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Theatre in the Thun Palace

history of the theatresupplementtechnical dataHistoric equipment

Important events

(detail)1743 | opening

(detail)1794 | fire


Participation on high culture was often a part and sign of aristocratic lifestyle.  More demanding forms of theatre belonged to it, in which aristocrats themselves also took part from time to time.  It was usual for nobility to attend the theatre that carried also distinctive social function apart of its art content.  Popularity and frequency of such entertainment also caused that many castle theatres came into existence and there flourished venues in the cities that often existed in the aristocratic palaces.  The nobility spent its time at their country or town residences engaged among other in theatre and so the number of such Baroque venues reached dozens or even hundreds only in the kingdom of Bohemia, perhaps up to 300 according to one estimate.


Similarly, opera was an important part of the cultural life of the Prague high society during the entire 18th century.  Století důležitou součástí kulturního života pražské lepší společnosti opera. It played a significant role in Sporck's theatre, then in the Kotzen Theatre and Estates Theatre.  For a short period of time, its main venue was also the theatre in the Thun palace .


The sumptuous Thun palace was becoming into existence to the design of an unknown architect from 1694 and during the first half of the 17th century in the location of former five Gothic houses, which were bought gradually by the Thun family. Its Baroque appearance is depicted on the drawing by B. Werner coming from the period around 1750.  The theatre tradition in this location is connected to the life of Jan Josef Antonín, count Thun-Hohenstein (1711 - 1788) who had a private theatre be constructed here.  Some mentions about some performances have been preserved, in which aristocrats themselves participated.  The first mention about a performance at this venue dates back to 1737.   The aristocrat amateur actors staged a performance for empress Maria Theresa and her husband Francis I. in 1754 where the count himself played the role of the harlequin.  He also provided the hall to the visiting theatre companies.  The considerable part of the repertoire consisted of Italian opera.  From 1781, the opera company of Pasquale Bondini was performing here on the invitation of the count and it had also works by W. A. Mozart in its repertoire.   


The theatre was located in the left wing of the palace in the main palace hall.  We know nothing about its initial appearance.  The theatre underwent a reconstruction in 1787, which changed its appearance considerably and about which it is known a little more.  It was then a theatre hall of 30 x 20 metres dimension.  It was probably the proscenium arch type theatre, in which there were 33 boxes in two circles and a gallery and a „parterre noble“ i.e. a part of the stalls by the stage that was reserved for aristocracy.  The auditorium was embellished with frescoes by Johann Michael Rottmayer.  This theatre was already accessible to public.


However, its existence was terminated by fire that broke out in the night of 26th August of 1794 between 2 and 3 o'clock after midnight after a performance of visiting theatre company of F. Secondolo.  It destroyed a major part of the entire palace.  


Countess Anna Marie Thun sold the whole building to the estates in 1801 and it used the palace for the needs of provincial assembly after a necessary reconstruction by Ignatius Luigi Palliardi.  Since then, the palace has been serving to political representation and it's the seat of the Czech parliament today.


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. 229 – 230.


Milada JONÁŠOVÁ: Italská opera 18. století v Praze. Praha 1786: „Jednou se tu snad budou na ulici dávat celé opery.“ In: Harmonie 11, 2008, 23–25. Accessible from: http://www.casopisharmonie.cz/rozhovory/italska-opera-18-stoleti-v-praze-praha-1786-jednou-se-tu-snad-budou-na-ulici-davat-cele-opery.html


HILMERA, Jiří. Česká divadelní architektura: Czech theatre architecture. 1. vyd. Praha: Divadelní ústav, 1999, 319 s. ISBN 80-700-8087-6.  Str. 13



Author: Jan Purkert

Translator: Jan Purkert

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