Prague’s State Opera to reopen after three-year renovation

Photo: archive of National Theatre

The extensive renovation of Prague’s historic State Opera building has been completed. The building should re-open its door to the public on January 5, exactly 132 years after its first inauguration, with a special show, including a gala concert presenting key moments of its history.

Photo: archive of National Theatre

Photo: archive of National Theatre
The historical State Opera in Prague, which stands next to the Federal Assembly building just off Wenceslas Square, first opened its doors to the public in 1888 as a German stage with a performance of Wagner’s opera The Mastersingers of Nuremburg.

With its spacious auditorium and neo-Rococo interior, the theatre is considered one of the finest in Europe. However, with the last thorough renovation taking place at the turn of the 1970s, it had been in bad state of disrepair for decades.

The renovation works finally got underway in the spring of 2017. On Sunday, the construction company Hochtief officially handed over the renovated building to the management of the National Theatre.

Initially budgeted at 900 million crowns, the final cost rose to 1.3 billion crowns. According to head of National Theatre, Jan Burian, the building has been furnished with state-of-the-art technologies.

New curtain,  photo: archive of National Theatre
“We have managed, with some difficulties, to equip the 18th century building with 21st century technology, which all future productions will benefit from.

“We also struggled with the air-conditioning system, which required us to add an extra storey to the building.”

Following the reconstruction, the stage elements will be automated and run from a central computer, while all of the more than 1,000 seats will feature touchscreen displays offering surtitles in several languages.

Mr Burian says the main aim of the reconstruction was to restore the main hall of the opera building as closely as possible to its former glory.

It involved expert restorers, who cleaned all the frescoes and paintings on the ceilings and replaced the old vinyl wallpapers in the theatre boxes with textile ones.

The main stage of the opera has been fitted with a new curtain, created by scenic designer Martin Černý. The curtain, which took him two years to make, is based on the original one, created by Eduard Veith:

“It is a copy based on a black-and white photograph of the original curtain, which mysteriously disappeared in 1945. Many people have since been searching for it, but to no avail.

Photo: Martina Schneibergová
“The curtain pictures a poet, who is travelling around the world, finding inspiration in people’s vices and virtues. He then writes a story to be performed on the opera’s stage.”

The first rehearsals are set to take place in the renovated State Opera building already before the end of the year.

The new curtain will first be raised on January 5, with a gala concert presenting the key moments of the building’s history.

The special show marking the re-opening of Prague’s State Opera will also include a video-mapping on the façade of the building.