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Jokai Theatre

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(detail)1987 | opening

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Rudolf Blaško |architect

History

 

The beginning of the Hungarian performing art in the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy is connected, quite paradoxically, with the Germanization policy of Joseph II at the end of the 18th century. In the generally favourable period of forming national-revival movements in Central Europe as a protest against the establishment, the idea of theatre in the national, Hungarian, language emerged among the Hungarian patriots as the most effective means of spreading out the Hungarian language and also as the means against the Germanization.  Already since the 1790s there is recorded the development of first professional theatre groups who thanks to their touring style of life were spreading out the Hungarian performing art also to those parts of the monarchy inhabited by other nations than the Hungarian one.

It was already at the end of the 18th century when in the upper part of the monarchy – today’s Slovakia, occasional productions were played in the Hungarian language as a manifestation against the Germanization policy of Joseph II. The first Hungarian professional theatre group of László Kelemen played regularly in Lučenec from 1798. In 1811 it was another group, led by József Benke and János Keményi. As their centre they chose the town of Komárno, surely because already at the end f the 18th century József Péczely, an editor of the Mindenes Gyüjteménymagazine, wrote articleson the topic of the need of founding the Hungarian theatre. In the course of the following years, several Hungarian groups travelled to Slovakia, firstly it was Komárno and Košice, later they visited other towns. In 1820 they played some performances in the Hungarian language even in German Bratislava. It has to be said that in many cases the groups had two aims – make money and awake national awareness among the local Hungarians, or even to Magyarize the other nations, mostly the Slovak one. This role of the Hungarian theatre fully flourished after the Austro-Hungarian Agreement in 1867.

In fact, the multinational Hungarian Kingdom during this period of dualism was presented by the Hungarian ruling classes as a national state with one – i.e. Hungarian political nation. The school, cultural associations as well as the whole mechanism  of the state administration became the means to reach the aim. The effective method, mostly at the beginning, seemed to be in educational associations which were founded in the 1880s throughout the Hungarian Kingdom. Behind the official status as cultural institutions their real aim was to spread out the Hungarian language and the national, i.e. Hungarian, spirit. Exceptionally big influence on their development had a brochure by Zvolen district administrator Béla Grünwald, issued in 1878, entitled Felvidék (Upper Hungary).

In Slovak territory the most active of the associations was the Upper-Hungarian Magyar Educational Association (Felvidéki Magyar Közmüvelödési Egyesület), known under the acronym F.M.K.E. It was founded in Nitra in 1883. By founding Hungarian nursery schools, libraries and cultural associations the F.M.K.E. Magyarized Slovak towns since they were the centres of culture and influenced even the remote areas. One of the most effective means to fulfil the aim was the support of the theatre. Therefore, the association initiated the construction of a new theatre in Nitra, and stated that it was possible to perform in it only in Hungarian.

Thanks to the policy of the Hungarian government and Magyarization associations the Hungarian performing art experienced in the last third of the 19th century and the first third of the 20th century its golden age.  Unlike the German performing art it was well organized and to some extent financially supported by the state, and that made it to do quite well, even in those towns where the visit rate was not as high. Its organization laid in a division of Hungary into districts (in 1879 there were 30 of them), which were then given to particular theatre groups, which could travel around within its borders. There was a rule that big and top groups played in big cities with a stone and permanent theatre building (e.g. Bratislava, Košice), smaller groups of lesser quality in smaller towns.

Such organized Hungarian performing art gradually outclassed the German one. In many towns main stages were reserved for it, it was favoured to be performed during more visited winter seasons. On the other side, not every town succumbed to this Magyarization pressure. It was manifested mostly in the poor visit rate of Hungarian productions.

The situation in the Slovak land changed considerably after 1918. After the dissolution of the multi-national kingdom it appeared that the division of new states based only upon particular ethnical groups was not possible.  According to the first post-war statistics there were around 2.3 Million of the Hungarians left behind the borders of the then Hungary, and around a million of representatives of other nations within them [Zvara, Juraj: Maďarská menšina na Slovensku po roku  1945, Nakladateľstvo Epocha, Bratislava, 1969, 224s., tu s.18].  The representatives of the originally ruling Hungarian nation, who found themselves in the territory of other state after the new arrangement of borders, became a national minority. In Slovakia it were districts mainly in the Southern and Eastern Slovakia, lying on the historical border of the two mentioned ethnic groups. In these places a specific, relatively independent ethnic unit was developed, which kept its nationality also in the new state. It was caused mainly because of the fact that in this area the Magyarization was implemented gradually from the 11th century, unlike in other parts of Slovakia where it was the result only of the short-term forceful policy, and it did not survived in the new state’s conditions. Despite the fact that the number of the Hungarians decreased after 1918 also in the southern parts of the country, after 1930 it was kept on the steady number of approx. 571000 persons. The last information about the number from 2001 speaks about 520528 citizens of Hungarian nationality.

It was already during the first Czechoslovak Republic when the Hungarian nationality citizens had cultural opportunities (schools in Hungarian, local libraries, magazines, Hungarian public houses, literary associations). The Csemadok association (Czehslovakiai Magyar Dolgozok Kultúregyesülete) started its existence in 1949, with the aim to take care of the general cultural awareness of the Hungarian minority in Czechoslovakia.  Its scope of work included lectures, concerts, educational seminars, amateur clubs, publishing of books and magazines etc.

As for the Hungarian performing art, there were various professional touring groups that survived even after some years after the creation of Czechoslovakia, and ceased only gradually. The Hungarian performing art kept its continuity in the form of amateur groups. At the end of the 1960s there were as many as 300 Hungarian amateur theatres. From the beginning of the second half of the 20th century the first professional theatres started to form.  From 1950 to 1959 there existed a small professional Hungarian group at the Village Theatre, which played throughout Slovakia. Already two years after the founding of this ensemble – in February 1952 – the Slovak Communist Party decided to found another professional Hungarian ensemble – The Hungarian District Theatre in Komárno (Magyar Területi Színház).  The Commission for Education appointed the Secretary of the Central Committee of Csemadok, István Fellegi, to establish and run the theatre.  It was officially founded on 1 October 1952 in Komárno. It occupied the quickly reconstructed building of the former Hungarian Young Men Association. This building was not suitable for the long-term activity of the theatre, however, it stayed there for more than twenty years. At the beginning of the 1970s the house was torn down because of a new quarter construction, and the theatre needed its new space. As there was not possible to think about a new building, the authorities with the theatre’s representatives decided to place the theatre to the recently constructed cultural and public centre. The building was to serve for the theatre as well as the Local Educational Centre. The proposal of a resolution regarding the increase of the budget says: “In its resolution from 31 August 1977, concerning the national minorities living in the Slovak Socialist Republic, the Government of the Slovak Socialist Party, dealt with the issue of the placement of the Local Educational Centre and appointed the Vice-President of the Slovak Socialist Republic’s Government and President of the Central Planning Commission, Minister of Culture and President of the Regional National Committee by the resolution No. 290 to deal with the issue of the  new cultural centre in Komárno in such a way to create a favourable conditions for the operation of the Local Educational Centre; the Council of the Regional Committee has discussed the resolution on 15 November 1977, and by its resolution No. 171 it increased the budget for the constructing of the cultural and public centre (…)”[Návrh na zvýšenie rozpočtového nákladu rozostavanej stavby  kultúrno-spoločenského strediska  v Komárne z roku 1983, archív Jókaiho divadla v Komárne]. The discussed cultural centre in Komárno was originally built as an institution for cultural and social needs of the town from October 1975, with the intended finishing of the construction in 1978. The plan was designed according the design of the Cultural House in the near-by village of Vojnice. However, after examining the project it was found out that after its finishing the new building would not fulfil the requirements needed from the permanent stage of the Hungarian theatre with the possibility that the place would be used also by other ensembles. For this reason the area of the object had to be enlarged.  Therefore, in 1977 the Committee, following its resolution No. 171, increased the budget to 39.8 million crowns.  During the time of examining the project the Artistic and Technical Committee of the Projecting Institute of Culture in Bratislava, as an advisory body of the Ministry of Culture, with the Slovak National Theatre evaluated the project again and suggested to increase the standard of the artistic decoration and theatrical equipment. This required increasing the amount of financial sources in 1984 to 55.9 million crowns.

The original project was developed by the District Construction Company in Komárno. It was authorized by the resolution of the Committee on 17 September 1974. The introductory project was designed by the general designer of the Kovoprojekt Bratislava , architect  Rudolf Blaško . It was approved by the Committee on 10 September 1975. But as the design did not meet the demands for the placement of the Hungarian District Theatre, the Stavoinvesta Bratislava developed another design according to which the Kovoprojekt (Rudolf Blaško) developed another design, approved on 23 October 1979. The interior design was ordered from the Slovak Foundation of Visual Arts in Bratislava in 1980, with the plan of finishing the work in November 1981. This date, however, was put off to 1984.  The authors of the project were Ladislav Kaffka, Kamil Martinkovič, Ján Žiška, Ján Valachovič, Jaroslav Kapusta and Dušan Dorotjak.

In 1979, i.e. the period of the developing of the new project, the object of Cultural and Public Centre was under the finishing construction works. The building itself was finished in 1982, including the roof above the stage and the auditorium. Although the first plans counted the construction would be finished at the end of 1981, this expectation shown to be too optimistic. The final date was constantly postponed, also because the interior design was not finished on time. In 1986 it was declared: “At the beginning of 1985 the regional and district bodies and constructing institutions made a great deal of effort to finish the work until the end of 1985. There were schedules and time plans

developed, including deliveries of supplies and process of constructing works, based on the socialist commitments which were to ensure an easy course of constructing works. However, in the first half of the year the works did not follow the time schedule because of some suppliers, and that influenced the works and supplies of the rest of the collaborators. (…) It was also declared that due to the undervaluation of the expenses for the interior, missing design and finances for the exterior and various additional works caused by changes and constructing adaptations, there are not financial sources in the budget of an amount of 17-18 million crowns. This problem is now being dealt with by the Western-Slovakian Regional Committee. It has to be said openly that the participating constructing companies did not face the fulfilling of their duties and commitments with full respect.” [Information about the constructing works on 20 January 1986]. The object was finished in 1987. It was opened in a typical way for the period: by ceremonial speeches of political leaders and by decorating the best workers and working teams. The cultural programme was taken care of by SĽUK (Slovak Folk Artistic Collective) and a group of dances and songs called Young Hearts. The first production was Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard and it was performed on 21 February 1987.

The constructing works were executed by the District Construction Company in Komárno. After the enlarging of the building in 1979 the main subsidy provider became Pozemné stavby from Nitra. On                 1 January 1983 the District National Committee – Cultural Department in Komárno became the investor. From 1983 it was replaced by Stavoinvesta Bratislava. Until the end of 1983 the works were executed in a volunteering form – volunteers, masons, carpenters and other workers were from departments of United Agricultural Collectives (JRD) and other state institutions. The original object was constructed as a two-storied building, in the stage part it had three storeys. In the centre of it the stage and the auditorium were placed. They were surrounded by a lounge and service rooms. On the front side of the stage there were dressing rooms and offices. The additional enlargement included one-storey building  where staff rooms, a library and café were situated.

The function of the Cultural and Social Centre was to bring eventful cultural and educational activity, mainly of theatrical character.  Among the productions of the Hungarian District Theatre there were planned to be presented other Slovak theatres and theatres from abroad. Opera, operetta and ballet were to be given significant space. The institution intended to organize concerts, celebrations, competitions and exhibitions.

The estate on which the building was constructed lied on the margin of the centre, close to the main road to Hungary, which was being constructed at that time. Te plan was to build a new administrative centre; in the neighbourhood there already stood the building of the District Department of the Slovak Communist Party. The complex character, based mainly on functionally and formally different objects (a water station from 1902, Service House, Industrial School), and also the existence of the main road with the crossroads close to the new building, were quite serious issues to deal with in the urbanistic and architectonic design of the shape of the theatre. By its lengthwise axis the building is oriented to the southeast – northeast direction. Its northeast facade is oriented towards the main road. The entrance facade faces the Industrial School, separated only by the local road connecting the centre of the town and the crossroad of the mentioned main road. The predisposition of the place predetermined the resulting architectonic shape of the building. By its exterior material mixture – the contrast of dynamic areas and plastic forms with the plain flat areas – the building was intended to connect different materials of the neighbouring buildings.

It is the object with one underground and two aboveground storeys above which there stands the construction of the stage flyloft. The back – southeast part of the theatre is shaped as a plain rectangular cube, whereas the entrance – northwest part of the theatre works with the dynamic play of conventionally rounded volumes. These protruding rounded forms of staircases and rehearsal rooms as if associated the nearby supporting walls of the Komárno fortress. The roof is flat.

The similar motif of the concave curve appears also on two sidewalls of the two-storied construction of the stage, which gives the building the dynamics also when looking on the side facade. The originally intended covering of the outer walls by the white Spiš travertine was replaced by the Yugoslav MALIJAT marble. In the front part regular, in the side and the back part irregular areas of window openings are filled with the dark BRONZ-GLASS glass. The rhythm of the high narrow window areas on the back and sidewalls helps to balance the otherwise quite horizontally looking building. The construction is made of armoured concrete with a brick coat. As the town of Komárno lies on a tectonically active plate and belongs to the seismic area, the building is constructed on a monolithic basic belt based on the layer of sand and grit.

 The ground plan of the building is shaped as a rectangular made of rounded materials, mainly in the front part of the building. The official entrance is situated on the front, the entrance in the back leads to the administrative part of the building. The central part inside the building is shaped as a rectangular theatre hall. In the front of it there is a spacious foyer where there are the staircases leading to the first floor, waiting room with the box office, a big and small assembly room. All of the named spaces, except for the small assembly room, are adjoined to the foyer in the form of protruding convexly rounded materials. Two staircases lead from the foyer to the cloakroom, situated in the basement under the auditorium.  On the perimeter of the hall there is a narrow corridor with offices, dressing rooms and operating rooms. The first floor was designed in a similar way. The snack bar is connected to the foyer, with the lounge and gallery.  The narrow corridor surrounding the theatre hall leads to the offices and dressing rooms. The representative rooms (entrance, cloakrooms, waiting rooms, staircases and the floor) are covered by white marble. The floor is covered with a carpet. The carpet is used also in operating rooms and the walls of the connecting corridor around the theatre hall. The entrances into particular rooms are decorated from the outer side by architraves and header joists.

The representative rooms are decorated by metal elements on ceilings and staircases, and textile, stone and bronze artworks.  The authors of the visual design are architects Ladislav Kaffka, Kamil Martinkovič, Ján Žiška, Ján Valachovič, Jaroslav Kapusta and Dušan Dorotjak. The author of the plastic named Thalia in the main foyer in Tibor Bartfay, the tapestry in the foyer on the first floor is by Peter Mester, the stone reliefs on the back wall of the snack bar are made by Tibor Kavecký. The author of actors’ lounge is painter Pavol Bley. The information system was designed by Peter Gandl and Ladislav Kaffka.

The theatre hall is quite simple, the seats are placed in parallel rows. There is no balcony. The sidewalls and the back wall are covered by wood in order to provide good acoustic, and for the same reason the ceiling consists of a hanging construction of mutually overlapping wooden boards. There are 400 seats in the auditorium. The exterior design is not as generous as it was intended in the first place. Originally a fountain was designed with an amphitheatre seats around, with an anti-noise wall and a glass lightning plastic in front of the main entrance. Today there is a bronze statue named The Farewell to the Stage by Peter Gáspár placed in the front of the main entrance.

 

 

Literature, Sources:

Zvara, Juraj: Maďarská menšina na Slovensku po roku  1945, Nakladateľstvo Epocha, Bratislava, 1969, 224s.

Kulisszák – a Komáromi Jókai Színház lapja, vydalo Jóakiho divadlo v Komárne a Slovenské národné múzeum – Múzeum  kultúry Maďarov na Slovensku, Bratislava, 2002.

Cesnaková –Michalcová, Milena: Premeny divadla, (Inonárodné divadlá  na Slovensku  do roku  1918), Veda. Vydavateľstvo Slovenskej akadémie vied, Bratislava 1981, 292s.

Hizsnyan, Géza: Maďarské divadelníctvo na Slovensku in: Fazekas József, Hunčík Péter (ed.): Maďari na Slovensku (1984-2004). Súhrnná správa. Od zmeny režimu po vstup do Európskej únie, Fórum inštitút  pre výskum  menšín, Šamorín 2008, ISBN 978-80-89249-16-9, s. 475-481, [online], cit. 28.6.2010,  sprístupnené na: http://www.foruminst.sk/publ/magy/5/magyszlovban_5_geza-hizsnyan.pdf.

Szabó Viktor: Školská politika v národnostnej otázke uhorských vlád v období dualizmu, zborník 2. študentskej vedeckej konferencie, konanej na Filozofickej fakulte Prešovskej univerzity v Prešove, 4.5.2006., s. 287-292. [online], cit. 28.6.2010, sprístupnené na http://www.pulib.sk/elpub2/FF/Slancova1/sekcia%20historie%20a%20politologie/2svk06_szabo.pdf.

Dokumenty o priebehu výstavby budovy Kultúrno-spoločenského strediska a Maďarského oblastného divadla v Komárne, Archív Jókaiho divadla v Komárne

 

 

Author: Viera Dlhánová

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