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History of Theatrical Culture in Český Krumlov

The rich history of theatrical culture in Český Krumlov goes back to the 15th century, its beginnings connected with the Český Krumlov castle court. The first indirect evidence of a theatre performance in the Český Krumlov castle goes back to the 1480's when Václav of Rovné, a chancellor of the Rosenbergs, had a comedy called "Polixena" by an Italian writer Leonardo Bruni copied. More evidence shows that in 1497 Václav z Rovného brought the humanist Jakub Canter to the court of the Rosenbergs with his play "Rosa Rosensis", a play which celebrated the Rosenberg sovereign family. Significant prosperity of culture life on the Český Krumlov castle came in the second half of the 16th century under the last Rosenbergs.

Theatrical productions were not limited to the castle. It was possible to encounter theatrical activities among the Jesuits, whose religious and educational activities were also very closely connected with the theatre and always held a significant place in their life. The school terms always ended with a theatre performance in which students of the Jesuit college participated. For example on 16 May 1588 they performed a play called "Euripus" dedicated to the newly built Jesuit college, in 1590 put on a play about St. Vitus, then ten years later the Jesuit students performed a play "Esther" on the castle. The Jesuit performances took their motives from ecclesiastical history, biblical stories, or the fictitious stories written by the Jesuits themselves, very impressive and successful from an emotional, spiritual and moral point of view. Their performances were in the Latin language. They played on an impromptu stage in the Jesuit college (Horní No. 154) or on the castle, and many times they would play on Horní street or on the square. We have evidence of the existence of a wooden theatre building from 1613. This theatre had a moving stage and was situated in the courtyard of the Jesuit college. In the middle of the 17th century the theatre was moved to a renovated building made for this purpose (Horní No. 153). This building was used for theatrical purposes even after the Jesuit religious order was abolished at the end of the 18th century.

Title page of Terentie´s Comedy from 1499 Johann Valentin Petzold, portrait in actor's costume

In the first half of the 17th century the estates of the Rosenbergs were passed over to the Eggenbergs. Since that time, an interest in secular motives in the theatre grew among the castle community and the Jesuit theatre could not manage to fill these demands. So it happened that in 1675 the first permanent theatre stage was founded in the so-called "Deer Hall" of the Český Krumlov castle. But probably because it was too small and did not satisfy its owners in this respect, the knight Johann Christian I. von Eggenberg founded a new independent theatre stage at the V. courtyard of the castle. A permanent dramatic company then played at the castle. In 1765 - 1766 Josef Adam zu Schwarzenberg had the theatre building renovated and furnished with technical facilities and new decorations. The theatre has been preserved almost in its complete originality up to the present.

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In the 19th century it was mostly foreign theatre companies which played in Český Krumlov. They played in the former Jesuit theatre which was renovated in 1808 - 1812 and called the town theatre, or until 1898 in the castle theatre. In the 1850's the first amateur theatre company was established in Český Krumlov. Its members were mostly members of the middle classe or tradesmen.

The situation of theatrical culture made a change for the better after 1919. Thanks to dramatist Hans Sassmann and a company called Sdbhmische Schaubhne, a permanent theatre began to perform in Český Krumlov. The theatre put a few dozens of performances on the stage during each theatre season. They played classical theatrical drama, popular plays, opera, musical comedy, concerts and plays for children. The theatre was used for its purposes even after 1945 until the beginning of the seventies. At that time it was decided that this old building did not satisfy the needs of the theatre, and it began to be used as part of the hotel.

It is necessary to mention another significant theatrical activity in Český Krumlov in the 20th century - an amateur ensemble called "Českokrumlovská scéna" (Český Krumlov Stage), established in 1945 and first of all the South Bohemian Theatre Festival. It was held for the first time in 1947 and a few performances were played also in the castle garden within this festival. The third year was held in 1958. At that time the performances were played not only in the garden but also in the Baroque castle theatre. Performances were played in this historical castle theatre also in 1960, 1961, 1962 and 1965. In 1966 the theatre was closed and a very difficult reconstruction began. From 1959, the revolving stage open-air theatre was mostly used for the performances of the South Bohemian Theatrical Festival. It was newly built in the castle garden in front of the summer house Bellarie. In 1988 the revolving stage open-air theatre was closed due to poor conditions and a reconstruction began in 1989. A new revolving stage was built and the entire reconstruction was finished in 1993. A way is now being sought how to use this theatre stage and still satisfy the needs of the preserved area of the castle garden.

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See also:
Castle Theatre in Český Krumlov
History of Town Theatre in Český Krumlov
History of the Amateur Ensemble "Českokrumlovská scéna"
History of South-Bohemian Theatre Festival in Český Krumlov

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