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The Koper Theatre

history of the theatresupplementtechnical dataHistoric equipment

Important events

(detail)1647 | The first theatre building in Koper

In 1647 a public academic theatre appeared in the building owned by literary academy Accademia de` Risorti. The building was named Grison, and it was situated on Belvedere, in the northern end of the present-day Verdijeva ulica (Verdi Street).


(detail)18. century | The theatre was moved to it's present location
This happened around the mid-18th century.
(detail)1779 | Stage curtain was painted by Matteo Furlanetto

(detail)1907 | Dramski skup Istra (istria Dramatic Group) was established

(detail)1908 | Around 1908, the theatre building was closed down due to its bad state of repair

(detail)1930 | Around 1930 the theatre moved back to the present location

(detail)1943 | Closed down
In 1943, the building was requisited by German soldiers and turned into a weapons warehouse.
(detail)1948 | Renovation

(detail)22. 4. 1949 | Festively reopened
The event was marked by a mixed programme in Slovene, Italian and Croatian, whilst a day later the Slovene National Theatre from Ljubljana made a guest appearance with a performance of Hlapci (Serfs) by Ivan Cankar.
(detail)1954 | The professional Koper Theatre of Slovene Primorje was established

The Koper Theatre of Slovene Primorje was established by uniting the Slovene People’s Theatre founded 1951 in Koper and the Theatre for the Slovene Primorje Region, founded in 1950 in Postojna.


(detail)1985 | Renovation
The renovation was completed in 1987.
(detail)1. 1. 2001 | The professional Koper Theatre was re-established again

(detail)2008 | Thorough renovation
The plans for renovation were created by the architect Barbara Magušar.
(detail)25. 9. 2009 | The Koper Theatre was reopened

People

History

Theatrical life in Koper has a long tradition. In the late Middle Ages, under the influence of the nearby Venetia, the local aristocracy enjoyed a diverse cultural life. According to oral tradition, which has as yet been neither confirmed nor denied by historical research, there was a theatre stage in the town as early as in the 15th century. It is thought that it was initially in a building situated near the former main port, the square named after Carpaccio and the salt warehouse of St Mark, on the location of the present-day Hotel Koper. The building was even in the 19th century still known as Teatro Vecchio, i.e. The Old Theatre. In 1941, it had to be demolished as a new hotel complex was being constructed on the site. The old building can be seen in a drawing published in the book by Giuseppe Caprina L’Istria nobilissima from 1907; it was a corner building with a late Gothic mullioned window on the upper floor. Most likely the interior of a typical medieval residential building had been adapted for the staging of theatre performances. During demolition, the most interesting sections of the late Gothic windows and door frames were transferred to the Koper Museum.

 

The development of theatrical activities in Koper was connected with the growth of the literary academies. These enabled intellectuals, those involved in culture and aristocrats to socialise and gave them the opportunity to carry out various knightly and literary activities. The first academy of this kind in Koper was founded in 1478 and was called Compagnia della Calza. In 1553 it dropped its knightly character and turned into a true literary academy, changing its name into Accademia d'Desisosi. In 1557 it was reorganised once more and renamed as Accademia Palladiana. It staged theatre performances and cultivated philological discussions. In 1646 it changed its name yet again, this time to Accademia de` Risorti. In 1647 a public academic theatre appeared in the building named Grison on Belvedere, in the northern end of the present-day Verdijeva ulica (Verdi Street). Koper thus acquired the first theatre building on the territory of what is now the Republic of Slovenia, which is documented in written sources.

 

Around the mid-18th century the theatre was moved to its present location, into an adapted older medieval building south of the former theatre. The theatre acquired a fixed set and curtain, whilst lighting was provided by oil lamps. In 1779, Matteo Furlanetto painted the stage curtain and this remained in the building until after the Second World War, when it was supposedly moved to the Koper Museum, but later all traces of it were lost. The new theatre hosted guest appearances of theatre groups from the former Venetian Republic. The Koper theatre and events connected with it were until the late 18th century under the strong influence of Venice, which is understandable as the town was between 1279 and 1797 within the territory of the Venetian Republic. After Napoleon’s occupation of Venice the academy was abolished, but theatrical activities in Koper did not cease entirely. Later, the theatre’s name changed from Societa del Teatro (Theatrical Society) into Teatro Sociale (Social Theatre). Performances were staged in Italian and were aimed particularly at the nobility. Town people were able to watch performances only from the gallery, which was accessed via a special staircase, separated from the entrance for the aristocracy. In 1876, with the foundation of a Slovene reading society, began the development of theatre in the Slovene language. In 1907, under the auspices of the Slovene loan society, a few intellectuals founded the Dramski skup Istra (Istria Dramatic Group). The repertoire consisted of national awareness-raising plays and the group appeared wherever reading and educational societies sprang up. After the outbreak of the First World War the group ceased its activities and with the annexation of the area to Italy after the war all public cultural life in Slovene was extinguished.

 

Around 1908 the theatre building on Verdijeva ulica was closed down due to its bad state of repair. As there was not enough money for an extensive renovation, a temporary space within the complex of the former monastery of St Klara was turned into a theatre. This was used even after the First World War, when the building on Verdijeva ulica was at least provisionally renovated and again used for theatre performances. In 1935 the building changed hands: the ownership was transferred from the Koper municipality to the Italian Venetian loan institution from Verona (Instituti odi Credito delle Venezie di Verona), and in 1940 to an organisation called Dopolavora. The theatre remained active until Italy’s capitulation during the Second World War in September 1943. Then the building was occupied by German soldiers and turned into a weapons warehouse. Directly after the war, the building once more began to be used for theatre performances. In 1947, it was nationalised by the new Yugoslav authorities and in 1948 the management of the building was transferred to the film and photography company Globus. Between 1948 and 1949 it was renovated and on 22 April 1949 festively re-opened. The event was marked by a mixed programme in Slovene, Italian and Croatian, whilst a day later the Slovene National Theatre from Ljubljana made a guest appearance with a performance of Hlapci (Serfs) by Ivan Cankar. At that time, the theatre had 370 seats in the main auditorium and 200 in the small one. The latter was located parallel to the main auditorium and had its own street entrance. The stage in the main hall was 12 metres wide and 8 metres deep. As a result of the renovation, the building acquired six modern changing rooms, an ironing room and two bathrooms. However, a few basic shortcomings remained: the building had no heating or ventilation system, no side stage or  warehouse for sets, whilst the space for the orchestra below the stage was damp and uncomfortable.

 

In 1951 the Koper District People’s Committee, within the process of the creation of cultural establishments and institutions in Koper founded two semi-professional theatres: the Slovene People’s Theatre and Teatro del Popola Capodistria, which shared the premises in the theatre building on Verdijeva ulica. Because of the exodus of the Italian population after the annexation of Zone B of the Free Territory of Trieste to Yugoslavia in October 1954, the Italian theatre ceased to function. At the same time the Slovene People’s Theatre united with the Theatre for the Slovene Primorje Region, founded in 1950 in Postojna. The combined professional travelling theatre known under the name the Koper Theatre of Slovene Primorje, due to the altered importance of the Slovene coast after the annexation of Zone B to Yugoslavia, was given a base in the theatre building next to Verdijeva ulica in Koper, which for the first time in its history became the home of a professional theatre. This, however, did not last long: after three seasons, in 1957, the theatre group was on account of financial difficulties and for other reasons closed down. After this, the building was used for increasingly less frequent guest appearances. It was managed by an organisation involved in the staging of events in the Primorje region. After a thorough renovation between 1985 and 1987, the management was taken over by the Association of Cultural Organisations, which had its base there and was involved in the organisation of theatre guest appearances and the encouragement of amateur theatre.

 

In 2000, the Koper Municipality founded a public institution Gledališče Koper-Teatro Capodistria and thus, after four decades, again enabled professional theatrical activities in the Koper theatre building. Officially, the professional Koper theatre came into being on 1 January 2001.

 

The Koper theatre complex developed on the location of a number of medieval town houses north-west of the central town square and is thus a part of a string of buildings on the western side of Verdijeva ulica. The building has two main parts. The southern one houses the main auditorium with the stage on the west side, whilst the smaller northern part contains the small auditorium and auxiliary rooms plus changing rooms. The northern part is built on an irregular, narrow ground plan and its design shows signs of various alterations and the inclusion of older building structures. Most likely this part was added to the 18th century Baroque theatre building only in the 19th century or during the renovations between the two World Wars. The main auditorium has a rectangular ground plan, which until the last renovation maintained the basic Baroque design from the 18th century with the semi-circular finished series of boxes on three levels. The wooden construction of the boxes had already lost its decorative elements during previous renovations. Next to the auditorium on the east side there were two staircases with landings. Prior to the last renovation, there were 400 seats: 240 in the stalls and 160 in boxes. On the west side, the auditorium opens towards an equally wide stage with a rectangular floor plan. East of the auditorium, parallel to the main façade of the building there is a narrow corridor on three levels. The three-storey main façade is simple; it includes six window axes and, without a caesura, combines the northern and southern part of the building into a whole; the two main parts of the building are visible on the façade only by a slight disruption in the line of the building. During the renovation in the 1980s, the remnants of a Venetian-Gothic mullioned window were discovered and displayed to the public. The remains show that the theatre building appeared in the 18th century through the adaptation of a late medieval palace.

 

Between June 2008 and May 2009 the theatre building was thoroughly renovated as a part of attempts to culturally enliven the city centre. It was adapted to the requirements of a professional theatre. The plans were created by the company Investbiro Koper (architect Barbara Magušar) and the work carried out by the building company SGP Tehnik d.d. Škofja Loka, while supervision was by Proplus d.o.o. of Maribor. The total value of the work was Euro 3.4 million, of which 2.6 million was provided by the Koper municipality, 500,000 was donated by the Kingdom of Norway via a Norwegian financial mechanism, and 292,000 by the Republic of Slovenia. The goal of the renovation was to satisfy the needs of modern audiences. This included an acoustically and spatially improved auditorium, which also allowed access to people with special needs. The main auditorium prior to the adaptation did not meet modern standards regarding statics and fire safety, plus the visibility and audibility were not so good. Thus during the interior work the existing building with two auditoria and accompanying premises (changing rooms, make-up room, laundry room, sewing room) were thoroughly altered, whilst the new premises containing a large foyer and Oder Svetilnik (Lighthouse Stage) were created in the adjoining building on Verdijeva ulica 5. This stage is aimed at events for smaller audiences and chamber ensembles. The size of the building was not considerably altered and retained almost the same height as before. The main auditorium stage retained its size, but the sources of dampness underneath were dealt with. The wooden box construction on three levels was removed, as were two side staircases, and in the space with a rectangular floor plan acquired in this way, whilst preserving the three surrounding old walls, a fairly steeply inclined surface for the stalls was constructed in the shape of an amphitheatre with 257 seats, extending from the first floor level down towards the stage. A balcony with 54 seats was constructed and at the third floor level, a narrower balcony was added for projection equipment. New access points and vertical stair connections were created. The space between the auditorium and the stage was extended and a stone wall was replaced with a reinforced concrete construction. The auditorium was designed in red and black and acquired brand new seats, lights, curtains, floor covering and acoustic wall covering. New lighting and sound equipment was also added, as well as a stage manager’s booth and a booth for the director. Unfortunately, however, the renovation work completely erased the historical intimate Baroque design, which was after the destruction of the Baroque interiors of theatres in Idrija and Ptuj the last preserved theatre designed in this style in Slovenia. Other rooms in the building were also functionally rearranged and new connections between them were created. In the new roof space, new premises were constructed for the storage of costumes, a laundry room, a sewing room, a drying room and access to the rope and pulley system.

 

Sources and Literature

Stane Bernik, Organizem slovenskih obmorskih mest. Koper, Izola, Piran, Ljubljana 1968

Mario Bratina, Koprsko gledališko življenje, Dokumenti Slovenskega gledališkega in filmskega muzeja, letnik XX, št. 43, Ljubljana 1984 (the basic source of data for the history of Koper theatre activities)

Matjaž Briški, Iz zgodovine koprskih gledališč. 9. Poetičnost Mestnega odra Koper, Gledga, letnik 4, št. 2, april 2006, pp. 6–8

Giuseppe Caprin, L`Istria Nobilissima, Seconda parte, 1907, p. 10

Ilona Dolenc, Na nikogar ne bodo pozabili. Koper. Čeprav nekoliko zamuja, je obnova koprskega gledališča v polnem razmahu, Primorske novice, 23. 1. 2009, p. 9

Špela Klinar, Dramske in gledališke dejavnosti v prvem triletju, diplomsko delo, Koper 2004

Vladimir Kološa-Andrej Nared, Slovenska mesta skozi čas, Ljubljana 2005 (Publikacije Arhiva Republike Slovenije, Katalogi, Zvezek 23).

Branko Kraljevič, Gledališče Slovenskega primorja v Kopru 1954-1957. Pet režiserjev gostov, Koper 1977

Nives Krebelj, V Kopru se rojeva gledališče. Koprska občina ustanavlja poklicno gledališče, Primorske novice, 4. 7. 2000, p. 10

Nives Krebelj, Obnova po načrtih. Časa še pet mesecev. Koper, delavci na gradbišču gledališča ne mirujejo niti poleti, Primorske novice, 18. 8. 2008, p. 32

Zdenka Lovec, Vse je igra, Glasilo Gledališča Koper, št. 2, sezona 2001/02

Zdenka Lovec, Iz zgodovine koprskih gledališč. 7. Doba nastajanja in izginevanja, Gledga, letnik 3, št. 5, december 2005, pp. 13–14

Zdenka Lovec, Iz zgodovine koprskih gledališč. 8. Doba nastajanja in izginevanja, Gledga, letnik 4, št. 1, februar 2006, pp. 6–8

Zdenka Lovec, Iz zgodovine koprskih gledališč. 10. Obdobje amaterskih gledališč in skupin, Gledga, letnik 4, št. 3, junij 2006, pp. 8–10

Martina Mejak, Gledališče v Kopru v letih 1951–1957 z ozirom na tradicijo gledališke dejavnosti, diplomsko delo na Oddelku za zgodovino Filozofske fakultete Univerze v Ljubljani, Izola 2002

Vesna Mikolič, Gledališče končno obnovljeno, Primorske novice, 12. 8. 1986, p. 5

 Viktor Molka, s. v. Gledališke stavbe in prizorišča, Enciklopedija Slovenije, 3, Ljubljana 1989, p. 246

Odlok o ustanovitvi javnega zavoda Gledališče Koper = Decreto sulla fondazione dell'ente pubblico Teatro Capodistria, Uradne objave, 30. 10. 2000, pp. 153–156

Ercole Parenzan, Musica e teatro a Capodistria, Padova 2001, pp. 12, 102

Saša Pečelin Žagar, Idrijska gledališka stavba, diplomsko delo na Oddelku za umetnostno zgodovino Filozofske fakultete Univerze v Ljubljani, Ljubljana 2003, p. 9

Mario Perosa, Kontinuiteta v stanovanjski arhitekturi Istre, Koper 1998, pp. 186-196

Rosana Rijavec, Spomladi v Kopru z novo gledališko hišo. Gledališče v rdeče-črni preobleki bo, tako kot že pred prenovo, imelo 300 sedežev, Večer, 28. 1. 2009, p. 17

Lea-Odila Širok, Il teatro capodistriano nel settecento, Atti, vol. 27, 1997, pp. 529–579

Lea-Odila Širok, Koprsko gledališče v 18. stoletju, Annales. Series historia et sociologia, letnik 9, št. 1, 1999, pp. 207–230

Boris Šuligoj, Koper dobi gledališče, Delo, 14. 7. 2000, p. 6.

Boris Šuligoj, Gledališča v Kopru še niso začeli prenavljati, a je že veliko razprav o videzu. Inovativni prijemi in drugačne zamisli, Delo, 2. 4. 2008, p. 6.

Boris Šuligoj, Zamuda pri prenovi tudi zaradi statike in akustike, Namesto za kulturni bo Gledališče koper odprto za občinski praznik sredi maja. Na isti površini skoraj dvakrat več uporabne površine. Drugačna dvorana.  Delo, 23. 1. 2009, p. 10

Slobodan Valentinčič (ur.), Zbornik Primorske–50 let, Koper 1997, pp. 229–231

Mario Vesnaver, Il teatro Ristori di Capodistria, La Sveglia, št. 169, april 2008, p. 16

The older archive material relating to the Koper Theatre is kept by: The Koper Regional Archive, the Theatre of the Slovene Primorje, fund no. 160-161 (sorted material)

The documentation on the renovation of the theatre building between 1985 and 1987 is kept by the Piran branch of the Institute for the Protection of Cultural Heritage of Slovenia.

 

 

Author: Igor Sapač

Translator: Maja Visenjak Limon

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