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Castle Theatre Hluboká nad Vltavou

history of the theatresupplementtechnical dataHistoric equipment

Important events

(detail)18. century | Reconstruction
The chateau in Hluboká nad Vltavou, originally a Gothic castle founded in the 13th century, was rebuilt in Baroque style during the reign of Adam František von Schwarzenberg in the period from 1707 to 1721.
(detail)19. century | Reconstruction

The prince Jan Adolf II von Schwarzenberg made the decision to start the reconstruction. The plans for the reconstruction were drafted by a Viennese architect Franz Beer. Although the reconstruction started in 1840 and the castle was ready to be inhabited in 1855, some of the finishing work delayed till 1871. After Beer left in 1857, the construction was managed and plans designed by the incipient of the Schwarzenberg building authority Damassus Deworetzky.


(detail)19. century | New theatre
The new theatre with the auditorium which has been preserved up to this day was built during the reconstruction of the castle in the Neo-Gothic style and is located on the first floor of the north-east wing of the castle between the chapel and the library.
(detail)1856 | Opening
The first performance in what was then most probably a barely equipped theatre took place probably in November 1856. Another performance is documented in October 1858 – Nestroy’s farce play Die schlimmen Buben in der Schule.
(detail)1926 | Closure
Later in 1926, the stage was definitely adapted to a children’s room. Until the first half of the 20th century, the auditorium of the old theatre was used as a storage room for various equipment. After the 1998 reconstruction, the theatre was included into the tour of the castle.

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History

The chateau in Hluboká nad Vltavou, originally a Gothic castle founded in the 13th century, was rebuilt in Baroque style during the reign of Adam František von Schwarzenberg in the period from 1707 to 1721. The current architecture of the castle was created during an extensive reconstruction in the English Gothic style. The prince Jan Adolf II von Schwarzenberg, influenced by his visit to England in 1835, made the decision to start the reconstruction (1799–1888). The plans for the reconstruction which transformed Hluboká into one of the most pompous aristocratic seats in Bohemia were drafted by a Viennese architect Franz Beer (1804–1861). Although the reconstruction started in 1840 and the castle was ready to be inhabited in 1855, some of the finishing work delayed till 1871. After Beer left in 1857, the construction was managed and plans designed by the incipient of the Schwarzenberg building authority Damassus Deworetzky (1816–1891).

The prince Josef Adam von Schwarzenberg (1722–1782) intended to build a theatre at Hluboká castle as early as in 1766, long before the completion of the theatre in Český Krumlov which remains preserved up to this day. The originally proposed old armoury seemed to be too small for these purposes, so did a storage room on the ground floor proposed by the painter Johann Wetschel, one of the designers of theatre decorations in Český Krumlov, during his visit in Hluboká in July 1767. More than 10 years later, by the end of July 1778, the prince decided to incorporate at least a small theatre on the second floor of the vertically positioned wing of the castle; between the first and the second courtyard – in “Musicians’ rooms’. The construction work was very fast and the first performance took place in August of the same year. The theatre decorations were painted by Karel Josef Micheri, a painter from Krumluv. His honorarium for two transformation scenes, eight sceneries, and a drop amounted to 95 gold coins. The only scenery described in historical records was that of a farmer’s yard with a barren. During the first period of the existence of the theatre, the costumes were borrowed from Krumlov theatre – a house stock of costumes was not established until later period. Not much is known about the oldest theatre and its architectural design. There was some carpentry work mentioned in records: the making of tables (perhaps for carrying props), one bench for musicians and fifteen other benches for the audience. A later note dated in 1838 mentions a theatre with a box, rattan ceiling and wooden floor. Performances took place there with some few breaks until 1830s; apart from this theatre, the Schwarzenbergs used a newly refurbished theatre hall in Libějovice castle from 1826.

The new theatre with the auditorium which has been preserved up to this day was built during the reconstruction of the castle in the Neo-Gothic style and is located on the first floor of the north-east wing of the castle between the chapel and the library. The process of reconstruction is documented mainly in the annual plans for the following year which show that the deadlines were often not met due to the lack of finance. The progress in building the theatre can therefore be assessed from these plans only in general. The theatre construction, its equipment, and the simultaneous reconstruction of the adjacent rooms lasted several years. The theatre is featured in the first Beer’s reconstruction plans dated in 1840s, however, it is not mentioned in the records of the actual construction until 1851. The previous theatre hall is mentioned in the records long before that – in July 1846, when the wall of the vestry, sacrarium, and a part of the old theatre was to be pulled down in connection with some reconstruction work in the chapel. Minutes from the meeting on the reconstruction dated in March 1851 state that the theatre should be rounded by using vaulted bricks; also, the necessity to break through the doors, lay the flooring, and deliver drawings to the carpenters is pointed out. The 1853 plan mentions the request for a drawing or an assignment for building a theatre box. (this point was later postponed to the following year). The 1855 plan includes the completion of the theatre and the adjacent halls with a cost estimate of 1 019 gold coins. Reports from the following years indicate that the theatre was not finished within that year. The budget for 1857 prepared by the painter Gläser, who also worked on other rooms in the castle at the beginning of 1850s, states that the theatre should have floral decoration which would cost 500 gold coins. In the 1858 preliminary plan, 308 gold coins were made available for establishing the theatre (however, the theatre is not mentioned in the list of work done signed by Deworetzky in October of that year). The 1859 budget for the theatre was 1 080 gold coins, including 600 gold coins for five sceneries. It is also apparent from the archive documents that the first performance in what was then most probably a barely equipped theatre took place as early as in November 1856. Another performance is documented in October 1858 – Nestroy’s farce play Die schlimmen Buben in der Schule. More performances took place in the following years in Hluboká – always during the autumn hunting season when the famous Hunter’s Ball took place as well. 

The inventory of the castle dated 1865 mentions a theatre with the dimensions of 45 fathoms with sound-board ceiling, an elevated seating area for nobility, five seats in the stalls, two cloakrooms – separate for ladies and for gentleman, some machine equipment and the painting on the ceiling and the walls. Minor reconstruction work was done also in the second half of 1860s. There is no known historical record of the theatre from the 1870s, so it is presumed that the space was no more used as a theatre by the end of the 19th century. What remains from the original theatre was only the auditorium with the curtain hanging in front of the stage closed-off by a wall. The plan to adapt the theatre for other purposes first came up in the 1912 construction plan which outlined 3 000 gold coins for the implementation. It was, however, most probably done later. In April 1919, the entire equipment of the stage was donated to Sokol in Hluboká. Later in 1926, the stage was definitely adapted to a children’s room. Until the first half of the 20th century, the auditorium of the old theatre was used as a storage room for various equipment. After the 1998 reconstruction, the theatre was included into the tour of the castle.

 

Present state:

The theatre is located in the north-east of the castle wing. The access to the theatre is from the hall which connects the castle library with the chapel. When going to the library we first pass the door of the box, the auditorium door, then another door of the former stage and the last door of a former cloakroom. The theatre was built in a oblong room with the dimensions 22,4×8,6 metres. The auditorium with a U-shaped floor plan is about 6 metres high, 9,2 metres long, and 8,6 metres wide. The semicircle at the back is filled with one-metre high stage which is separated from the rest of the auditorium by a corrugated wooden parapet. The access to this space, which was actually used as the box for the earl, is through a short staircase from the hall. There are five rows of wooden upholstered benches without backrests in the main part of the auditorium in front of the box. The ceiling, the walls of the auditorium and the stage portal are decorated with an illusive painting depicting a richly carved wooden gothic ribbing, as well as with cassette and floral decoration. The ceiling is painted with a large rose from which groins come out into the whole ceiling. The coats-of-arms of the noble families are located in the corners above the front part of the auditorium between the lobes: the coat-of-arms of the Schwarzenbers on the right, and the one of Liechtensteins on the left.  Identically carved groins run from the stripe under the ceiling towards the socle; the upper part of the fields outlined by the groins are filled with lobes. There are garlands on the lobes of the ceiling and walls. On the wall of the auditorium, the partition wall in the box and the foot of the proscenium, a small painted socle imitates wainscoting with carved gothic decorum. The auditorium as well as the proscenium was painted by Gläser most probably according to the proposal of Deworetzky. The year 1857, for which Gläser planned the painting in the above mentioned budget, is the first year of Deworetzky’s work for Hluboka. A sketch of the ceiling decoration, which was not signed, resembles other projects of Deworetzky and was filed in the castle archives till 1963.

The auditorium was lit up by seven gilded wooden candle sticks placed around its walls. There are two windows facing the second castle courtyard in the auditorium. A board placed on the edge of the proscenium shades the batten light which was most probably not adapted to be let down underneath the stage. The cover of the prompter’s box was also preserved. The opening of the stage portal has the following dimensions 3,7×4,6 metre and is about 0,7 metres deep. Side parts as well as the lintel of the stage portal are skewed in 45-degrees angle and so match with the skewed edges of the auditorium on the sides of stage wall. Painted wooden fillings on the stage portal match with the wall decoration. The curtain painted on a canvas coated with paper is lined with a white harlequin with yellow port and tufts. The curtain is framed by another red curtain hung down to the illusive painted floor. Behind the red curtain, there are coats-of-arms with parts of Schwarzenbers’ heraldry in a richly gilded acanthine frame: the original Schwarzenbergs’ coat-of-arms with vertical stripes in the upper part; the coat-of-arms of the Bavarian line of the family (a tower) on the left, the coat-of-arms of the Counts of Sulz on the right (red pikes); and the multiplication of the coat-of-arms from 1597 at the bottom (the head of a Turk pecked by a raven). The acanthine frame frames the main scene depicting an idyllic scenery with a small cottage – the view to the forester’s lodge in the shooting grounds of Stará Obora near Hluboká, which was built according to Deworetzky’s plans dated in the period from 1844 to 1845. The currently available archive documents do not mention the name of the painter of these decorations; nevertheless, it is obvious from the signature on the curtain and the attached date of 1858 that it was Johann Friedrich Stock (approx. 1800–1866), apparently the pupil of the Berlin painter and stage designer C. W. Gropius, a painter of romantic scenery and church interiors.

The rectangular stage has the dimensions of approx. 8 × 8.6 metres. Like in Český Krumlov, there were two square-shaped dressing rooms attached to the stage separated by a hall. One door from the adjacent hall led directly to the stage, another into one of the dressing rooms. Later adaptation to a children’s room respected this layout. The 4-meter deep dressing room is attached to the stage. The original cupboards from the theatre can still be found in this room. Not much is known about the technical stage facilities. In 1963, the today missing plan of the theatre drafted in the period of its construction was photographed in the castle archives. The plan was most probably drafted by Beer; it was only sketchy and later altered. It shows four sets of three openings for scenery or rifts parallel to the ramp, which made the replacement of three sets of scenery possible. Some information can be found in the inventory of the theatre equipment which was obtained by the amateur actors of Sokol in 1919: the property handed over to them included thirty sets of scenery, three windows, seven doors, ten soffits, three backing flats with rollers and pulleys, and the whole stage structure consisting of fifty-one pieces of wood and two ladders. It is obvious that the drops were reeled up on the rolls (like in the theatre in Mnichovo Hradiště). After all, the curtain which was preserved up to this day is still hanging on a massive roller. However, one cannot find any reliable information about the way the side scenery was being pushed or how the suffits were replaced.

 

Literature:

- Jiří Záloha, Zámecké divadlo v Hluboké nad Vltavou; Jihočeský sborník historický, roč. XLI, 1972, č. 3, s. 141–150.

- Jan Pömerl, Hluboká; Zprávy divadelního ústavu, roč. VI, 1995, č. 1 (leden–únor), s. 28–29.

- Jindřich Vybíral, Století dědiců a zakladatelů. Architektura jižních Čech v období historismu; Praha 1999.

- Pavel Zahradník & Karel Ksandr, Zámek Hluboká nad Vltavou, stavebně-historický průzkum, nepublikovaný strojopis; Praha 2003 (část 1 – Dějiny objektu, další části nenalezeny).

– Antonín Bartušek, Zámecká a školní divadla v českých zemích (ed. Jiří Bláha), České Budějovice 2010, s. 262–263

 

Tags: Austrian Empire, Castle theatre, Neo-Gothic

 

Author: Jiří Bláha

Translator: Zdislava Kratěnová

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