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The Slovak National Theatre, one of the country’s most important cultural institutions, was established in 1920. Today it comprises drama, opera and ballet sections, each with its permanent professional company, with a central scene shop providing sets for all productions.
The companies of the Slovak National Theatre perform in two buildings, the
The Pavol Országh Hviezdoslav Theatre, one of the drama company’s two venues, forms part of the National Bank of Slovakia building, which dates from 1943 to 1947. The design - the work of architects Eugen Kramár and Štefan Lukačovič - was the winning entry in an open competition held in 1941 for the building of the bank and a theatre. The building’s shell was completed in 1944, but work thereafter was restricted to the bank premises. Only after 1948, when the playhouse was allocated to the Slovak National Theatre, were decisions made as to internal disposition and stage machinery.
Consultant for the stage equipment was the SND’s Technical Director, Vladimír Hazucha, who designed the machinery as well as lighting and sound systems. Building work was carried out by domestic contractors, and technical equipment was supplied by the companies of Wiener Brückenbau and Siemens in Austria. The curtain and the interior of the auditorium and foyers were designed by František Gajdoš and the stained-glass panels in the foyer by Janko Alexy. Building work was completed in 1955, and the SND’s drama company moved into its new premises in the same year.
The Hviezdoslav Theatre was reconstructed in 1968, when the traditional proscenium stage was streamlined and the number of seats in the auditorium reduced. A further modernisation took place in the years 1981 to 1983 and involved primarily administrative spaces and technical equipment.
The auditorium of the Pavol Országh Hviezdoslav Theatre has a seating capacity of 467, of which 450 seats are available to theatregoers. The orchestra pit, covered by a removable canopy, has an area of 55m2. The proscenium arch is 11m wide and 6.5m high. Stage dimensions are 28m (width) x 14m (depth) x 22m (height). The performance area is 16m x 12m and the wings 14m x 10m. The stage is variable, equipped with six bridges of six sections each, making thirty-six square elements.
The SND’s Small Theatre is located in a multipurpose building erected in the years 1954 to 1956 to a design by architects Štefanec and Lacko. At the end of the decade work was begun on adapting the basement of the building into a theatre, and the Small Theatre began to function as the second home of the Slovak National Theatre’s drama company in 1962. From the outset its purpose was to complement the repertoire of the company’s principal venue, the Hviezdoslav Theatre, while placing a stress on experimentation in production and programming. Part of the concept behind the Small Theatre (the work of Emil Lehuta) was to provide an outlet for young artists and a space for music and literary events and exhibitions of modern art in premises adjacent to the theatre proper.
Although the intention of creating a company solely for the Small Theatre was not to be realised, the early days in particular saw the involvement of students from the Academy of Performing Arts, three of whom — Stanislav Dančiak, Marián Labuda and Peter Mikulík — in 1965 formed the SoNDa group and staged productions of one-act plays of social criticism by Ion Luca Caragiale and Aleksandr Serafimovich. The mime group of Milan Sládek and Eduard Žlábek also performed at the theatre from 1962 to 1967.
The Small Theatre’s auditorium has a seating capacity of 190, of which 174 seats are in use. The stage is rudimentary in its equipment, without flies and apron. The auditorium and foyer were refurbished in the years 1980-1981.