classicism

 

Authors: Jan Purkert, Jiří Bláha

Translator: Jan Purkert

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