Lavishly constructed in the late Renaissance style of northern Italy, the gold-crowned National Theater, overlooking the Vltava, is one of Prague's most recognizable landmarks. Completed in 1881, the theater was built to nurture the Czech National Revival Movement -- a drive to replace the dominant German culture with homegrown Czech works. To finance construction, small collection boxes with signs promoting the prosperity of a dignified national theater were installed in public places.
Almost immediately upon completion, the building was wrecked by fire and rebuilt, opening in 1883 with the premiere of Bedrich Smetana's opera Libuse. The magnificent interior contains an allegorical sculpture about music and busts of Czech theatrical personalities created by some of the country's best-known artists. The motto "Národ sobe" ("A Nation to Itself") is written above the stage. Smetana conducted the theater's orchestra here until 1874, when deafness forced him to relinquish his post.
The theater doesn't have daily tours, but tickets for performances are usually available and tour events are occasionally scheduled.
- © Frommer's 2013
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