National Theatre celebrates its 125th birthday

Photo: Barbora Kmentová

Tuesday marks exactly 125 years since the opening of the National Theatre, one of the most important cultural institutions in the Czech Republic. The building was first opened in June 1881, but it was destroyed by fire and re-opened two years later, on the 18th of November 1883, to the sound of Bedřich Smetana’s Libuše. One year ago, the National Theatre launched an extensive renovation project; its first stage has just been completed. Earlier today, I asked the general director of the National Theatre, Ondřej Černý, to tell me what exactly was accomplished over the past 12 months.

National Theatre
“We have just completed the first stage of the renovation. This first part is very important because the so-called “triga” (three-horse chariot) on the roof of the National Theatre is in fact a symbol of the National Theatre and the National Theatre is a symbol of the national identity. So the reconstruction of the “triga” is important not only from the architectural point of view but also because of the symbolic point of view, too.”

You haven’t reconstructed only the statue but also the roof. Can you tell me something about that as well?

The triga
“Yes. The roof of the National Theatre is its dominant feature. When you are for example at the Prague Castle you can see the National Theatre thanks to its golden roof. It required quite a lot of money, about three million crowns, and quite a lot of gold, about two or three kilograms.”

This day marks the 125th anniversary of the opening of the National Theatre. How will you mark this event?

Photo: Barbora Kmentová
“We want to make a real celebration. We think that marking this anniversary is very important. We have prepared a number of small projects, for example a comic book for young people about the building of the National Theatre. We have a new DVD with the repertoire of the National Theatre from the beginning till today.”

The National Theatre opened to the tones of Libuše by Bedřich Smetana. Will it be heard today as well?

Photo: Barbora Kmentová
“No, we are performing Bedřich Smetana’s Bartered Bride instead because the performance of Libuše was quite old and we want to celebrate the anniversary with something new.”

The opening of the National Theatre was a very important moment in the Czech National Revival. What do you think is its role today?

“The National Theatre is very significant for connecting the past and present. Every day, when we perform, we can feel this connection to the past of the National Theatre and that of the Czech nation. I think that the idea behind the National Theatre is still living today and it is very important.”