The Hvar public theatre
The Hvar public theatre, from its establishment in 1969, treasures and represents Hvar’s theatre heritage by taking part in every manifestation on Hvar, throughout Croatia and abroad. With this years premiere of “Slave” by Hanibal Lucić, Hvar’s theatrical and heritage cycle was completed. Since 1969, and especially since restoration in1991, the Hvar public theatre performed in over 50 Croatian cities, and abroad (Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Hungary, Germany, Slovenia, BIH, etc.). In the republic of Croatia, when performing on Festivals of Croatian theatre amateurs, almost every theatre's performance meant winning the first place. Commendations and performances on Dubrovnik summer Games, Split summer, 150th anniversary of Matica Hrvatske, and Festivals of public theatres. Performances of the Hvar public theatre, for every important occasion, are the most representable cultural product of this City.
RESTORATION OF THE THEATRE
HVAR’S HISTORICAL THEATRE
Hvar's Theatre, situated in the Arsenal building, is a monument of the highest national significance for the Republic of Croatia.
The Theatre was built in 1612, on the first floor of the Arsenal building during the rule of venturesome Duke Petar Semitecolo. The monumental Arsenal building situated in the historical centre of the Town of Hvar is one of the most important buildings of naval architecture of its kind on the Mediterranean. The inscription on the lintel of the main entrance to the Theatre, on Belvedere – Fontika terrace, next to the north facade of the Arsenal, reads: ANNO SECVNDO PACIS MDCLXII. The year 1612, as the inscription says, was the second year of peace between the divided social strata of Hvar's Commune.
By building the Theatre, Semitecolo offered to all social strata equally, a room for cultural and social events to take place, and in an inconceivably democratical manner for that period in history, he created the very first Public Theatre in Europe.
In the history of theatres throughout Europe, Hvar's Theatre dating from 1612 follows immediately after Teatro Olimpico in Vicenza (1585) and Teatro all'Antica in Sabbioneta (1588). The fact of its early beginnings has insured its important role in the history of theatres in general.
Given the absence of archivalia and material reminders from the 17th century, we can only assume that at the beginning Hvar's Theatre had typically renaissance forms. Its well preserved interior – the stage and the auditorium with boxes, dates from 1803, when a group of proficient citizens who called themselves the Theatrical society, decided to completely restore the building which had been devastated by the military personnel. Restored and renewed, it kept its neobaroque forms ever since the middle of the 19th century, thus gaining an important place among the oldest ten baroque theatres in Europe.
Moderate stage dimensions, rather narrow boxes, and especially a close contact between the stage and the audience, give to this theatre an exceptionally human dimension, which is the main reason why many actors enjoyed performing on its stage.
Two unique, well preserved wall scenography designs still adorn stage's back wall. The older of the two murals, dating from 1819, is still on the stage. It was painted by the maestro Petar Galasso during preparations for a Carnival season. The other, representing Duke's palace was painted by Nikola Marchi around 1900, and was restored and put on sliding panels.
From the founding of the Theatre, through almost 400 years of its existence, it was the centre of cultural and social events of the Town and of the Commune.
In the 19th century, mostly during Carnival seasons, when concertos, dramatic performances and cavalchine (masked balls), took place, the Theatre lived its dramatic life to the maximum.
The Theatre was host to many local amateur musical ensambles, foreign actors and musicians, orchestras and operas. There were seasons when more than 30 dramatic plays were held on its stage.
When in 1921 the Theatrical society ceased to exist, the Theatre came under Communal administration. All the way through the 20th century, in spite of the poor maintenance works, it was still an important and active center for many acting, national and foreign ensembles, amateurs as well as professionals.
In the last twenty years, both the Theatre and the Arsenal building in which it is situated, have been in bad and ruinous state, statically insecure. Therefore it only rarely hosted smaller chamber music concertos. As a rare museum jewel it has often been visited by art experts, tourists and students.
Works on constructional and statical improvement of the Arsenal building are in progress, as prerequisite for the restoration of the Theatre itself and the revitalization of cultural and dramatic life of this one-of-a-kind veteran of world's theatrical history.
Long awaited reconstruction intervention on this exceptional historical monument, will bring it back to life and will inhale life back to the stage which marked the cultural history of Hvar, and of Croatia as well.