Prague, Czech Republic – The Prague State Opera, one of the oldest and most prominent cultural institutions in the Czech Republic, has officially reopened on Sunday following an extensive and pricey three-year reconstruction.
On Sunday, January 5, the Prague State Opera once again opened its doors, after a reconstruction that started in March 2017 to restore it to its former glory, with an official gala concert and ceremony attended, among others, by Prime Minister Andrej Babis, Hungarian Premier Viktor Orban and German Culture Commissioner Monika Grütters.
According to local media, a number of foreign leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Slovakia’s Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini and Polish PM Mateusz Morawiecki, declined the invitations to the event.
With the previous renovation dating back to the 1970s, the Opera famed for its neo-Rococo interior design, had slowly fallen into a state of neglect. The newest reconstruction, initially budgeted at less than 900 million Kc, ended up costing some 1.3 billion Kc (more than 51 million €).
Quoted by Radio Prague, the head of the Czech National Theatre Jan Burian declared that “we have managed, with some difficulties, to equip the 18th century building with 21st century technology”, including automated stage elements and more than 1,000 seats of the auditorium equipped with touchscreen displays and reading devices offering multi-language surtitles.
The original stage curtain and opera ceiling’s magnificent murals by Eduard Veith have also been restored, while a new modern rehearsal room in the building’s underground floor was built.
During the reopening ceremony, gala attendees watched a new work directed by filmmaker Alice Nellis entitled ‘The State Opera in the Changes of Time (1888-2018)’, presenting the key moments of the history of one of the Czech capital’s greatest architectural and cultural landmarks. The gala concert also included a performance of selected pieces by the State Opera Orchestra and Choir under the direction of State Opera music director Karl-Heinz Steffens.
The reopening comes exactly 132 years after the first-ever performance was held at what was then known as the New German Theatre (Neues Deutsches Theater) : Wagner’s ‘The Mastersingers of Nuremberg’, on January 5, 1888. Under communist rule, it was known as the Smetana Theatre, before being renamed State Opera in 1989.
According to Expats.cz, the State Opera will, after a trial period designed to test the newest technological additions with past productions, present its first original work in April 2020, with a production of ‘King Roger’ by 20th century Polish composer Karol Szymanowski. With 2020 marking the 250th anniversary of his birth, Beethoven’s compositions will also feature prominently in the newly-renovated Opera’s programme throughout the year.