Prague National Theatre’s glass-covered New Stage will undergo two-year renovation

Much of the work will be to upgrade the technical facilities, while most of the 1980s decor will remain.

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston Published on 22.06.2021 15:23:00 (updated on 22.06.2021) Reading time: 2 minutes

The brutalist-style New Stage of the Czech National Theatre will undergo an extensive renovation. The work will mainly concern areas not seen by the public. The glass facade and most decorative interior details will be preserved. The State Opera, which is also overseen by the National Theatre, underwent a similar behind-the-scenes upgrade that ended in January 2020.

The building is designed as a cultural monument, which limits the amount of changes that can be made, as the overall design has to be preserved. More details on the project will be presented later this week.

"A major asset will be the creation of a large rehearsal room or chamber stage in the adjacent operational building, as well as a floor intended for educational activities. Attention will be paid to technical facilities and the backstage area for the artists. The stage technology and the auditorium will be transformed," National Theatre spokesman Tomáš Staněk told daily Mladá fronta Dnes (MfD).

Renovations will start in the middle of next year, and last for 24 months. The Culture Ministry has allocated CZK 694 million for the project. Among the changes, the New Stage (Nová scéna) will get a more modern auditorium and new stage technology that is in line with the demands of contemporary theater.

Restaurant building of the National Theatre. (Photo: Raymond Johnston)
Restaurant building of the National Theatre. (Photo: Raymond Johnston)

A survey of the buidling made by the Czech Technical University in Prague (ČVUT) confirmed that the design elements in the New State are mostly original and in good condition. The interiors of the connecting metal-and-glass frame restaurant building (restaurační budova), however, were altered by previous occupants. The building opening onto náměstí Václava Havla had been rented out for use as restaurant in the 1990s and 2000s, among other purposes.

The plan has already received a binding opinion from the National Heritage Institute (NPÚ), which deals with landmark conservation. The National Theatre is now awaiting a building permit.

View from under the spiral staircase in the New Stage. (Photo: Raymond Johnston)
View from under the spiral staircase in the New Stage. (Photo: Raymond Johnston)

The NPÚ states that the areas visible to the audience are the most architecturally valuable, and will have minimally modifications, except for the auditorium. “It is a total work of art. The architects have thought out the entire building absolutely completely down to the smallest detail,” Jan Holeček, an NPÚ who consulted with the designers on the renovation told MfD.

The entrance area, with a marble spiral staircase with a multi-story modern art chandelier, for example, will be unchanged. The stairway and foyer it leads to have been used as a setting in many film productions shot in Prague, such as the HBO miniseries The Sleepers, where it stood in for a London theater.

The exterior of the building, made of glass blocks designed by artist Stanislav Libenský, will also be untouched.

Modernization of the underground garages is already underway and should be completed in December. The surface of náměstí Václava Havla is also being repaired.

The New Stage, which opened to the public in 1983, was largely the work of architect Karel Prager, who is also responsible for what is now the New Building of the National Museum, formerly the Federal Parliament and later home to Radio Free Europe.

The modern glass building placed right next to the classical style Historical Building of the National Theater has always sharply divided public opinion. Over time, though, people have come to accept the contrast of styles side by side.

Would you like us to write about your business? Find out more