The National Theatre is the main theatre stage in the Czech Republic, and it is also a place that is closely related to the cultural history of the country. The theatre was built thanks to the donations of many Czechs, to which the poorest villagers, as well as the Austrian-Hungarian Emperor contributed. The theatre is the bearer of national cultural heritage, and it also provides space for free artistic work. Its traditional repertoire includes Czech classic authors.
Today, the National Theatre is formed by several companies based in various buildings in the centre of Prague. The National Theatre stages can be found in the historical building of the National Theatre on the embankment near the Charles Bridge, The New Stage, adjacent to the historical building, in the Prague Estates Theatre, in the Kolowrat Theatre, and in the building of the State Opera near St. Wenceslas Square. All the ensembles choose their repertoire from the legacy of Czech classic authors and they also focus on modern world authors.
Tours of the historical buildingThe Prague Information Service provides weekend tours of the buildings of the National Theatre during the summer tourist season. The tour will take you to the foundation stones, on the stage and to the main foyer where you can admire the works of leading Czech artists of the end of the 19th century, when the building was built.
The history of the theatre building
The national fundraising for the construction of the theatre was commenced in 1851 and a few years later, the place and the chief architect, who designed the building in the late north-Italian Renaissance style, were chosen. The National Theatre first opened in 1881 on the occasion of Rudolf’s (Crown Prince of Austria) visit to Prague. Several performances took place and then the building was closed for completion works, during which there was a fire which destroyed most of the building. The fire was perceived as a national catastrophe and it spurred on huge determination for a new fundraising event, and sufficient funds for the reconstruction were collected within a few weeks. The reconstruction included central heating, improved ventilation, and the gas lamps were replaced with electrical lights. The theatre reopened two years later.