Moravské zemské muzeum
Národní muzeum

Even if Brno can boast of the oldest still existing theatre building in

Central Europe, the so-called Reduta at the Cabbage Market, the Czechspeaking

theatre companies did not have much opportunity to use this

building for their activities until the foundation of the First Czechoslovak

Republic. Wandering theatre companies as well as amateur ensembles

had to settle for lounges in various Brno inns. The situation was partly

solved by the association house Besední dům where both professional

and amateur theatre performances in Czech language were given in 1873

- 1884. In 1881 the so-called Association for the Czech national theatre

in Brno was founded that obtained the concession for staging Czech

plays. The association bought the house U Marovských in Radvit square

where the Provisory National Theatre Brno, called Theatre in Veveří, was

inaugurated in 1884.

From the beginnings of the theatre in Brno, its management focussed on

the staff and the development of all the ensembles whose quality was

comparable to that of Prague. In the course of two decades the cast

of opera and dramatic ensemble was stabilised. Outstanding actors

from Prague theatre, Marie Hübnerová and Eduard Vojan, had been its

members during the wandering period and gave guests performances

there; so did the world-famous opera singers Ema Destinová or Karel

Burian.

The opera ensemble was dominated by Cyril Metoděj Hrazdira, the fi rst

conductor of the Cunning little Wixen by Janáček. Members of famous

actor’s families, e.g. that of Alois Vojta-Jurný and Ema and Ladislav Pech,

performed in the dramatic ensemble.

Similarly as in Prague, specifi c avant-garde theatre ensembles came

into being in Brno in the 1920s. From the artistic point of view the Czech

studio is incontestably the most important, founded by Brno conservatory

students, headed by Vladimír Gamza (1902-1929) and supported

ideologically by Jiří Mahen. Another ensemble, infl uenced in a way

by the poetics of Voskovec and Werich, was the Academic scene

performing in the then new theatre at the Fair ground (1928-1931).

In 1929 Jindřich Honzl (1894-1953) became director and literary

manager of the National Theatre and Emil František Burian (1904 -

1959) was employed as director and organiser of the nascent Studio

of the National Theatre Brno. Even if their activities in Brno lasted only

two years, remarkable plays were staged under their direction that helped

to revive the dismal dramatic repertoire.

The literary work of the brothers Alois and Vilém Mrštík is strongly

connected with Moravian topics. While the older Alois (1861-1925)

became famous as author of short stories (Dobré duše, Hore Váhom

etc.), the younger Vilém (1863-1912) was a novelist infl uenced in a way

by Russian critical realism and French naturalism. In his novels Santa

Lucia (1893) and Pohádka máje (1879) one feels strong autobiographical elements showing the loss of illusions of a Moravian student in a large city.

The most important works are incontestably those written in co-operation

of the two brothers; their joint play Maryša (1894) is the chef d’oeuvre

of Czech realistic drama and their novel chronicle in nine volumes Rok na

vsi (A Year in the Village, 1903-1904) remains unrivalled in the Czech

literature.

Since mid-1950s theatre groups started to appear in Moravia following

up with the poetics of the pre-war avant-garde theatre. These ensembles

revived the tradition of authorial, literary, cabaret and satiric stages.

In the course of following decades ensembles started to expand

developing the alternative line of the theatre culture and introducing nontraditional

theatrical forms. For example let us mention the satiric cabaret

Večerní Brno (Brno in the Evening, 1959-1992), Divadlo X (Theatre

X, 1959-1989) – a kind of poetic theatre, the ensemble focussing

on laboratory work QUIDAM (1966-1972), the poetic theatre Nepojízdná

housenka (Stationary caterpillar, 1982-1985) and the ensemble called

Ochotnický kroužek (Amateur circle, 1985-1990). Top projects of this

kind are the ensembles Husa na provázku (Goose on the string, since

1967) and Hanácké divadlo (HaDivadlo, 1974-1985 in Prostějov and

since 1985 in Brno).

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