The National Theatre – the pride of Czech culture

The National Theatre – the pride of Czech culture

Get to know the story of one of Czechia’s national treasures

The National Theatre – the pride of Czech culture
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 Phoenix

The 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”.

The crossroads of Czech and world culture

And what better way to open the National Theatre than with a newly composed opera? The task was taken up by Bedřich Smetana, one of the greatest Czech composers. To mark this occasion he composed his opera Libuše, which would later inspire the creator of the Czech presidential fanfare. The National Theatre is a crossroads of genres and cultures. Its repertoire includes works by leading Czech figures, such as Antonín Dvořák and Leoš Janáček, as well as pieces by renowned composers from around the world. The theatre offers the chance to experience works such as Carmen, the famous opera by Georg Bizet, or Hamlet by William Shakespeare.

We invite you to visit

You can choose an opera or a ballet, and combine your cultural experience with a tour of the interiors. Tickets to performances can be purchased here↗. However, if you want to take a deeper look and learn more about this Czech national jewel on the bank of the Vltava, you can book an afternoon tour of the interiorsin several languages. During the tour, you’re sure to hear about how the theatre was built twice, as well as details of the famous artists of the time involved in decorating the halls.