The short history of Janáček Theatre

- the theatre - for large opera and ballet productions

When opened, Janáček Theatre was the largest and technically best equipped theatre in the then Czechoslovakia. Almost 80 years of preparations had preceded its establishment – from as early as the 1880s the Association of the Czech National Theatre in Brno (founded in 1881) had been trying to acquire funds to build a separate representative theatre that would reflect the importance and role of a Brno Czech theatre because the theatre located in Veveří street, seat of the National Theatre from 1884, had been considered temporary from the beginning. The funds required to build a new theatre building were raised by means of collections, bazaars, and tombolas, and between the years of 1910 and 1958 a total of seven architectural competitions concerning design of the new building were held. However, the construction was suspended due to two world wars, subsequent repairs of the existing buildings and other complications; the representative opera and ballet theatre was finally built as late as in 1960 to 1965. A Stavoprojekt Brno studio led by architect Otakar Oplatek was in charge of the design work. In 1963 architects Ivan Ruller and Boleslav Písařík collaborated on the final version of the architectural and structural design originally drafted by Vilém Zavřel, Jan Víšek and Libuše Žáčková–Pokorová. The construction work also involved the layout of the area around the building, especially the terrace and the relaxation zone with a water reservoir and fountain. In the 1960s a 1970s the theatre’s architecture was complemented with striking sculpture ornamentation focusing on the exterior: a sculpture of the Mrštík Brothers by Stanislav Hanzík based on a model by Vincenc Makovský, a stone sculpture of the Moravian eagle by Olbram Zoubek, a bronze monument of Leoš Janáček by Stanislav Hanzl, and the decoration of the main facade balconies by Eva Zoubková–Kmentová and Olbram Zoubek. Inside the theatre, a bust of Leoš Janáček by Miloš Axman and a Cunning Little Vixen tapestry by Alois Fišárek were installed. In 2003, a bust of globally renowned dancer and choreographer Ivo Váňa Psota, sculpted by Nikos Armutidis, was unveiled in the foyer.

The main entrance

The technical potential and architectural concept of the theatre made it ideal particularly for large opera and ballet productions and once completed, the theatre became the permanent seat of the National Theatre Brno opera. On 2 October, 1965, a ceremonial performance of a new staging of Leoš Janáček’s opera The Cunning Little Vixen opened the theatre to the public. It was directed by Miloš Wasserbauer and conducted by František Jílek, an outstanding Janáček’s music conductor and promoter. The ballet ensemble presented itself in the newly opened theatre with a first night of Stravinsky’s Petrushka and Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé, choreographed by Miroslav Kůra and conducted by Václav Nosek, on 8 October, 1965.