The National Theatre in Prague is the leading theatre in the country, with an ensemble of drama, opera and ballet. It is a great honour for any Czech actor to perform there. It has experienced its ups and downs; the fire there in 1881 was a national tragedy for the Czechs. To this day, its halls still reverberate to the sounds of works by Czech and world artists, the greatest masters of their craft. Dvořák, Janáček, Shakespeare, Bizet and many others have shaped its history and its present-day glory.
Like the mythical PhoenixThe National Theatre has stood on the right bank of the Vltava in the centre of the Czech capital for more than 140 years. Construction work began in 1868 and was completed 13 years later. Tragically, however, almost the entire building was reduced to ashes just two months after its grand opening. It was literally a national tragedy at the time! However, it’s only a slight exaggeration to say that the National Theatre was still burning, and people were already organising a whip-round to pay for its full reconstruction. Their efforts raised almost immediately such a large sum that renovation work could begin straight away and the theatre opened just two years later, on 18th November 1883.
Did you know?
It was the nationwide fundraiser for the National Theatre that saw the informal greeting “nazdar” become part of the Czech language. The money boxes used to collect contributions towards the restoration of the theatre were marked with the words: Na zdar Národního divadla (For the success of the National Theatre). People then started to say hello to one another using the shorter version, “nazdar”; the greeting caught on and is still used today, as a familiar way of saying “hi”.