Vinohrady Theatre (Divadlo na Vinohradech)
This prestigious theatre with a history over a century old is one of the cornerstones of Prague theatrical life. The main stage presents popular comedies, musicals and significant dramas; the theatre's attic space – the "Rehearsal Room" – is home to more intimate productions.
Together with the St. Ludmila’s Temple and the National House (Národní dům), the Na Vinohradech Theatre is the third dominant of Prague’s district Vinohrady. The development of Královské Vinohrady, where there were many theatrical companies in different wooden arenas brought about the idea of building a new “stone” theatre directly at Vinohrady (and it is still called the stone theatre today). It was supposed to be the second one after the National Theatre to stage plays in Czech. Back then, the credit bank Vinohradská záložna bought a garden named Eichmanka, Lipová or also Štikovna, in the neighbourhood of Kravín, and donated it to the town to build the theatre there. The programme of the construction was elaborated by a town’s architect Antonín Turek, and an architectural competition was opened in 1902. The first prize, out of 12 received projects, was awarded to ing. arch. Alois Čenský. His original project is still in new-Renaissance style, yet in the end he built a Secession theatre. In 1905 - 07 it was built by Vinohrady builders Jan Majer and Josef Veselý. There were several competitions opened for both exterior and interior decorations of the building. The sculptural competition was won by Milan Havlíček, who created the monumental allegories of Bravery with an erected sword in her right hand, and of Truth with a mirror in her left hand. These were installed on the pylons above the main front. They were probably the greatest sculptures in the country to be placed on a house, they were 7 m high and altogether they weighed 36 tons. Inspections in 1994 found out that they are in emergency condition, and so they were taken down and their copies were made in the restorers’ studios by a collective of authors lead by Karel Vurbs. These copies were installed on the theatre building in 1996. According to some newspaper articles, however, these copies were already made of copies, as the original statues were so damaged in 1938, that they were replaced with copies made of artificial stone by a restorer Rudolf Vlach. The sculptural decorations on the second floor’s terrace are the work of Bohumil Kafka: there are four allegories of Tragedy, Ballet, Opera and Comedy. Under the roof, there is an emblem of Královské Vinohrady. The caryatids (supporting figures) inside the foyer were made by sculptor Antonín Popp; there are statues of Antonín Mára in the boxes and the forestage. The competition for painting decorations was won by František Urban, who realized his theme Tribute to the country arts on the ceiling. The curtain was painted by Vladimír Županský. It was taken down in the 1950s and it is stored in the depository of the town’s museum. In 1907, the Municipal theatre at Královské Vinohrady was festively open: speeches were made by the director František Šubert, prof. Otakar Hostinský, and the theatre orchestra played Smetana’s Vltava. Scenes from Viktor Dyk and Lothar Suchý were staged, and in the evening a legend named Godiva by Jaroslav Vrchlický was staged. The theatre was operated by the Joint Association of the National Theatre. After the opening, there were both the dramatic and the opera ensembles. František Adolf Šubert became the first director. In the years 1914 - 20, the theatre was famous mostly due to Karel Hugo Hilar, and only drama was staged in that era. In the years 1921 - 28, Jaroslav Kvapil was the director. The theatre was modernized in 1922 and two years later it got a circular horizon for the stage, new lighting fixtures and a moving portal. In 1927, also the stage was restored with the space for the orchestra and an iron curtain. Back then, there were 1060 sitting places in the theatre, 12 four-seat boxes, and 180 standing places. Great personalities of Czech theatre were employed in the theatre, such as Anna Sedláčková, Jaroslav Vojta, Zdeněk Štěpánek, František Smolík, František Kovářík, to name just a few people from the older generation and many others. There are busts of some artists closely connected with the history of this theatre in the large parlour on the first floor. Above all, there is the bust of Karel Čapek, who was very close to the theatre. It was made by sculptor Karel Dvořák and donated to the theatre by Olga Scheinpflugová. Busts of František Langer and Jiří Frejka were made by Jan Kodet. There is also a bust of actress Anna Letenská, who was executed in the Mauthausen concentration camp during the Heydrich affair, as she and her husband provided shelter to the doctor who treated the wounded brave paratroopers. During occupation, in the years 1941 - 42, the theatre was closed. The building was hit and damaged during the ally air-raid on the 14th February 1945.
The theatre often changed its name: in the years 1929 - 44 it was one of the Prague Municipal Theatres, in 1944 - 45 it was Theatre of J. K. Tyl, in 1945 - 50 it was the Municipal Theatre at Vinohrady, in 1950 - 66 it was the Theatre of the Czechoslovak Army, and since 1966 the name has settled on the Na Vinohradech Theatre.