Prague's State Opera will reopen in January after a three-year renovation

A new rotating stage, rehearsal rooms, and a new stage curtain are among the highlights of the Stater Opera's renewal

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston Published on 29.10.2019 07:00:58 (updated on 21.02.2023) Reading time: 4 minutes

The State Opera will open January 5, 2020, with a gala concert. It closed in 2016 for an extensive rebuilding of its infrastructure, other repairs and cleaning.

The historic building will have new technology and a rebuilt rotating stage. The building was last renovated in the 1970s.

“When you open the door of the State Opera, it’s like entering a different world or a beautiful church. It is a place where you will find a totally different atmosphere, beauty, tradition,” Per Boye Hansen, artistic director of the National Theater Opera and the State Opera, said.

A small exhibition outlining the renovation can be seen at the operational building of the National Theater on náměstí Václava Havla every weekday from 2 pm to 6 pm until November 15, 2019.

The exhibition includes a countdown clock to the opening, posters from the State Opera’s history, and details of the new stage curtain.

Brief history of the State Opera

The monumental murals by Eduard Veith on the ceiling of the auditorium and the frescoes have been restored. New seats will be installed in the auditorium with reading devices with variable subtitles.

Much of the renovation work won’t be seen by the general public. On the second underground floor, a modern rehearsal room with excellent acoustics is being built, rehearsal rooms, ballet, orchestral and choir halls and artists’ facilities were renovated. The operational part of the building is acquiring a new look, with its glass façade.

The building should be handed back to the National Theatre on December 15, 2019. The program for the first half of 2020 will largely consist of reprisals of previous works. “During the first half of the year we will be testing the new stage technologies and the layout of the reconstructed premises during the trial operation,” National Theater director Jan Burian said.

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New rehearsal space in the State Opera. via National Theatre

The January 5 concert will take place exactly 132 years after its first opening, with an evening titled State Opera in the Changes of Time (1888–2018), directed by film and theater director Alice Nellis.

The first music will be the overture to Wagner’s opera The Master-Singers of Nuremberg, which was the first opera performed at the theater in 1888. Selections from Janáček, Smetana, Puccini and others will highlight the theater’s musical history. The accompanying text will be by playwright Pavel Kohout.

Leading soloists of the National Theater Opera and Czech and foreign guests such as Lise Davidsen, Pavel Černoch, Eva Urbanová and Kateřina Kněžíková will perform under the baton of the music director of the State Opera Karel-Heinz Steffens.

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State Opera under renovation. via National Theatre

Tickets will be hard to get due to demand and the relatively small space. The evening will be broadcast live by Czech Television and later by ZDF, Atre and other European television stations.

Also in January 2020, there will also be an audiovisual show on the front facade of the State Opera. The art group 3dsence will take advantage of the specific location of the theater building on the highway.


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The cars passing through the highway in front of the State Opera building generate video projections, light shows and music in real time on the facade of the building. The position, size and speed of each car will be recognized from the camera located on the State Opera building. The data will be processed online and used to generate music composition and visual effects. This will also be streamed to the web. More details will be announced closer to the event.

opera posters
Collage of opera posters at the at the operational building of the National Theater. via Raymond Johnston

The State Opera on April 3, 2020, will present its first new production, King Roger by Karol Szymanowski, the most important figure in Polish music in the first half of the 20th century. It will be co-produced with the National Opera in Warsaw and the Royal Opera in Stockholm.

The National Theater Ballet will present the famous Brazilian prima ballerina and choreographer Marcia Haydée in the newly reconstructed Sleeping Beauty by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. The Czech premiere will take place on May 21, 2020, accompanied by the State Opera Orchestra.

The year 2020 will be the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth, and the State Opera will stage his opera Fidelio. Other works to be presented include Madam Butterfly, Aida, Nabucco, and Tosca, which have been in the State Opera’s repertoire.

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New stage curtain. via National Theatre

The next premiere of the State Opera ensemble will be the full Wagner’s The Master-Singers of Nuremberg. Wagner was one of the most played authors in the State Opera’s early years, when it was known as the New German Theater (Neues deutsches Theater).

In the longer term, the program should include not only classics, but works from the 20th and 21st centuries, including ones by living composers. Efforts will also be made to appeal to families and young people.

Over the last two years, the artistic director of the production section of the National Theater, Martin Černý, worked in with stage design students at DAMU. The curtain was created in the National Theater workshops according to the design of the original 1888 curtain by Eduard Veith, which mysteriously disappeared in 1945. The new curtain will replace the one by painter Antonín Střížek, originally intended for the 2002 production of The Magic Flute.

National Theatre
Detail of the new curtain. via National Theatre

More about the renovation can be seen here, in Czech.

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