The Estates Theater, or Stavovské Divadlo as it is more commonly known in Czech is Prague’s oldest theatre, and one of the most beautiful theater buildings in all of Europe. Built in the late 18th century and designed by Czech architect Anton Haffenecker, its construction, which only lasted two years was started by aristocrat František Antonín Count Nostitz Rieneck when it was known as Count Nostic’s Theater.
Haffenecker also helped in the design of the lesser known baroque Lysá nad Labem castle, which was the residence of many Czech queens, generals, and nobles, including Judith of Habsburg, the wife of King Wenceslaus II.
The Estates theater has been part of the National Theatre since 1920 and it is mostly known for it’s incredible works in ballet, drama, and opera. Though it was originally built with the intention of producing only German and Italian operas and dramas, productions in the Czech language soon began in 1785.
The Estates Theater is probably most well-known for it’s association with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, this is because the world premieres of two of his operas, first, the famous Don Giovanni (October 29, 1787 – which Mozart led himself) and second, La Clemenza di Tito (1791, on the occasion of the coronation of Leopold II).
It is no wonder Mozart chose this theater, inside it’s intimate and astonishingly beautiful with soft blue interiors against golden murals, all illuminated by a massive chandelier. Because of Mozarts popularity in the city of Prague you can now find shops dedicated to Mozart souvenirs, the theater also still includes Don Giovanni in it’s repertoire.
It is amazing how well-preserved the theater is both inside and out, it is nearly in it’s original condition. The outside is grand, a creamy green is the color of the building with strong columns. An inscription above the portal states the intentions of its creator “Patriae et Musis” which means “To the native land and the muses.”
Some of you might Have read our post about the uniforms of the Czech castle guards. If you did, you probably know that Theodor Pistek, Czech costume designer, is the one who designed the costumes for the 1984 film Amadeus.
The costumes are not the only Czech influence in the film, did you know that the famous Don Giovanni conducting scene was actually filmed in the Estates theater? Just take a look at the backdrop, it’s easy to recognize the intricate balconies and beautiful gold details…
A bronze sculpture of an empty cloak, made by Anna Chromý sits just outside the theater. The sculpture is commemorating the premier of Don Giovanni. The statue depicts an amorous lover, Il Commendatore, sitting hunched over in a faceless cloak.
The statue is said by some to be haunted, and while some foolish tourist attempt to stick their face in the empty space of the cloak, it is said that their heads get stuck.
Needless to say, next time you’re in Prague, this outstanding piece of history is definitely worth a visit. All of their productions are exquisite, even if you are not a regular theater goer, the history alone is enough to visit the Estates Theater.
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