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Costanza e Fortezza

Giuseppe Galli da Bibiena

history of the theatresupplementtechnical dataHistoric equipment

Important events

(detail)X.8.1723 | opening

People

(detail)Giuseppe Galli da Bibiena |main architect
Stage sets. IN: Hammitzsch, Martin: Der moderne Theaterbau. 1904 p. 144 - 148 More theatres

History

The Emperor Charles VI. arrived to Prague in August 1723 to have himself coroneted the Czech King. His visit was associated with a number of spectacular ceremonies among which a grand performance of opera “Constanza e Forteza” took an important place. Austrian composer JOHANN JOSEFUS FUX composed this work for the occasion and had a large open theatre GIUSEPPE GALLI-BIBIENA built just for this purpose across Deer Moat in a close vicinity of the Castle Riding School. The whole construction took about 40/120 m area, clearance of the stage portal was almost 20m and total depth of the stage was almost 70 m.

In contrast to interior theatres where system of stage boxes had been then used since the second half of the 17th century, Bibiena went back in this project of the Prague Castle theatre to examples from the turn of the 17th century: auditorium was shaped as a spacious lyre ground plan based amphitheatre which was crowned with a pillar gallery above the last row, a pit remained clear mainly for standing or strolling spectators. The Imperial couple had their armchairs under a baldachin on an elevated platform positioned in the pit’s axes.

The design of the stage had its specific features as well. The stage designer utilized practically unrestricted space conditions of an open area; at the same time he would adapt his technique to given options of an open-space stage. Naturally, otherwise mostly for a variety of effects used fly loft was not utilized. A construction of popular flying machines had thus to be eliminated – hence deities would enter the plot from the trap room and a river flow would be depicted with dry means or they would enter the scene using decorations which would arrive from the depth of the stage into the stage centre where opening themselves into some kind of a three-fold altar. It was also impossible to close the background of the stage with traditional backdrops. However, an into the depth segmented system of large posts was applied which could be used to either close the previous scene by side sliding motion or open a new sight of a previously secretly changed decoration. Prompt side and opposite prompt side would also be changed in an atypical and previously unknown way: by gradually swinging back on side hinges – like book pages. Generous space options were also used for the scene’s ground plan qualities and its decorations dimensions. The acting area of the Prague Castle stage did not use a typical trapezoidal ground plan of Baroque scenes. The trapezoidal ground plan and also a use of gradual diminishing of decorations were typically used for enhancing a perspective depth effect.

The Prague Castle stage was shaped into a prolonged rectangular ground plan; and with its constant width obviously the height of the props remained the same towards the back of the scene and even the large ensemble scenes in the back area were realized among life-size decorations. Finally, even the stage portal was formed only by two side towers with bizarre cupolas carrying open loggias for two separated trumpeters bodies. Those would effectively in a “stereophonic” way assert themselves in polyphonically composed overture – and probably also in the hymnal closure of the opera. 

 

 

Sources and literature:

- Jiří Hilmera, Costanza e Fortezza: Několik poznatků k scénografii barokního divadla, Divadlo 9, 1958, n. 4, p. 258266

- Jiří Hilmera, Costanza e Fortezza, Giuseppe Galli-Bibiena und das Barocktheater in Böhmen, Maske und Kothurn 10, 1964, p. 396–407

- Jiří Hilmera, Perspektivní scéna 17. a 18. století v Čechách, Praha 1965, p. 38–42

- Jiří Hilmera, Česká divadelní architektura, Praha 1999, p. 10–14; phot. 1–2

- Jana Spáčilová – Štěpán Vácha, New Insights into the Performance of Fux᾽s Opera Costanza e Fortezza in Prague in 1723, Music in Art: International Journal of Music Iconography 34, 2009, n. 1–2, p. 44–72

– Štěpán Vácha, Pražské divadlo pro operu Costanza e Fortezza (1723) v kontextu evropské divadelní architektury 17.–18. století, Divadelní revue 20, 2009, n. 1, p. 13–31 [online: http://host.divadlo.cz/revue/pdf/2009_1/013-017_Vacha.pdf]

– Štěpán Vácha et al., Karel VI. & Alžběta Kristýna: Česká korunovace 1723, Praha–Litomyšl 2009, esp. pp. 133–172 a 441–449

– Štěpán Vácha, The Theatre Built for the Opera Costanza e Fortezza in Prague in 1723: Reconstruction of Its Space, Typology of the Structure and its Inspirational Sources, in Jiří Bláha – Pavel Slavko (eds.), The World of Baroque Theatre: A Compilation of Essays from the Český Krumlov Conferences 2007, 2008 and 2009 / Svět barokního divadla: Sborník přednášek z konferencí v Českém Krumlově 2007, 2008 a 2009, Český Krumlov 2010, p. 179–186

 

 

Tags: Baroque, Habsburg monarchy

 

Author: Jiří Hilmera

Translator: Hana Atcheson

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