The Estates Theater, built in the Enlightenment era and world famous for some important personalities performing there, is situated at the Fruit Market (Ovocny trh) in the Prague Old Town. It was here that W. A. Mozart conducted the world premieres of his operas “Don Giovanni” and “La clemenza di Tito”, Carl Maria von Weber was the opera conductor here from 1813 to 1816 and artists such as Niccolo Paganini, Clara Schumann or Richard Wagner performed here. The Estates Theater is also one of the most beautiful historical theater buildings in Europe, one of the few of its kind preserved in its almost original state to the present.
The Prague Estates Theater was built thanks to Count Frantisek Antonin Nostitz-Rieneck between 1781 and 1783. It was the time, when theaters were being built around the whole Europe, in accordance with the Enlightenment ideas of spreading cultural and moral values. There is an inscription “Patriae et Musis” (To the Native Land and the Muses) written above the theater entrance, which proves the intentions of the founder.
Count Nostitz Theater
The Estates Theater was intended to be a counterbalance to the main Vienna theater at the time. Count Nostitz chose its location at the traditional theater spot in the Prague center, near the Charles University. It didn´t make the University professors happy: they were afraid that students will find the theater more interesting than their lessons. It was called Count Nostitz Theater originally and mainly German dramas and Italian operas were staged there in the beginnings. It opened in 1783 with the tragedy Emilia Galotti by Lessing.
The official language in the country was German at the time and Prague aristocracy was largely German as well, that´s why plays in Czech language were staged there only sporadically.
Mozart in the Estates Theater
In 1878, the Estates Theater saw the premiere night of Mozart ´s masterpiece “Don Giovanni” and it was enormously successful. Mozart was already the favourite composer of Prague audiences, despite the indifference he received in Vienna. He finished Don Giovanni in Prague just the night before its premiere and despite the lack of time for rehearsals with the orchestra, the performance was brilliant. He wrote another opera “La clemenza di Tito” for the coronation of Leopold II. in 1791 and he conducted it in the Estates Theater as well.
Czech national anthem
Since 1798, when the theater was bought by Czech Estates, it was called The Royal Estates Theater. The main language was still German, but there were also some Czech plays staged in the 19 th century: the first modern Czech opera The Tinker by F. Skroup in 1826 and Fidlovacka by J. K. Tyl in 1834, which included the future Czech national anthem Kde domov muj (Where Is My Home).
The Estates Theater became the Royal Provincial German Theater in 1862, when the exclusively Czech stage the Provisional Theater was established. After the Czechoslovakia was founded in 1918, the theater became part of the National Theater in Prague. During the communist era, the theater was renamed the Tyl Theater and there were for example Milan Kundera´s plays staged in the sixties. Since 1990, the theater has its historical name the Estates Theater again.
Where Amadeus was shot
The Classicist Estates Theater was projected by the architect Antonin Haffenecker. There are 664 seats and you can see a copy of the original chandelier from 1874 above the stage. The Estates Theater is where Milos Forman shot his famous movie Amadeus, shortly before it was closed down because of renovations in 1983. Drama, opera and ballet are performed there nowadays.