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North Bohemian Theatre of Opera and Ballet Ústí nad Labem

Alexander Graf

alias Stadttheater Aussig, Town Theatre in Ústí nad Labem(1945- 1948), the Slovanic Theatre of Beneš and Stalin (May,June 1945), the State Theatre of Zdeněk Nejedlý (1948- 1993)
history of the theatresupplementtechnical dataHistoric equipment

Important events

(detail)1906 | Competition
A competition was announced at the end of the year 1906 with only architects of German nationality allowed to participate. 42 proposals in all were submitted by the closing of the competition, with the commission choosing 12 for the second round of the competition. The highest evaluated was the project of Rudolf Krausz with the second being awarded to the architectural office of Fellner and Helmer and the third going to the design of Friedrich Kick. The design of Alexandr Graf was originally chosen as a substitute.
(detail)1906 | Selection of project
On the occasion of the second session of the commission,  the jury decided to choose from the range of projects, for example, the progressive design by Rudolf Bitzan as well as the more moderate design by Alexandr Graf, the latter of which submitted a project to the commission for a building with a modern reinforced concrete construction carried out, however, in the conservative Neo-Baroque style.
(detail)1909 | Opening

The laying of the foundation stone occurred on the 30th of March of the year 1908 with the building completed in the summer of the year 1909. The first ceremonial performance took place on the 21st of September 1909 with the play Sappho by Franz Grillparzer.


(detail)1934 | Reconstruction
The first adaptations to the theatre occurred in the year1934 with the introduction of more advanced light technology and an automated heating system.
(detail)1967 | Reconstruction

The replacement of the seats in the auditorium and the gradual enlarging of the parterre was carried out. The interior paintings and gilding were also renewed. The management of the theatre at that time pushed through the construction of a costume storage area. The partial renewal of the façades and roofs also took place.


(detail)1993 | Reopening

The theatre was reopened with a performance of Smetana's Bartered Bride on the 8th of October 1993.


(detail)80. 's 20. century | Reconstruction
A particularly catastrophic situation regarding the building led in the year 1984 to further reconstruction work according to a design by the group of architects of the Regional Architectural Institute led by Rudolf Berger. Work on the new annex to the theatre at the southern side of the historical building was begun in the year 1987.

People

(detail)Alexander Graf |main architect

A co-worker of the atelier Fellner and Helmer. He employed the proven Renaissance-Baroque style as was usual in the atelier Fellner and Helmer in most of the small city theatres he built in various parts of the monarchy. By the other buildings, he did not take great delight in experimenting  as the buildings have the form of the Italian or German Renaissance and are ornamented with Baroque motifs.

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(detail)Rudolf Bergr |architect

He was working most of his carrier in Krajský projektový ústav. He left the job in 1991 and founded his private atelier.

Source:

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(detail)Josef Zasche |architect - participant of the competition

A prominent architect of the Art Nouveau and Modernism styles was of German background, studied a technical college in Liberec and then architecture at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna by professor Karl von Hasenauer. After his return to Bohemia, he designed the Feast of the Cross Church for the Old Catholic Church in 1902-1903 in his hometown that is one of the most important sacral buildings in the Art Nouveau style in the Czech Republic. He became one of the few architects of the German nationality who acquired important contracts in Prague in the interwar period. He designed an array of palace buildings and villas. He participated on realization of the Palace of Viennese Bank Union Na Příkopech in 1906-1908, cooperated with Pavel Janák on the construction of a palace of an insurance company Riunione Adriatica di Sicurtà  – Palác Adria on the  Národní Avenue (1922-1925), designed villas in Bubeneč. Zasche was respected by the members of the Czech Avant-garde, which protested against his resettlement after the World War II that was eventually implemented.

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Heinrich Karl Ried |architect - participant of the competition
Oskar Strnad |architect - participant of the competition
(detail)Rudolf Krausz |architect - participant of the competition

Worked in atelier Hellemer and Fellner, favoring the style of Baroque revival architecture in early period  , in course of time shifting to Functionalism. 

Source:

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Ferdinand Fellner |architect - participant of the competition
(detail)Hermann Helmer |architect - participant of the competition
The phenomenon of the architects Fellner and Helmer would be difficult to capture with only one building. Their work consisted of continual, although somewhat stereotypical, work in terms of style. They placed a great emphasis on achieving the technical-operational needs of theatre buildings. They created a large number of theatres (mainly national theatres) in Central Europe - Austria, Croatia, Romania, the Czech Republic, etc.More theatres

Friedrich Kick |architect - participant of the competition
(detail)Rudolf Bitzan |architect - participant of the competition

German architect , who was working in Freiburg , later in Dresden and since 1903 constructed among other family houses in North Bohemia .

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Franz Krauß |architect - participant of the competition
(detail)Otto March |jury member
erman architect, he became Regierungsbaumeister (Official or Government Architect) in Berlin from 1878, and was responsible for several Government buildings, theatres, and private houses (he also built up a prosperous practice). The Municipal Theatre, Worms (1889–90), had hefty structural forms, and the Neue Friedrichstrasse Store, Berlin (1895), with its three-storey bays of iron and glass, anticipated work by Gropius. His private houses usually had steep roofs, projecting bays, and a plan grouped around a double-height hall: the best examples were the Landhaus Vörster, Cologne (1891–4—where English influences were pronounced), Landhaus Holtz, Eisenach (1892–4), and Twin House, Villenkolonie, Grünewald, Berlin (1892–4). He also designed the Schillertheater, Charlottenburg (c.1895), and the Siemens Residence, Potsdam (c.1900). Read more: http://www.answers.com/topic/otto-march#ixzz2fEbVA3FkMore theatres

Karel Götze |jury member
Petr Menš |painter
(detail)Eduard Felix Veith |painter

He belongs among representatives of Realism of the end of 19th century. It is possible to find his frescoes or paintings in Bucharest, Paris, Berlin, Vienna, but in Ostrava, Prague, Łańcut, Brno and Nový Jičín as well. He created a painted curtain and eight ceiling paintings in Prague German Theatre (today’s State opera). He also participated on interior decoration of theatres in Ostrava, Brno, Berlin, Vienna or Prague Rudolfinum.

In: http://www.amaterskedivadlo.cz/main.php?data=opona&id=151

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(detail)Stanislav Hanzík |sculptor

Sculptor, author of the bronze sculptural group “Youth” and “Girl´s secret”, inserted in the fountains that were designed by J. Fragner in vicinity of the House of Culture in Ostrava.

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History

Ústí nad Labem gradually became the centre of the chemical industry in the second half of the 19th century. The town grew rapidly with the social demands of the growing and prospering inhabitants beginning to gradually increase. The town council decided to construct a town theatre at the end of the 19th century. Soon after they found a plot of land for the building according to a recommendation by the Viennese architect Hermann Helmer. It was a locale in the centre of the town between the main post office and the school on the site of a filled in pond at the western front of today's Lidické Square. A theatre commission was established for the construction of the theatre which was consequently renamed in the year 1903 to the Theatre Construction Association. Its main task was to gradually obtain the needed finances in which it was fairly successful. They were able to accumulate one hundred thousand Austrian crowns over the course of a year and obtain the commitment of financial assistance from the Association for Chemical and Metallurgy Production, the town savings bank and the town brewery.

In the year 1906 the town council reached an agreement as to the size of the theatre with a capacity for 700 to 800 people. One of the most significant requirements was the emphasis on a sufficient number of inexpensive seats and fewer loges with a reference to the industrial character of the town. They also had to keep in mind a solution to the problem of the narrow construction plot, respecting the neighbouring already standing structures and the height level.

A competition was announced at the end of the year 1906 with only architects of German nationality allowed to participate. 42 proposals in all were submitted by the closing of the competition, with the commission choosing 12 for the second round of the competition. The highest evaluated was the project of Rudolf Krausz with the second being awarded to the architectural office of Fellner and Helmer and the third going to the design of Friedrich Kick. The design of Alexandr Graf was originally chosen as a substitute.

On the occasion of the second session of the commission, with the participation of, for example, the theatre architect Otto March as well as the Ústí town architect Karel Götze,  the jury decided to choose from the range of projects. These included, for example, the progressive design by Rudolf Bitzan as well as the more moderate design by Alexandr Graf, the latter of which submitted a project to the commission for a building with a modern reinforced concrete construction carried out, however, in the conservative Neo-Baroque style. The jury particularly valued the quality and balanced, in terms of layout, design with a well-thought out communication and safety system in both the auditorium and stage parts.

Alexandr Graf already had at that time experience with theatre space which he had acquired on the one hand at the studio of Fellner and Helmer where he had worked over the years 1881-1888 as well as through his co-operation with Franz von Krausz  on the occasion of the construction of the Vienna Jubilee Theatre (Kaiserjubiläms-Stadttheater, today's Volksoper – 1898). The theatre in Znojmo (1899-1900) is also his work. Shortly prior tot the construction of the Ústí theatre, the City Theatre in Ostrava was completed, particularly close in terms of its conception to the one in Ústí. The author tended to reject Historicism, although not completely in the case of the realization of the theatre in nearby Most (1910-1911).

The commission for the construction of the theatre was obtained by the Ústí company of  Alwin Köhler which initiated work in the spring of the year 1908. The laying of the foundation stone occurred on the 30th of March of the year 1908 with the building completed in the summer of the year 1909. The first ceremonial performance took place on the 21st of September 1909 with the play Sappho by Franz Grillparzer.

The first adaptations to the theatre occurred in the year1934 with the introduction of more advanced light technology and an automated heating system. During the second world war the metal sculptural work of Pegasus and Genius disappeared from the roof of the theatre.

More extensive reconstruction took place in the year 1967, with the replacement of the seats in the auditorium and the gradual enlarging of the parterre. In all probability the connection and unification of the amphitheatre space of the gallery and balcony also took place at the same time. The interior paintings and gilding were also renewed. The management of the theatre at that time pushed through the construction of a costume storage area. The partial renewal of the façades and roofs also took place.

A particularly catastrophic situation regarding the building led in the year 1984 to further reconstruction work according to a design by the group of architects of the Regional Architectural Institute led by Rudolf Berger. The renewal also concerned both the interior and exterior of the building, the modernisation of the stage, lighting and audio-visual technology. Work on the new annex to the theatre at the southern side of the historical building was begun in the year 1987 and is presently connected with the original building through a glazed neck section. The first part was, however, only realized involving the original practice room for the ballet, the practice room for the opera troupe, and a television studio. The theatre was reopened with a performance of Smetana's Bartered Bride on the 8th of October 1993.

The original name Stadttheater Aussig was renamed to the Slovanic Theatre of Beneš and Stalin for six weeks after the liberation of Ústí on the  8th of May 1945 only to have the management return to the name of the Town Theatre in Ústí nad Labem. On the 16th of June 1948 on the occasion of the visit of the Minister of Schooling and National Education the theatre was once again renamed to the State Theatre of Zdeněk Nejedlý. From the year 1993 the building bore the name Town Theatre in Ústí nad Labem with today's name being the North Bohemian Theatre of Opera and Ballet.

 

Present state:

The theatre is a free standing building facing out on with its main eastern façade on Lidické Square. It can be divided in terms of its ground plan into the eastern part with the entrance bay, the auditorium part and the somewhat narrower western part with the stage. The entire mass of the building is covered by a system of Mansard roofs.

The body of the rounded bay with the entrance portico, jutting out in front of the main eastern façade modelled with marked belt rustic work, serves to create a terrace on the first floor with metal railings and candelabras supplemented by a pair of amoretti. The first floor of the bay is articulated by a three part balcony window with a  window-head cornice decorated with horizontally developing cartouche upon which sits a half-circular thermal window with a mascaron at the top. The windows are framed by two high and in the bottom third fluted pilasters with Neo-Classical capitals bearing up a markedly profiled main cornice. The rounded corners of the bay are articulated on the ground floor by the side entrance while French windows lead to the balcony on the first floor supported by huge corbels. The monumental character of the façade  is additionally supported by the high windows of the side axes framed by pilasters bearing up decorative window-heads. The central axis of the bay culminates in a gable in the form of a polygonal cartouche between two vases.

The main modelling elements of both eight-windowed side façades are, first and foremost, the protruding staircase structures at the 1st, 7th, and 11th axes with a huge portal with side entrances. The rich stucco décor here makes primary use of vegetative motifs with the first signs of Art Nouveau expressiveness in terms of the style. The rear (western) façade is articulated on the ground floor by a large portal with double-leafed doors leading directly to the stage.

A diagonal staircase leads, from the vestibule with a transverse shaped octagonal ground plan, to the balcony, consequently leading further to the gallery at a slanted angle. This, along with the two side staircases on the level of the auditorium and the stage, serve to confirm the jury's praising of the quality accessibility system in the theatre. The appearance of the ceiling in the vestibule of the foyer of  the theatre reflects the reinforced concrete construction of the building. The foyer, repeating the lay out shape of the vestibule, contains a flat ceiling softened by side cavetti. 

The spaces are decorated with Neo-Baroque stucco, gilded décor which contrasts with the geometric form of the metal light fixtures. The unified, in terms of composition, interior of the auditorium is based upon a horseshoe-shaped ground plan with the balcony and gallery designed in an amphitheatre form. Its spaces are at present unified both visually and in terms of communication. The side and proscenium loges on the level of the balcony and the gallery have rounded parapets with stucco décor in the form of shells with the central three always connected by a shared parapet, undivided by a pillar but united by a shared portal, tracing on the level of the gallery the shape of the vault lunettes.

The vaulting of the auditorium is designed with three fields. The first two from the stage, divided by vaulted belts, are in the shape of compressed arch. The vaulting of the circular ground plan above the gallery and balcony is enhanced by the stucco mirror in the centre with the main chandelier and ray-like stucco belts, terminating at the base with two pairs of female hermes.

The entire space of the auditorium contains rich gilded stucco décor with the most predominant decorative motifs being shells with mascarons  and cartouche with geometric décor framed by vegetable ornamentation. The belts between the vaulting as well as the framing of the stage portal also bear evidence of gilded stucco, crowned at the top with cartouche with the town coat-of-arms of Ústí.

The original iron curtain was decorated with ornamental belts. The first painted curtain has been replaced at the present day by a curtain with a motif on the theme of Commédia dell´arte by the painter Petr Menš. The ceiling painting on the theme of the hard-working nature of the Ústí citizens ('Gewerbefleiβ Aussigs') is the work of Eduard Veit. After the year 1993 the interior of the building was enriched by statues of Bedřich Smetana and Antonín Dvořák by Stanislav Hanzík.

Sources and Literature:

- Městský archiv v Ústí nad Labem, fond Městské divadlo, karton 617.

- Archiv stavebního úřadu MěÚ Ústí nad Labem, stavební dokumentace městského divadla, č.p. 1710

- Archiv  Severočeského divadla opery a baletu, Dehner Jan , Divadlo v Ústí po roce 1945

- Krob, Ernst : Das Theater als Bauproblem in: 1909-1934 25 Jahre Stadttheater Aussig  - Festschrift; Aussig 1934,s. 10-11.

- Javorin, Alfred: Divadla a divadelní sály v českých krajích; Praha 1949,s. 297-298.

- Peková, Jana - Trägrová, Jarmila: Severočeské profesionální divadlo 1945-1982; Ústí nad Labem 1987, s. 11-34.

- Eckelt, Gerda: Geschichte eines deutchen Theaters in Böhmen: nach Theaterberichte aus dem „Aussiger Tagblatt“von 1909-1944. Band  I.-III., Stuttgart 1992. Kaiser, Vladimír: Ústecké divadlo 1909-1992; Ústí nad Labem 1992, s. 10-25.

- Kaiser, Vladimír- Kaiserová Kristina (ed): Dějiny města Ústí nad Labem; Ústí nad Labem 1995,s . 189-195.

- Hilmera, Jiří: Ćeská divadelní architektura; Praha 1999, s.71-72.

- Źelezná, Eva:  Z dějin divadla v Ústí nad Labem, diplomová práce Univerzity Jana Evangelisty Turkyně, 1999.

- Páral, Matěj: Městské divadlo v Ústí nad Labem, seminární práce – ČVUT FA, 2000.

 

 

Tags: Neo-Baroque, Austria-Hungary, Fin de siècle, detached building, prestige building

 

Author: Ludmila Hůrková

Translator: David Livingstone

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