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Municipal Theatre of K. H. Mácha Litoměřice

Josef Gaube

alias Town Theatre (1822 - 1945)
history of the theatresupplementtechnical dataHistoric equipment

Important events

(detail)18.12.1822 | Grand opening
A new classicist building of a theatre was built accroding the design by Josef Gaube. The official opening of the theatre took place on 18 December 1822.
(detail)1923 | extension and reconstruction
This reconstruction mainly involved the expansion of the theatre building into Gebhard street. As a result, the gap between the north-west buttress and the protuberant western part of the east wing of the building was filled. The new oblong wing attached to the western façade was partially used as a storage room, and partially as a foyer for the visitors with standing tickets who filled the space at the back of the auditorium.
(detail)1936 | Design
The town representatives considered the reconstruction of the  theatre. The already existing building was to be expanded and elevated according to somewhat cumbersome modernist plan drafted by the architects Balla and Epstein. It has been never implemented.
(detail)1945 | Damage
In 1945, the building was destroyed in an air raid – the ceiling in four rooms collapsed and the stage equipment was destroyed.
(detail)1969 | Closure
Theatre was closed down due to emergency conditions. The town council commissioned the State Institute for Reconstruction of Ancient Cities and Monuments (SÚRPMO) to carry out a huge reconstruction project, which was never implemented due to high cost. The project of the company Transfera had a similar fate and the theatre continued to dilapidate. Another project  prepared by the company Theatre Services remained unrealized.
(detail)1991 | Reopening

The reconstruction of the theatre started in 1989 and was completed in 1991.  The theatre was re-opened on 18 December 1991, on the 169th anniversary of the first performance, with the play written by Květa Legátova Heaven for everyone.


People

History

The first theatre activities in Litoměřicích can be traced back to the year 1549 when the Municipal School of Utraquists, which now has its seat in Jezuitska street, raised its status to an institute of higher education – an academe. The students of the academe organized the very first theatre performance in Litoměřice. For example, historical records mention a play entitled Resurrection of the Lord which the students rehearsed with help of the president of the academe Andreas Lucianus. Another important performance mentioned in historical records was the „beautiful dramatic scene“ performed at the inauguration of the first bishop of Litoměřice Maxmiliána Rudolfa Šlejnice on 19 May 1656 by the Jesuits and their students. The performance took place in front of the reeve’s house of Litoměřice Šimon Petr Aulik from Třebenice.

After 1654, the Jesuits started to build a new academe in Litoměřice a part which was a well-equipped theatre. Several Czech and German plays were performed in this building by The Company of Vincence Karl Antong in 1787 - at a time the religious order of Jesuits was abolished. However, the owner of this theatre group was not successful in his attempt to set up a stage in 1789. In 1821, the Jesuit theatre was closed down for reconstruction. In the meantime, the performances took place in a town house built in Renaissance style “U zlatého bažanta”. Shortly after that, in 1822, a new classicist building of a theatre was built on the site of a former military cornloft at the back of the King’s Castle (today no. 12). It was designed by Josef Gaube, an architect from Litoměřice, who influenced the architecture in Litoměřice with his classicist realizations in fairly significant way. For example, he built several houses with a monumental front face on a square Mírovém náměstí in the town’s centre. The construction of the theatre was made possible by a loan in the amount of 1 200 golden coins granted to the town by the first regional commissioner in Litoměřice František Serafínský from Menschegen. By 1835, the loan was repaid from the proceeds from theatre performances. However, the official opening of the theatre took place before that, on 18 December 1822. The first reconstruction work in the building was carried out in 1836. The design of six boxes, which were originally separated only by planed boards, was improved. Shortly after, in 1842, another four boxes were added. Franz Tichy, who was the director of the theatre in the period from 1906 to 1910, managed to push through some investment for the safety of the theatre – for example, the iron curtain and the emergency exits from the boxes and the orchestra pit to the Gebhard street.

In 1913, The Society for the support of Litoměřice attempted to initiate the construction of a new theatre building. However, this initiative was affected by the outbreak of the First World War. The idea re-emerged in 1921 when it was adopted as a part of the agenda of the German Theatre Society. In 1923, the town representatives decided to give financial support for an urgent reconstruction of the already existing theatre. This reconstruction mainly involved the expansion of the theatre building into Gebhard street. As a result, the gap between the north-west buttress and the protuberant western part of the east wing of the building was filled. The new oblong wing attached to the western façade was partially used as a storage room, and partially as a foyer for the visitors with standing tickets who filled the space at the back of the auditorium. The main theatre entrance was from Gebhard street through the main buttress of the building. The 500-seat auditorium was accessed through an entrance situated between the two main flights stairs leading to the circle and upper circle. From 1929, the main theatre entrance was situated in the newly built annex building in the adjacent courtyard.

In 1932, a Czech theatre was newly built in the hall of the National House and started competing with the German theatre. According to the local Czech newspapers, the Czech theatre satisfied the needs of modern drama production better than the German theatre. This instigated the Germans in Litoměřice who then wanted to improve the old theatre building. As documented in the never implemented plans from 1936, the town representatives really considered the reconstruction of the German theatre. The already existing building was to be expanded and elevated according to somewhat cumbersome modernist plan drafted by the architects Balla and Epstein. For example, the whole annex building was to be used as a new back stage. Although the plans to modernize the theatre were thwarted by the outbreak of the Second World War, some reconstruction work went on even during the war. For example, the theatre was provided with a perfect lighting system. In 1945, the building was destroyed in an air raid – the ceiling in four rooms collapsed and the stage equipment was destroyed.

In 1949, the auditorium had a capacity of 310 seats; there was probably no standing room. Emergency repairs of fire safety equipment and electrical wiring system took place in 1951; after that, the building was no more invested into. The situation escalated in 1969 when the theatre was closed down due to emergency conditions. After that, the town council commissioned the State Institute for Reconstruction of Ancient Cities and Monuments (SÚRPMO) to carry out a huge reconstruction project, which was never implemented due to high cost. The project of the company Transfera had a similar fate and the theatre continued to dilapidate. In 1979, the north wall of the south castle wing collapsed and a new project was drafted – this time prepared by the company Theatre Services. It took another ten years before the theatre building was really reconstructed.

The reconstruction of the theatre started in 1989 and was completed in 1991. Although the theatre was not destroyed in its foundations, substantial repairs were carried out in the courtyard where the ground-floor annex building was torn down and replaced by an oblong porch, which is now used as an entrance in the eastern wing of the building. A new two-storey rectangular annex with purist design was attached to the eastern wall. The lowered ground floor of this annex building is now used as the main entrance lobby for the adjacent stage. The original roof truss was replaced by a new one, whereby the original flyloft tower with saddle roof was also demolished. The stalls were adjusted to achieve a better visibility, so that the rows are now descending and the bottom part of the stalls is situated below the ground-floor level. The circle and upper circle were replaced by new structures, which basically copied the original shape (with the exception of convex-concave deflection in the middle of the back part and the design of the parapet). The orchestra pit and the adjacent ground-floor boxes disappeared. Also, the designers also re-designed the stucco decoration in the auditorium. The theatre was re-opened on 18 December 1991, on the 169th anniversary of the first performance, with the play written by Květa Legátova Heaven for everyone.

Present state:

From the first opening until 1945, the theatre was called The Municipal Theatre. After that, it adopted the name of the theatre hall of the National House in Litomeřice - The Theatre of Karel Hynek Mácha which has been used up to now. The building is situated in the built-up area; it faces Machovy schody street (former Gebhard street) in the west, and the bulwark in the south. The main entrance into the building is located in the adjacent courtyard. The floor plan of the main theatre building has a rectangular shape with slant south-side. Presumably, the floor plan originally copied the town rampart. The annex building in the south also copies the same shape. There is a service building attached to the main building in the south-west. The front face of the theatre has got an austere design. This is due to the fact that the theatre is situated in a closed-off block of houses. Only a side buttress with hipped roof, which used to be used as the main entrance, stands out of the street line in front of the neighbouring house. One of the main features of the western façade is the ground-floor quoins; others include the window sill and the principal moulding. The cresting of the crown entablature which divides the plastic square frames is also remarkable. There is also an extension in the middle of the façade which was built at a later stage. It fills out the space between the north buttress and the jut of the south wing and is partially covered by an extension of the hipped roof of the main building and partially by a roof terrace with walled balustrade.

The rampart façade in the south is shaped by a stand-out annex the triaxial façade of which is divided by bossed blind arcades. The hexaxial and heptaxial façades in the courtyard are designed in spirit of the purist reconstruction from the late 1980s and are divided by oblong window opening with simple chambranles. The east wing of the building houses an entrance lobby with cloakrooms and facilities. From there one enters the modern oblong annex building which copies the oblong axe of the stage and auditorium. The main lobby on the ground floor of the annex building provides the access to the auditorium; the rooms on the first floor of the annex building are used as a foyer. The upper circle and dress circle can be accessed through a staircase adjacent to the back wall of the auditorium. The auditorium is designed in spirit of conservationist reconstruction of the late 1980s. It has a rectangular shape with rounded corners on the north side. There are no boxes; the dress circle and upper circle are supported by pillars with simple profiled capitals. Brick parapets are decorated by stucco frames and floral decoration which supposed to evoke the period of the establishment of the theatre. The space is lit by a standard glass chandelier hung from a flat stucco ceiling. The rows with seats are also standardized.

 

 

Sources and Literature:

- Okresní archiv Litoměřice , fond Městské divadlo Litoměřice – stavební dokumentace

- Archiv stavebního úřadu MěÚ Litoměřice, stavební dokumentace Divadla K.H. Máchy, č.p. 3 Litoměřické listy , 17.října 1931, č.42, s. 2-4

- Ankert, Heinrich : Das Stadttheater in Leitmeritz, in: Veröffentlichungen der Leitmeritzer heimatkundlichen Arbeitsgemeinschaft - 100 Jahre Leitmeritzer Stadttheater, Litoměřice 1922, s. 1-12.

- Javorin, Alfred: Divadla a divadelní sály v českých krajích, Praha 1949, s. 107-109.-+Reml, L.- Líbal, D.- Muk, J. Litoměřice- architektonické a urbanistické zhodnocení historického jádra SÚRPMO Praha,1985, s.148-149

- Hilmera, Jiří: Česká divadelní architektura , Praha 1999, s. 20.

- Doskočil, Oldřich: Z dějin litoměřického divadla a divadelnictví, Litoměřice 2002, s. 13- 21,38,99-108.

 

 

Tags: Austrian Empire, Classicism, terraced house

 

Author: Ludmila Hůrková

Translator: Zdislava Kratěnová

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