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Divadlo Jonáša Záborského - historická budova

alias Slovenské divadlo, Mestské divadlo
history of the theatresupplementtechnical dataHistoric equipment

Important events

(detail)28.3.1881 | opening


The theatrical life in Prešov started to develop already in the second half of the 17th century when schools of two most important supporters of theatrical activity of that period – the Protestants and the Catholics – were established. At the Protestant College in the middle of the century theatre plays were presented quite often. It was mainly  because of the relations of Prešov teachers with Jan Amos Komenský – a Czech pedagogue, an advocate of innovations in the methods of teaching and a supporter of theatre in schools, who in 1650 – 1654 worked in nearby Sárospatak.  The college theatre was successful also after 1672 when the college was taken over by the Jesuits.  We are not informed about the existence of the theatre hall, but considering the fact that the Protestants built their first theatre hall in Bratislava as early as the middle of the 17th century and Jesuits in 1692 (Trnava), the existence of an independent theatre hall in the second half of the 17th century is supposed to be also in Prešov. Although, the stage is mentioned, there is no reference to its size or equipment.

At the beginning of the 19th century theatre companies performed in the Klobušický’s palace, and it is possible that there was an independent room reserved for theatre performances also in Ján Splényi’s manor house, rebuilt in the 1770s gaining the more representative form.

From 1834 theatre artists in Prešov could work in a new stone building, built in the courtyard of the Black Eagle pub. The theatre was built according to the design by Anton Bretterbauer as a chamber theatre with 46 seats and some boxes.

However, the intense social and cultural life in the last third of the 19th century required more room, and thoughts about a new theatre appeared.  The most active group was Széchényi’s Circle (Széchényi kor) – a cultural league which from its founding in 1878 cared for spreading out cultural and educational ideas in the town. Its activities also included organizing theatre performances. The municipal council did not have objections against the idea of building the new theatre house, but there were not enough money for the execution. At the end of the 18th century there were plans to rebuild the Black Eagle into a modern hotel with a restaurant, and it was expected that a theatre function would be included.

The pub was in the house of Tomáš Cascher who sold it to the town in 1561. The next year it was adapted into the pub. During the 19th century social gatherings were organized here, and it also served as a ridotto, until the real one was built in the courtyard of the pub in the 1840s.

There exist design plans of the renovation of the Tomáš Martinczy’s  pub from 1792, and from the 19th century there are another plans of the enlargement of the building by Peter Jacob and Karol Benkó. Most probably, none of these plans were ever executed.  Only in 1878 the municipal council appointed Košice’s architect Michal Repaszky (executor of the Košice Theatre) in order to develop projects of the renovation of the pub into the hotel and the restaurant and café. He was asked to make two versions of the task, the first one with the theatre space added, the second one without it. The building itself shows it was a difficult decision.

The former Black Eagle pub was situated in a build-up area on Hlavná Street on the eastern side of the square. Repaszky could use four medieval parcels where two houses and the pub stood at that time. Only the external walls remained of the houses, and the original passage leading to the courtyard. The inside disposition division was radically changed, except for some tracts.

The preserved renovation plans can help us to create a more thorough idea about the intended form of the pub. The mentioned passage leading to the courtyard, situated in the middle of the front wall, divided the house into two halves. In the northern part of it there was the restaurant, café and a game room, on the floor there was the hotel. The southern side was reserved for the theatre. It was entered from the front facade through three entrances leading to the central hall, enclosed from sides by a couple of staircases leading to the boxes upstairs. The staircases were accessible also from outside. From the hall there was an access to the parterre of the horseshoe-shaped auditorium surrounded by boxes. The stage was of the same length as the auditorium, they were divided by a portal.  Behind the stage there was a lateral corridor with dressing rooms for actors. On the eastern side there was a room for carriages, accessible from the courtyard. Probably already during the reconstruction there were a few changes made in the design. One of them was the bordering of the passage by a couple of pillars. The inside design is the result of the collaboration of many specialists. The interior was designed by Repaszky’s partner Ján Török, who was also the master builder. Mór Horowitz was the author of the decorations of the auditorium and entrance rooms, which in a reduced form imitated the decoration of the Folk Theatre in Budapest. The author of the decoratively-figural composition with the mythological motifs on the original curtain was Arpád Feszty. It was created in 1881. Today it is replaced by another one and there are no signs about its existence. The stage equipment was constructed according to the plans by Juraj Galó, a stage manager of the Folk Theatre in Budapest, the author of the stage decoration was the visual designer of the Budapest Folk Theatre Mór Lechmann, and the author of the upholstery was Kilian Deckert.  The theatre had 183 seats, 32 boxes and 58 seats on the balcony. The theatre could roof as many as 700 visitors at one time (according to the Magyar  Szinmuvészeti  lexikon,  Budapest 1929) .

The construction was executed by the Alexander Gróf and Július Feszty construction company. The construction works were controlled by the construction commission consisting of its members Andrej Furman, Dr. Július Schmidt, Štefan Jelenik – Almássy, Gejza Kyss and Albert Kubinyi. The opening ceremony took place for three days, from 26 to 28 March 1881.

During the next 40 years the theatre was used mostly by Hungarian or German companies.  Regular Slovak performances started to be held here only after 1918. At the beginning it were local amateur ensembles, in 1944 a professional ensemble started to perform here, called the Slovak Theatre, in 1945 renamed to the Jonáš Záborský Theatre. During this period the building underwent several refurbishments and reconstructions. In the almanac of Széchenyi’s Circle from 1904 there is a note that the theatre was reconstructed the previous year.  Its reason and volume is not known, but it could have been connected with the great fire of Prešov in 1887 which probably destroyed the theatre. In 1908 a partial reconstruction of the dressing rooms took place.  In 1943 the theatre was closed for its bad technical state and it was reconstructed. During the reconstruction the decoration of the auditorium was changed, the central beam between the seats was torn down, the number of seats increased to 502, the boxes were transformed, the orchestra pit was constructed etc.  In the 1950s a new entrance portico was added to the street-situated wall. The portico led to the theatre part of the building and connected all three entrances and replaced the original design of two pilasters (architect Brezina). The original design is today preserved on the opposing side. In 1976 the decoration of the auditorium was renewed.  The figural elements of the ceiling composition as well as the whole decorative part were repainted. Prešov theatre artists played in the theatre until 1990 when a new building was finished and the old one was closed for its bad state. The other objects of the theatre were rented for commercial purposes. It took four years to find the way of how to keep the old theatre for its original purpose. Eventually, an idea occurred in the National Theatre Centre in Bratislava - to create a National Theatre Museum in two adjacent houses during the reconstruction.  In 1994 - 2001 a large reconstruction took place, led by architect Štefan Mitro of the Prešov DESIGN STUDIO s.r.o.. The plans were to reconstruct the theatre hall and the backstage for the use of touring groups, on the floors and attic of the adjacent houses the mentioned museum was to be built. In the ground floor a café was planned. In the area new buildings were to be constructed, i.e. Elizabethan Theatre (in the courtyard) and a technical house for specialized departments of the museum. However, financial reasons reduced the planned reconstruction. Despite this fact, seven paintings from the ceiling above the auditorium and the foyer on the first floor were reconstructed. All the balustrades on the boxes, decoration of the ceiling, except for the paintings, and the head of the pillar were replaced by copies due to their bad state.  The stage portal was given a new harlequin which resembled the original one. The iron perofarted grate in the end of the ceiling was replaced by a new shape. The theatre got also new technical equipment which met the modern needs. In its entrance rooms, corridors and staircases objects of theatre theme were exhibited.

The building of the theatre is situated in the built-up area which borders the central square from one side. A common three-storied, 11-axis wall connects the theatre and two other objects of the original pub with a centrally placed passage. The position of the passage is accentuated by a slightly protruding buttress on the ground floor, bordered by a couple of pillars bearing the balcony on the first floor, and by the more decorated central axis of the facade. The floors are separated by cordon stringcourse, the renaissance light-weight principle was applied in the upward direction. The ground floor is divided by large, semicircular rounded window and door openings, the area of the wall is divided by a bossage.  The remotest entrance into the object no. 46 is accentuated by a couple of shallow pilasters, the passage is in the central axis accentuated by the mentioned balcony with the pillars, and the entrance to the theatre is accentuated by a shallow three-axis buttress. The first and second floors have their walls divided by a shallow rustication, whereas the roughly worked bossage is seen even on the first floor on the corner of the building and on the borders of the central buttress. The first floor windows are of a simple rectangular shape and are bordered by narrow architrave pillars   with cantilevers holding segment gavels above the upper window capping. The windows on the third floor have a shape of grouped small windows with semicircular ends, the central pillar, blind circular cut-out above it and a couple of shallow pilaster posts, which divide the windows. From under, a markedly protruding under-roof stringcourse is born by visible cantilever, from the above the wall ends in a lower  attic wall.  The saddle roof, covering all three objects, is visible only a little from the street. The entrance facade with its horizontality, principle of a gradual discharging of mass, form of the window openings and decorative design meets the style of the Neo-Renaissance. The theatre itself is situated on the southern side of the building. It is accessible through three entrances which lead to the entrance foyer – a rectangular hall with a cross elonged axis, from where three other entrances on the opposite side lead directly to the theatre hall. The entrances on sides of the room lead to the staircase, which is accessible also from the street.

The walls of the foyer are bordered by couples of pilasters on distinctive socles, which bear the stringcourse which is interrupted in the place of entrances by semicircular cut-outs above them. Another stringcourse divides the passage between the wall and the ceiling.

From the foyer there are some grades leading to the hall. The auditorium has a semicircular shape, discharged parterre is bordered by three floors with balconies, divided into independent boxes, except for the central part.  The balconies on all the floors are born by subtle columns. The capping of the columns is decorated differently on every floor, same like the balconies’ balustrades. The portal dividing the auditorium from the stage ends in entablature in the form of an attic wall, born by a couple of cantilevers, which altogether create the saddle end of the portal cut-out. In the centre of the entablature there is an empty medallion, bordered by a couple of female figures, the area of cantilever is covered by cartouches with the coat-of-arms of the Šariš region on one side and the town coat-of-arms of king Ferdinand on the other. Under the coat-of-arms there are  stucco mascarones. The decoration of the portal includes the copy of harlequin decorated by ornamented and illusionary drapery. The ceiling above the auditorium is decorated by seven paintings with mythological themes, placed into semicircular cut-outs around the oculus which bears the chandelier.  The whole composition is anchored into a central circle, which is in its empty areas decorated.

The representative rooms include the foyer of representative boxes on the first floor. Same as the foyer on the ground floor, it is a rectangular area with cross axis, whose walls are divided by couples of shallow pilasters bearing the stringcourse.

Literature and sources:

DLOUHÝ Oleg, PETRÁNSKA Darina:   Rekonštrukcia Divadla Jonáša Záborského v Prešove, zost. Oleg Dlouhý, [CD ROM], Divadelný ústav Bratislava 2003, ISBN-80-88987-41-5.

PETRANSKÁ, Darina: Obnova starého divadla v Prešove, in: Pamiatky a múzeá. - roč. 51, 2002, č. 1, s. 26-31.

PETRANSKÁ, Darina: Historická budova divadla v Prešove,  in: Pamiatky a múzeá. ročník 54,2005,č. 4, s. 24-28.

LACIKA, Ivan:Pozvánka do unikátneho divadla, in: Kormorán, ročník 5, 2003, č.4, s.28-31.

CESNAKOVÁ – MICHALCOVÁ, Milena:Z divadelných počiatkov  na Slovensku, Národné divadelné centrum Bratislava1997, ISBN 80-85455-29-3, 180 strán.

Národné pamiatkové a krajinárske centrum. Slovenský  pamiatkový ústav Bratislava.  Krajské  stredisko  Prešov:  Zámer a zásady  pre  reštaurovanie,  Prešov -  Hlavná ul. č. 50, Historická  divadelná budova /výzdoba  hľadiska  a foyer  pred  reprezentačnými  lóžami 1. balkóna/, Vypracovala Darina  Petranská,  Prešov,  december  1996-január 1997.  




Author: Viera Dlhánová

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