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(detail)1702 | opening

History

Czech borders are stabilised for almost a thousand years and on the North it's formed by Sudeten mountains, which were mostly impassable.  Whenever the Prussian king wanted to attack from Silesia towards Prague, his military formations had to go around this obstacle either through the Labe valley from Sachsen or through Kłodzko county.   Also the trade was carried in these routes between the cities of Prague and another major city of the Czech kingdom, which was Wrocław.  At the end of the 17th century, a manor of young count Sporck was located near this trade route roughly in the middle of the distance between these two important cities and he had grandiose plans with it.  He had some representatives of the Faculty of Medicine of the Charles University evaluate springs that were found here.  They concluded that they weren't harmful for humans and that was enough for the count to decide to built a spa complex here.  Healing springs was a popular method of treatment in the Baroque era and there were dozens of spa at the territory of the kingdom of Bohemia.  However, the count intended to create a place that would also offer social and cultural activities and so it would be a frequented centre for better society, which would make him more visible as well.  The literature agrees on the fact that the count was often looked through in the class society that paid large attention to pedigree because of the origins of his father (a pig herdsboy in Westphalia) and inferiority complex was a strong motive behind his activities apart of piety, interest in art and science.  If he would bring artist and men of letters here, they could been followed by the better society of aristocrats, who had been refusing to accept him into their ranks so far.   

 

 

The areal of spa was spread over a valley being intersected by the Elbe river.  It grew gradually wider in the Baroque spirit with other buildings that were composed in such a way that they would carry symbolic connotations with a mundane section on the right bank and the sacral one on the left bank.  So the spa itself with the count castle was located on the right hillside and a care giving establishment for military veterans with an almshouse and a convent of Brothers Hospitallers of Saint John of God was located on the left one.  The complex also contained two churches apart of a library, colonnade, track and hermitage among other.  All this was surrounded by a Baroque park, embellished by statues by Matthias Bernard Braun and with other works of art in a vast architectural - urbanistic composition.  The building development was concluded in 1724.  The entire complex really became a famous social location for a certain period of time, but not for the most noble in the empire, but for lower barons from Silesia, lower clerks, merchants and  neighbouring aristocracy.   

 

The complex offered numerous social pastimes as theatre plays, feasts, intellectual debates, music, hunting or balls apart of the health relief.  The mentions about theatre already dated back to 1697 when puppeteer Johann K. Neumann staged theatre in front of the spa guests.   A theatre building was erected here in 1702 so it would enlarge the offer of pastimes for local clientèle.

 

It was a separate, simple wooden structure of relatively not large dimensions of 14 x 20 meters without windows with a saddle roof.  Its appearance is captured in Havel's (1711) and Birckhard's (before 1724) engravings.  It used to stand next to the inn „By the Golden Sun“ as a part of the building complex.  The theatre was described in Kirchmeyer's description, here already with windows, from the year 1718.    

 

It worked as a summer stagione theatre in the spa season and therefore probably from May to September and it was freely accessible for the spa guests who didn't have to pay any entrance fee.  Touring companies from Prague, Weimar, Württemberg, Dresden and Vienna were hosted here regularly.  The further development was influenced by the grandiose coronation of Charles VI. in Prague, during which the locals had the opportunity to see the performance Costanza e fortezza in an outdoor ephemeral theatre that was constructed for this occasion by Giuseppe Galli da Bibiena. On the incentive of count Sporck, Venetian impresario Antonio Denzio started staging theatre in the kingdom of Bohemia, introducing the Italian type of the opera that left such an impression during the coronation feasts.  On 15th August of 1724, the opera Orlando furioso was staged with a noticeable favourable response from the audience.  The play was performed three times a week during the entire season until September.  It seems that the motive of the count was rather personal and it was directed to improve the prestige of the spa rather than because of the artistic considerations.

 

The original building from boards was remodelled in 1726 to suit better the increased demands of the opera production.  The interior was probably reconstructed by Vincenzo del Buono, a disciple of Ferdinando Galli-Bibiena, who also painted scenery sets.  Now, it became to be a two storey building.   The same operas were staged here as in the Prague theatre, the same theatre company performed here, and so the inner appearance was probably very similar as well so the scenery sets could fit into both the venues.  According the count himself, this theatre surpassed the one in Prague.   

 

On 26th July of 1729 at two o'clock in the morning, dragoons stormed the areal.  They were looking for improper books on the basis of authorization of the Bohemian Court Viceregency.  It was a turning point in count's disputes with Jesuits about land exchange that the count needed for his building intents.   A contract with the count was unwarrantedly concluded by the former superior of the Jesuit college in Žírec who died shortly thereafter and his successor refused to honour it.  Inflexibility and provocations on both the sides led to escalation of the conflict. In it, the Jesuit used the non-conformity of the count and tried by intimidation in the social sphere to force the count to obedience by an attack concerning his orthodoxy.  The entire spectacle was a foreplay to accusation of heresy and other trespasses as such that he let scandalous comedies be staged.   The accusation culminated in 1733 in the verdict that sentenced the count to pay a penalty of 6 000 Ducats for illicit spreading of literature.  Apart of that, there has been preserved a list of "defective art", some of the statues and paintings were destroyed.

 

The theatre in Kuks shared the destiny of its Prague counterpart and the last season was staged here in 1731.  Afterwards (after the death of its patron) the building ceased to exist for the attendance of the spa decreased with the decline of the whole areal.  There is no mark of its existence on the anonymous watercolour from 1775. Eventually the castle was pulled down in 1901 after conflagration and only the almshouse on the other side of the valley and some statues in the park have remained from the entire complex.   

 

In  the new millennium, this theatrical tradition was resumed when a four day festival of Baroque theatre, opera and music Teatrum Kuks was organized.  The troupe Geisslers Hofcomoedianten with Peter  Hašek in its head performs yearly baroque mis-en-scenes in a new building that were staged in Kuks of Baroque period.  Among the staged plays, there belongs for instance Amor the Tyran (2002), The Dance of Death (2003), Herkoman (2003), Atalanta (2004), Basilico (2006), Andromache (2007) and other.

 

 

Sources and literature:

 

BARTUŠEK, Antonín. Zámecká a školní divadla v českých zemích: materiály k vývoji divadelního prostoru a výrazových prostředků. 1. vyd. Editor Jiří Bláha. České Budějovice: Společnost přátel Českého Krumlova, 2010, 288 s. ISBN 978-80-904545-0-7. Str. 175 - 176

PREISS, Pavel. František Antoním Špork a barokní kultura v Čechách. 2., rozš. a přeprac. vyd., v Pasece 1. Praha: Paseka, 2003, 600 s., [8] s. obr. příl. Historická paměť. ISBN 80-718-5573-1.

HALÍK, Tomáš. Hrabě Antonín František Sporck: hospitál v Kuksu: 7 částí s obrazy. Dvůr Králové n.L. [nad Labem]: [T. Halík], 1908. [108] s. v různém stránkování, [26] s. obr. příl.

BOR, D. Ž. František Antonín hrabě Špork, významný mecenáš barokní kultury v Čechách. [Praha]: Trigon, ©1999. 60 s. ISBN 80-86159-17-5.

TŘÍSKA, Karel. František Antonín hrabě Špork. 2. vyd. V Praze: Společnost přátel starožitností, [1940]. 79 s., [2] l. obr. příl. Stopami věků; č. 3.

KUPKA, Jiří Svetozar. Urozený podivín Špork. 1. vyd. Praha: Šulc - Švarc, 2009. 252 s. ISBN 978-80-7244-262-1.

HILMERA, Jiří. Šporkovská residence v Kuksu. 1. vyd. Praha: Knihkup. KČT, 1948. 47, [1] s. Vlastivědná knižnice Klubu č. turistů. Ř. I; Sv. 13.

BOHADLO, Stanislav. Teatralita a teatrálnost. Barokní (hudební) divadlo v Kuksu.  Dějiny a současnost. Praha : Nakladatelství Lidové noviny, 2015. ISSN: 0418-5129. Roč. 37, č. 3 (2015), s. 22-13

NOVOBÍLSKÝ, Marek. Kuks a barokní kultura v Čechách. Praha, 2007. Dostupné z: https://is.cuni.cz/webapps/zzp/detail/50720/. Rigorózní práce. Filosofická fakulta UK. Vedoucí práce Vladimír Czumalo.

 

 

 

Author: Jan Purkert

Translator: Jan Purkert

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