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Town Theatre

Lorenzo Sacchetti

alias Schauspielhaus
history of the theatresupplementtechnical dataHistoric equipment

Important events

(detail)1832 | opening
The theatre was built according to the design by Italian stage designer and architect Lorenzo Saccheti and it had a capacity of 650 -800 spectators and it was opened in December 1832. Mainly German theatre troupes were performed here, but already the first season in 1832–1833 witnessed Czech language.
(detail)1863 | reconstruction
Larger building adjustments of the theatre took place in 1863 and the building was enlarged by the purchased neighbouring house in 1867. After Czechs had won in municipal elections in 1868, the theatre was assigned for six years exclusively for Czech productions to the association, led by Pavel Švanda of Semčice. German association Deutscher Theaterverein built up promptlytheir own theatre in 1868–1869 with disbursement of 170 000 Guldens according to the design of Prague architect Josef Niklas with a capacity of 875–1 000 spectators.
(detail)1902 | closure



The first mentions about theatre activity in Pilsen date back to the end of 18th century where performances were staged in the inn  „U bílé růže“ at the main square.  Further German plays were staged in inns U zlatého orla, U arcivévody, U Říhů and in the Grand Hall of the town hall. The first amateur actors' performance in Czech, about which we are informed, took place in 1818 thanks to the initiative of gymnasium professor J. V. Sedláček in the Grand Hall in the town hall. Famous Josef Kajetán Tyl performed here with Hilmar's company in the season 1829 - 30.


Mr. Martin Kopecký became a burgomaster in 1828 and he developed in his office the intent of making the city thrive to reach an European class.  He had the middle age fortification be torn down and he hoped that thermal springs would be used for spa treatment.  Among the necessities that would secure this vision belong the theatre as well.  For that the burgomaster started searching a convenient place for it.  The municipal house named "Stift" seemed to be a suitable location, positioned between the town hall and church of st. Bartholomew, but after the conversion begun, this object turned out to be unusable and it was subsequently pulled down in 1829.  Pilsen had less than 10 000 inhabitants in this period but it started growing wider and the city liberated itself from the embrace of medieval fortifications.  Because of that, the space was released at the end of the present day Rieger Street at the location by Blind Gate where the new theatre was eventually positioned.  The construction was carried out by municipal builder and land surveyor František Filaus to the design by Lorenzo Sachetti who was also the scenery painter for the Estates Theatre in Prague.


The construction was financed from collections and financial donations from townsmen with participation of the city.  Individual townsmen pledged to supply building material.  From this sources, the walls were built up to the roof, but the lack of funding  provided no optimistic perspective for conclusion of construction works.   For that burgomaster Kopecký arranged a deal with townsmen with brewing right that they take over the construction and its further funding.  The interiors cost 24 000 Guldens.  The theatre management and operation was taken over as well.  The whole agreement was confirmed by land government.  The ceremonial opening took place on 12th November of 1832.


The first municipal theatre in Pilsen used to stand at the corner of the Rieger Street and Sady Pětatřicátníků.  It was built in the Classicist style with expressional means of classic Doric style.  It had the capacity for 650 to 800 spectators and although it was small, according to the period reports,  it was very representative for the conditions of that time at the same time. Its north entrance elevation was oriented towards the present day Rieger Street and it was flanked by massive pilasters with rusticwork.  The volume of the elevation between them was broken by an opened anteroom, raised by five stairs, behind two monumental fluted Doric columns.  Those were topped with an entablature with a frieze with triglyphs and a triangular gable that carried the inscription "Seria est vita hilaris est ars“ ( The life serious, but the art is joyful). There were three entrances in the vestibule, from which the central one was embellished by a lintel label and by an ornament of a fanwise shape. A smooth side elevation of the theatre topped by a Doric frieze with triglyphs and cornice was also flanked by two outer pilasters and by other two, which were separated from the outer ones by a window bay.  The space in the central field between inner pilasters was filled by three windows with pediments.


There were three entrances behind the vestibule, from which two led to the seating in the stalls.  The entrances flanked a grand box inside, where the third entrance led to.  The auditorium was of a square plan with a side of 13,2 meters with a semicircular rear wall.  There were 5 boxes in the stalls behind the rows of seats and a gallery in the first and second circle above it.  The auditorium walls were embellished by paintings by Lorenzo Sachetti who also created a large number of original set pieces.  The hall was lit by a chandelier with 24 Argand lamps.   The stage and the orchestra pit were 17,06 metres deep and 13,2 metres wide.  There were 5 rows of flats at the stage being located roughly 2 metres from each other. The theatre was heated by two stoves - at the stage and auditorium and that caused that the spectators close to the stove were unbearably hot whereas those in large distance were considerably cold.  Two rooms in the adjacent house were rented to be dressing rooms.  There was a yard behind the theatre where a storeroom was built.


The plays were usually performed in German.  An exception was the production of Czech amateur actors.  The emperor Francis I. saw a ceremonial performance here in 1833 as well.  At first, the owner of the theatre were the townsmen with brewing right, but it was transferred back to the city in 1857.  It occurred after a dispute arose between both sides concerning contracting out theatre seasons to various directors of theatre companies, hereupon intendants were appointed by the city into the theatre.  The city council decided in 1863 that the theatre should be reconstructed after 30 years of operation without any remodelling.   Under the supervision of builder Václav Daniel, uncomfortable stairs into boxes and galleries were remodelled.  Now the two side entrances in the entrance elevation led into the dress circle on the left and into upper circle on the right.  The central entrance led into the stalls in the auditorium.  A vestibule was set up behind the main entrance being 5,6 metres wide and 3,7 metres long with the ceiling articulated by 6 coffers.  Above the vestibule, a lounge was set up in the first floor and a storeroom in the second floor.  Below in the basement, there was a stove, from where heat lines were conducted into the auditorium.  The auditorium was enlarged by the width of the orchestra pit, which moved further into the previous stage area.  The dress circle supported by thin eight cast-iron columns was now composed of nine boxes separated by partitions.  There were other nine boxes in the upper circle and two rows of seats behind them and further a gallery with standing rooms.  The proscenium arch was bricked instead of the previous wooden construction with cloth.  Now the proscenium arch measured 7 meters in width and 8 meters in height.  The theatre was also provided with a new curtain, which was a reproduction of the painting Phoebus and  Aurora by Guido Reni and which was painted by František Sequens.   


The municipality bought the neighbouring house for the needs of the theatre background in 1867.  Czechs won the municipal election in 1868 and with the majority at the town hall, they rented the municipal theatre for a six year period to Pavel Švanda of Semčice.  So the Germans in the city were deprived of their theatre and they responded by establishing the German Theatre Association (Deutscher Theaterverein), which had its own new theatre be built in the Goethe Street.


Minor remodelling was carried out in the theatre in 1869 and in 1887. During which the central box in the parterre was divided by the central entrance and a new emergency exit from the corridor was built that led into the rusticated pilaster in the side elevation.  The painting in the auditorium by Lorenzo Saccheti was overpainted in 1887.  The area was covered by two fields framed in stucco.   The first one copying the width of the orchestra pit contained a long rectangle with a circular medallion in its centre.  Two squares below and above it were embellished by a palette ( a representation of painting) and a globe and book ( representation of science).   The second one delimited by the curvature of the balcony and orchestra pit carried an ellipsoidal medallion in its centre and was framed in garlands. 


At the end of the 19th century, Pilsen had five times more inhabitants than it used to have at its beginning and so this theatre ceased to be suitable for representative and comfort requirements, technical equipment, space and hygiene as well.  The old theatre was torn down in 1902 after a more representative theatre building was erected to the design by Antonín  Balšánek somewhere else.  The location of the former theatre is today occupied by the building of Commercial and Trade Chamber (the present day West Bohemia University in Pilsen).


Sources and literature: 



ŠTĚPÁNEK, Vladimír. 90 let stálého českého divadla v Plzni. 1. vyd. V Plzni: Krajské nakladatelství, [1955]. 51 s., [16] s. obr. příl.


PORT, Jan. O budově starého plzeňského divadla. In: Plzeňsko: list pro národopis a ochranu památek. Plzeň: Kroužek přátel starožitností, X, 1928.  1919-1936,1992-[1998].


VIKTORA, Viktor a FICTUMOVÁ, Zdeňka. Divadelní tradice Plzně od 19. století do současnosti: Průvodce výstavou. Plzeň: Státní vědecká knihovna, 1983. 32 s.


Kultura, historie a současnost Plzně: referáty přednesené na konferenci k 700. výročí založení Plzně v sekci literární a jazykové: Plzeň 3.-4. května 1995. Vyd. 1. Plzeň: Západočeská univerzita, Pedagogická fakulta, 1996. 180 s.


FILAUS, Frantz. Pilsens Schauspielhaus. S. 29 – In: Uiber die günstigen Verhältnisse der k. Kreisstadt Pilsen im Königreiche Böhmen. Praha, 1837 Dostupné z: https://books.google.sk/books/about/Pilsens_g%C3%BCnstige_Verh%C3%A4ltnisse_u_dessen.html?id=OP2omwEACAAJ&redir_esc=y


MAZNÝ, Petr et al. Plzeň 1880-1935. Vyd. 1. Plzeň: Petr Flachs, 1999. 113 s. Starý most. ISBN 80-238-4630-2.


SCHIEBL, Jaroslav. České divadlo v Plzni. V Plzni: J. Schiebl, 1902. 88 s.





Author: Jan Purkert

Translator: Jan Purkert

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