Historical photographs from the archives of the National Theatre in Prague

Prague National Theatre

collection of images of actors and actresses of the National Theatre one hundread years ago

Rudolf Deyl photographed on the balcony of a historic building of the National Theatre, in the background you can see Lažanský Palace

Růžena Maturová (1869-1938) was performing as opera soloist of the National Theatre in years 1893-1909. She was a great singer who could well identify with the ideas of Czech composers (Dvořák, Fibich, Ostrčil, Prokop etc.)

Jindřich Mošna (1837-1911) became a member of the provisional Theatre in 1864, and in 1881 he moved to the National Theatre, from where he was retired in 1909. He was active as an actor and also as a writer.

the Water Squad was one of the Josef Štolba´s theatre plays. He was author of comedies, humoresques and travelogues. On the picture there are two interesting actresses - on the right there is portrayed Eva Vrchlická (1888-1969), daughter of the famous poet Jaroslav Vrchlický. Apart from acting, Eva Vrchlická was also literary active and she worked also as a translator. On the left, there is Terezie Brzková (1875-1966), outstanding Czech actress and future famous Grandma (the title role she played in the famous czech film called Grandma - "babička").

Emil Pollert (1877-1935) remained for 35 years (from 1900 to 1935) at the National Theatre. He always managed to get a wide spectrum of facial expressions, rich gestures and lively acting. No wonder that his performance of Kecal was captured well in the first film adaptation of The Bartered Bride in 1913 - a silent version, and also in the first sound version in 1933.

Bajaja Ballet was staged by choreographer Augustin Berger in 1916, according to the model of Jindřich Kaan from Albeşti. Arnoštka Coufalová (sbout whom we know only the date of birth - 1889) was a member of the choir and danced the smaller role of street dancer Fatmé. The title role of Bajaja was surprisingly danced by ladies, for example by Františka Borecká, Anna Korecká or actress Anna Sedláčková. At that time Bajaja was actually a princess.

King Harlequin is a theatre play written by Rudolph Lothar, who is - among others - also the author of the opera's libretto Lowland. This opera was played in the years 1901-1907. The title role was entrusted to Eduard Vojan (1853-1920), the person, who became a symbol of the artistic beginnings of the National Theatre.

Beautiful image from the Langhans studio showing Marie Kubátová (1873-1913) engaged in 1899 as a lyric sopranist. She worked there only until 1910, when she left to privacy. In less than ten years, however, she suceeded in performing famous roles as Gretel in The Bartered Bride, Hedvika in The Devil's Wall, Vendulka in The Kiss, Krasava in Libuše, Micaela in Carmen and others.

Eduard Kohout (1889-1976) played at the National Theatre since 1902 and he had been playing here for seventy years. Also - he belonged to pioneers of the Czech film acting and his charismatic voice was often used by radio. He is the author of intriguing memoirs named Theater or The Book of Dreams ("Divadlo nebo snář"). It may be suprising, but the actual name of the actor, whom everyone with love and respect called Edáček, was originally František.

Ada Nordenová (1891-1973) truly belongs to the gallery of beautiful Mařenka´s of Smetana´s Bartered Bride. She became member of the Opera Theatre after her resounding success when she was performing here as a host in 1924, and remained there until 1942, when she left the Theatre - at the peak of her creative skills. In later years she taught at Prague Academy of Performing Arts - "DAMU".

Jindřich Mošna (1837-1911) was a popular comic actor of broad audience already before he started working at the National Theatre. The roles he played on the first Scene of the National Theatre were corresponing to that - it was all grotesque figures and figurines. But after playing Vocílka in Strakonice Piper and principal in The Bartered Bride here comes the change and a surprise - the role of Harpagon in the Miser, a character with a depth of his comic tragedy

Dramatic poem the Death of the Mother of the Jugovich worked by Ivo Vojnović - a prominent Croatian novelist and playwrighter; a folk legend of southern Slavs and their brutal battle with Turkish troops and their tragic defeat on the Kosovo field ("Kosovo pole") in 1389. The National Theatre premiered this drama three times (1912, 1919, 1934). On the historic picture taken by Charles Bachman there is used the wall decoration, which can be found in this diary once again, but used in different production set-up.

Jiří Huml (1875-1948), bassist who was playing for the National for 30 years. Apart from Czech and Slovak theaters he also sang in Dresden. In 1922 he was emplyeed for the production of The Bartered Bride in New York - and as a Kecal (role he played in Bartened Bride) he performed also in the Royal Opera House in Copenhagen (1938).

Although mainly the theatre pictures were chosen for this diary, in this case we made an exception. On the beautiful shot we see the singer of the National Theatre Růžena Koldovská (1875-1943), who sang as a Gretel and as a Karolína, Violetta Valery or Pamina,... However, in order to achieve a high level of coloratura singing she began to strain her voice too much, what was in the end leading to chronic failure of her vocal cords. And by that point, more or less, her promising singing career was ended.

Tyl's Strakonice bagpiper was in the National Theatre rehearsed twelve times (for the first time in year 1885) and in the archives truly rich photo documentation can be found. In 1913 he documented with his camera a range of characters, from the title roles to the whole choir groups. Karel Váňa (1867-1951), photographer and actor of the minor roles.

Anna Korecká (1880-1938) was the first Czech prima ballerina. Augustin Berger´s student and later choreographer of the dance concerts by her own - Anna is captured on the yet arranged but undisclosed image - we do not know the role she was playing nor the place of shooting. Only according to the background, we conclude that it is not a scene, nor a studio, but only theatre interior.

Also this image is a bit of an exception. It's not arranged photography, which was typical for this era, but one of a very rare snapshots taken right on the stage and also photographed in the dark corner of the scene hidden to the audience. We do not know the name of the photographer who captured Marie Laudová (1869-1931) exactly, but what we know - that in the play "David" in 1911 starred also actor and photographer Karel Váňa (King David), so - it can be assumed - that this photograohy was taken by him.

Hana Kvapilová (1860 - 1907) is considered to be one of the most brisk actresses of the National Theatre in its entire history. It can be said - that in that time she indeed was the first lady of the drama. With Eduard Vojan they formed a great couple. They played together in Ibsen's Lady from the Sea, directed by the actress's husband Jaroslav Kvapil.

Karel Váňa photograped his fellow actors probably on his favourite spot: at the one of the outside balconies of the National Theatre. He used the paravan wall to create an illusion of the stage decoration, used more often. In Leger's play "Winter", there was performing five actors - only Marie Ryšavá is missing on the picture.

Jarmila Kronbauerová (1893- 1968); was not one of those actresses who would gain popularity due to film screen or television, but she was a truly remarkable artist. Beyond that she was a darling of the audience of the National Theatre, she also conquered the audience in the Red Seven cabaret as a singer, she managed pantomime and also she was a great companion for the dancers.

Emil Pollert (1877-1935) among the fact he was performing one of Mozart's Don Juan´s (or Don Giovanni´s) characters - "Masetto" in 1919, he was also one of the directors. Since 1921 he had started directing by himself and he did very well - he was the first one who introduced Puccini's Turandot on the stage of the National Theatre.

Anna Suchánková (Mína), Anna Sedláčková (Jiřina), Zdenka Rydlová (Toninka) Kristýna, Matylda, Marie, Jitka, Jiřina, Josefína, Toninka, Mína,… Girl´s names of Svoboda's comedy Chicory. And next to them the names of actresses: Ludmila Danzerová, Marie Pštrossová, Růžena Havelská, Ludmila Matějovská. And Anna Suchánková, Anna Sedláčková and Zdeňka Rydlová. Beautiful actresses and beautiful photographies.

In the Strakonice Bagpiper in 1885; Hana Kvapilová played Dorothy (1860-1907). Legendary actress died on 8th April 1907, just five days after her last appearance on the stage of the National Theatre in the role of Božena in Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing. The urn with her ashes was deposited under the monument in the Kinsky Gardens in 1914.

One of the most impressive pictures in our archive. Unfortunately, we do not know the name of the artist, nor the photographer. So at least something - Thomas's opera Mignon.

Singer Emil Burian (1876-1926) was a member of the National Theatre for several times - he interrupted his engagement always due disagreements with the thatre management. While his "breaks" he worked abroad - in Zagreb, Nuremberg, Freiburg, Hamburg or in Dresden. He was a younger brother of the National Theatre singer Karel Burian, father of director and composer Emil František Burian. So that means - he was also the grandfather of actress Kateřina Burianová and great-grandfather of Filip Rajmont - current member of the National Theatre nowadays.

Anna Sedláčková (1887 to 1967) had an extraordinary talent, it manifested early in her life when - after a role she performed as an amateur in her sixteen years - she got into the National Thetre rehearsal. She got the permanent engagement in 1905 and she remained in the NT until 1919, after that, she played here several times in the 20s and 30s.

On Sunday, March 31th, 1901, at the National Theatre the world premiere of Dvorak's Rusalkathere was introduced. The title role was entrusted to Růžena Maturová (1869-1938). Picture material of the world premiere kept in the National Theatre Archive is truly rich. There are pictures of all the main characters with the original decoration on the stage in their background, and at the same time the beautiful costume designs album of Karel Šimůnek is preserved in the archive, too.

If you feel that you are familiar with the image, you are not wrong. Decoration is the same one used by the production manager in the Death of the Mother Jugovich. Both shots taken in different time. There is seven years that passed in between. The portrayed actress is Maria Hübner (1865-1931)

Růžena Nasková, born Nosková, (1884-1960) was indeed loved by the audience of theatre and the film. It is interesting that in addition to amateur theatre group she passed through at the beginning of her career, she also engaged in the Slovenian National Theatre in Ljubljana.

Karel Hašler (1879-1941) was not only the old Prague songwriter and entertainer. As an actor he was offered engagement at the National Theatre in the year 1903 by the great J. Kvapil himself. In 1915 Karel Hašler missed the performance and it was a reason for his dismissal. He did not regret because he could fullfill himself in the film. Photo that we show here was dedicated in 1904 to his theatre colleague Eduard Vojan.

The play "Fire Drum" has extravagant subtitle "African drama full of fire, color, rumble, fragrance." Its author is no less extravagant Italian writer Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, who - among other things - declared the Manifesto of Futurism in 1909. At thaz time it was an ultra modern production. The set-up of the play was designed by Italian artist Enrico Prampolini. The dancer Ervína Kupferová was first model, than the first wife of the photographer František Drtikol. Although the picture is not identified, its author is most likely František Drtikol.

The play "the Death of Tsar Paul the first" was introduced at the National Theatre only once, and played shortly. Photographies from this production are perhaps better than the performance itself. One of the roles was played by Jarmila Kronbauerová (1893-1968).

Augustin Berger (1841-1945) performed in a long row of the varoous dance roles and he is also responsible for leading numerous choreographies. He was engaged fot the National Theatre as a ballet master, choreographer and movement or dance consultant.

How you can find out from many of Langhaus shots (often taken in the studio Langhans), Anna Sedláčková (1887-1967) due to her photogenic qualities and skills of acting in the moment of shooting was very appreciated and popular model.

Oskar Nedbal got a plenty of characters into his ballet named Princess Hyacinta - from Kačenka, Franta, Wenceslas and Mařka, Semiramide over to Cleopatra. Not only dancers participated in portraying those roles, but also actors (eg. Anna Sedláčková or Karel Hašler).

Also Jarmila Kronbauerová was one of the extremely photogenic actresses and so the gallery of her portraits is really rich. Her art has been appreciated abroad.

Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice was at the National Theatre introduced seven times. The figure of beautiful Portia was played at its premiere in 1899 by Hana Kvapilová (1860-1907). And who else played the same figure in the history of NT? Otýlie Sklenářová, Leopolda Dostalová, Růžena Nasková, Eva Vrchlická, Ilona Kubásková, Jiřina Petrovická, Vlasta Fabianová and last Lucie Žáčková

If you would like to find a place where is this lively, native Croatian singer Gabriela Horvátová (1877-1967) photographed, you would probably find that place at the sight of piazzetta of NT - where the building of Zítek links with former Provisional Theatre. On the top of the construction between both buildings - there is a small balcony.

The Jaroslav Vrchlický´s and Zdeněk Fibich´s theatre play The Courtship of Pelops was rehearsed six times at the National Theatre. In 1905, Leopolda Dostálová played Hippodamie alternating with Marie Laudová (1869-1931).

Pavla Vachková (1891-1978) sang as a Rusalka at the premiere of the third staging of this opera. She worked as a singer and actor in the NT only for five years and after her marriage with Czechoslovakian diplomat Š. Osuský she left her artistic activity. But she continued working for the Czech opera, she succeeded in developing Czechoslovak-French musical relations, among others also for first performance of Smetana's Bartered Bride in Paris (Opéra Comique, 1928).

Who else could play in 1904 Cyrano than Eduard Vojan (1853-1920). He was accepted to the NT already in 1888 and he endured here until the end of his life. After completion of his acting career - the Provincial Committee ("Národní výbor") offered him a position as a head of the National Theater, and Eduard Vojan accepted. He did not ever teach young adepts and he was mostly refusing hospitality performances abroad. But he was gladly visiting and joining professional companies and amateur actors groups.

Returning once again to Marie Laudová (1869-1931), prominent personality of the NT. After accident she had on the scene she became dedicated to journalism and teaching. She worked as a professor of declamation and mimicry, she has established a fund to support poor students. For the former Ministry of Education she drew up a proposal for the reform of acting education. She emphasized the use and development of voice and speech technology, the conceptual analysis of the role and the importance of the external physical appearance referring to the character and action figures. Among her students were for example J. Štěpničková and O. Korbelář.

Arklová Tereza (1861? -1933?) Was a Polish-born singer. Her real name was Teresa Arklowa, born "from Blumenfeldów". She was taughed singing by leading educators in Milan, Vienna and Paris. She became the soloist of the Opera Theatre for one year (1886-1887). She refused to continue because of the fact her financial conditions were not accepted by the National Theatre. Yet here in one year she managed to sing sixteen roles. Smetana´s Milada was one of them.

Maria Hübner (1865 - 1931) was an extraordinary actor personality. She associated theater modernism of 20´s with the purest tradition of Czech theatre art of the 19th century and she was known as a great quirky actress even in terms of Europian theatre. Dostalová Leopolda (1879-1972) joined the NT in 1901 as Maryša and she played here even when she was 88 years old!

Play by Paul Gavault called the chocolate princess was staged only once and played for thirteen times. In the archive after it left only three photos, all with Anna Sedláčková, which appeared as if she just stepped out from Mucha's Art Nouveau poster.

Smetana's opera The Secret of the National Theatre was introduced sixteen times. Vera Pivoňková (1866-1939) sang Virgin Rosa - Role that was also performed for example by Betty Fibichová, Gabriela Horvátová, Marta Krásová, Štěpánka Štěpánová, Marie Budíková, Ludmila Hanzalíková Zdenka Hrnčířová, Vera Soukupová, Ivana Mixová, Drahomíra Drobková, Libuše Márová, Miroslava Volkové and, most recently, Kateřina Jalovcová or Jana Sýkorová.

Another "exterior studio" shot, where outdoor balcony of the National Theatre served as a decorative background. Karel Želenský (1865-1935) was not only a good actor, performer and author, but also an excellent storyteller. He wrote about memories about his colleagues and their experiences from their own theatrical life in several memoirs books. According Mošna´s story he wrote his own memoirs (how I was in the world).

Gabriela Horvátová (1877-1967) earned her engagement at the National Theatre in the role of Carmen, she sang for the first time there already a month after she came to Prague and started to learn Czech. Besides Lola in Cavalleria rusticana she sang in a long series of roles, the nearest of which she was with Kostelnička in Jenufa. This role of her lifetime had transferred to the film screen when she was even in silent snapshot of the year 1929 able to strongly attract viewers with the only actor expression.

Zdeňka Štemberová - was in the years 1886-1889 solo dancer of NT. She played Zulma in Adam´s Gisele ballet (1886), The First slave in Delibes´s Sylvia - the Diana´s fairy (1889) and a solo dance in Kovařovic´s Tale of Finding Happiness (1889). Also she danced in numerous operas and performances. Further details about her life and activities could not be found.

Shakespeare's Macbeth was surprisingly presented at the National Theatre six times only. In 1916 Lady Macbeth was played by Dostalová Leopolda (1879-1972). Before her, it was Otýlie Sklenářová (1884), Helena Modrzejewska (1891), Ludmila Danzerová (1902); after her it was Olga Scheinpflugová (1939) and Blanka Bohdanová (1969).

Růžena Maturová was not only the first world Rusalka, but also the first Tosca at the National Theatre during commissioning in 1903, a mere three years after its world premiere. Cavaradossi was sung by Otakar Mařák and Scarpio was sung by Bohumil Benoni, under the musical direction of Karel Kovařovic and directed by Robert Pole.

Růžena Maturová (1869-1938) had to „rozmyslit a na své štěstí pomyslit“ ("consider and take her hapiness in account").

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