Reopening of the Slovene National Theatre Opera and Ballet Ljubljana

Photo: Slovene National Theatre and Government Communication Office archives

January 2011

On 10 December, the Slovene National Theatre Opera and Ballet Ljubljana, returned to its original residence to much fanfare, as the construction works had been concluded, giving the building a fresh image.  We can again walk along the corridors, accompanied with sounds, sit on chairs of colour 200 Paeltane, while waiting impatiently for the red velvet curtain that hides so many stories to rise again.

As the central Slovene repertoire music theatre company, the Slovene National Theatre Opera and Ballet Ljubljana has been staging performances since 1892; the building was originally a provincial theatre, built in a neo-renaissance style and designed by Czech architects Jan V. Hrasky and Anton Hruby – it has been closed to the public for the last six years.

The opera house renovation project started mainly because of its acoustic and spatial problems. A public tender was held for the overall renovation of the Ljubljana SNG Opera and ballet and the contract was awarded to Jurij Kobe and Marjan Zupanc in 1998. In 2006, the Ministry of Culture listed the cultural house of the stage art queen as a priority in the field of investments. The final reopening of the opera house was announced for last year; however, the works were extended because groundwater had flooded the sub-stage.

Photo: Slovene National Theatre and Government Communication Office archives

The renovation included a new extension containing rehearsal areas for bands, the orchestra, the chorus, ballet and solo performers, storage space, dressing rooms, and administration premises.  The old part of the opera underwent renovation works with individual functional modernisations of particular elements, with the exception of the stage tower which underwent a thorough reconstruction. The ceiling again regained its original image containing several colour shades as seen before the renovation. The stencil paintings between the ribs were totally reconstructed; coloured glasses in oil techniques were cleaned.  Because of the monument-protection requirements, the stage opening and the hall remained the same, whereas the renovated stage is wider, higher, deeper and technically enhanced. With its technological capabilities and capacity, which holds up to 500 performers, it stands comparison with the most renowned opera houses in the world. The hall preserved the original number of seats, with a capacity between 526 and 605 visitors. 

After the removal of secondary paintwork, the auditorium revealed a much richer image. The unused space under the auditorium was extended and connected with Cankarjeva Street on the one side and Tomšičeva Street on the other, where the entry atriums are located, functioning as an additional entrance to the opera theatre. The overall renovation project of the Ljubljana opera and ballet house amounted to EUR 42 million.  Of this, approximately EUR 28 million was allocated to the Ministry for construction and craftsmen works, installations and refurbishment; the rest of the costs were spent on preliminary works, stage mechanical equipment, stage lighting, audio visual equipment, general equipment, restoration works, supervision and contributions.

120-year anniversary will be celebrated in 2012

Photo: Slovene National Theatre and Government Communication Office archives

The national opera and ballet house reopened and showed a new overall identity, a new web portal was launched for its visitors and a monograph 'Zlitje stoletij' (Fusion of Centuries) about the SNG Opera in ballet Ljubljana was published. This was also the title of the opening ceremony, which was broadcast live by RTV Slovenia, and the slogan of all events and activities within the opening event, moving and 120-year anniversary of its activities that will be celebrated next year under the under the auspices of the Slovenian president, Dr Danilo Türk.

Artistic bands performing all this time in extremely difficult conditions, dispersed in eight locations all over the capital, finally obtained their home. However, the spectators were not robbed of the primary glow of the Ljubljana opera house which, despite having second thoughts on the fusion of modern and neo-renaissance styles, respects the tradition and discovers in it even something new. Therefore, among other things, we can proudly admire the chairs from the time before the renovation took place, which were kept with love in theatre boxes and with a wooden frame, smoothened by the touches of visitors.  We are surprised by frescoes revealed under the white ceiling in the hall, which is intended for the visitors to meet, and once walled-in windows at the staircase. The renovation improved working and creative conditions, while providing the spectators with a better and more varied programme and enhancing well-being in the renovated house. Therefore, welcome back opera house – the doors to the top artistic institutions of the twenty-first century have opened for you.

Rich programme in the 2011/12 season

Photo: Slovene National Theatre and Government Communication Office archives

As early as in the beginning of November, the chamber opera had its premier with a three-act opera "Dido and Aeneas" in a concert performance by Henry Purcell. In the second act, the opera soloists, chorus and orchestra performed pieces from Mozart's operas. In February, a premiere of Verdi's opera, Nabucco, will be held, which will take a new direction. According to the artistic director, Milivoj Surbek, the premiere will feature entirely domestic performers. Marij Kogoj's 'Black Masks' is being prepared in cooperation with  SNG Maribor. The premiere will open in January next year in SNG Maribor at the beginning of the year of the European Capital of Culture. In Ljubljana, 'Black Masks' will be staged in Cankarjev Dom's Gallus Hall in March. The re-runs of the programme include Verdi's Traviata, Antonin Dvorak's 'Rusalka', Peter Šavli's opera for the young 'Shepherd', and Franz Joseph Haydn's comic opera 'Apothecary'.

In the 2011/12 season there will be two new ballet premieres. At the end of March next year, the ballet premiere 'Giselle' will be staged, while in June the project 'Ples poezije' (Poetry Dance) will open at the city's Congress Square in Ljubljana.

Text by Hana Souček Morača, Sinfo, December 2011 
Photo: Slovene National Theatre and Government Communication Office archives