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National Theater – important cultural landmark

The Prague National Theater is more than 100 years old, and is known for its embellishments and its importance to the city’s cultural landscape. It was built to give space to the country’s cultural aspirations.

History

The theater was built on the initiative of citizens who wanted space for music, theater, and art performances in the city. As such, many people contributed financially towards the construction of the theater. This truly democratic initiative had donors from all walks of life, be they the wealthy, the middle class, artists, or workmen. The first step was to buy land for building the theater. A spot on banks of the river Vltava was deemed suitable.

An interesting fact was the difference of opinions among the donors, when it came to things such as architectural style. One group wanted a strictly utilitarian and less expensive structure. Another group wanted a bit more of opulence in the building. Finally, the issue was settled to the satisfaction of both parties, with the ingenious design of architect Ulman. He crafted a blueprint that incorporated stellar design features for public convenience and also, added charm and elegance that those with more artistic tastes demanded.

The theater, built in 1862, became an important landmark for the next 20 years. However, this location was tinier than expected, and could not accommodate the vast crowds that sought to entertain themselves here.

Collective effort

Another drive to collect funds was organized, and donors included not only people residing in the country, but in far off lands such as America. Even the reigning monarch took an interest in the goings on. Josef Zitek was the architect for the new building. The stones for construction were transported from far off locations. The new building, magnificent in design and size, was inaugurated in 1881. The construction was however, still ongoing. During this time, the building caught fire, and the brand new building was damaged significantly.

This did not deter the donors. There was another drive for collection of funds. The repaired building could seat less people than the original and the new building was again inaugurated after a couple of years.

Splendid architecture

What enthralls is the architecture. The facade includes Greek type columns at the entrance. Sculptures of Greek gods and goddesses is the main attraction here. Side entrances also feature works of art borrowing themes from Greek mythology.

Entry hall

The paintings here depict nationalism. The reception area features frescos featuring themes such as patriotism, love, freedom and struggle. Also notable are paintings representing themes relating to theater such as ballet, opera, comedy, and drama, history, life, and other themes. The statue of Music is another notable feature here. Bronze statues are one of the chief attractions here, dedicated to many of the important personages of the country’s theater and art scene.

Audience hall

Featured here are sculptures of Greek goddesses. Another attraction is the stage curtain, with paintings paying homage to the collective effort and spirit of nationalism that went into the creation of the theater. Indeed, the many paintings on the curtain can keep the visitor’s interest engaged for hours. Weighing in at almost 280 kilograms, the curtain is a work of art. It is protected by an iron sheath, which again remains resplendent in its artistry.

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